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Buy a Tiny Home Online—But Not with Amazon Gift Certs!

The other day, while watching Tiny House Nation, I became curious as to how much one of these fancy, RV-by-any-other-name “living spaces” cost. In the show, a tiny, 400-square-foot, two-story house on wheels can be had for $40,000 or so, and these are seriously tricked out: custom furniture, high-end faucets and appliances, gorgeous wood and tile and flooring.

So away to the web I went, and found that not only are the ones you can buy in Real Life not nearly as bangin’ as the custom jobbies in the show, but they also cost twice as much. That said, they make it convenient for the impulse buyer: A couple of the sites allow you to design your tiny house, apply for financing and place an order, right there online. Good thing my bank account would not accommodate this type of thing, because otherwise I would be waiting for new, ill-considered home away from home as we speak.

The interesting thing about this, from a cyber-perspective, is that there once was a time when making this large a purchase online was unheard of. But in this day of omnichannel customer service and RVs being called “tiny homes,” it’s absolutely believable that you can buy pretty much anything online. And scammers know it.

The Federal Trade Commission has alerted US consumers to a new gambit whereby crooks are telling people that they can pay for large purchases, like cars and boats and such, with their Amazon gift cards. Those gift cards are available in denominations of up to $2,000, and hmmm, funny—all of a sudden there are quite a few $2,000 vehicles for sale around the ‘net.

What happens of course is that the scammer will simply take the gift card info and access the money on the card for their own purposes.

“Scammers also might ask you to use Amazon gift cards to pay for electronics, taxes, bail money, debts, or utility or cable bills,” the FTC said in a posting. “Or they might ask you to pay with iTunes gift cards, PayPal, or reloadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit or Vanilla, or by money transfers through services like Western Union or MoneyGram. If you tell someone the code from any of those cards, or send a wire transfer, you probably won’t get your money back.”

"This is a scam. Amazon.com does not sell cars, and Amazon.com gift cards should not be used to make payments to other businesses or individuals," the company said on its website.

The moral of the story is to never use Amazon gift cards outside of Amazon.com, for one—and to be vigilant if you do decide to order something big online. Maybe picking up the phone, doing some research, asking for an initial consultation—all the things that make purchasing bigger things less convenient—are all pretty good ideas.

Now, back to Tiny House Nation, which I’ve gotten a bit addicted to. But I won’t be buying one of them online anytime soon.

Photo © solepsizm

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