This is not a link blog, but I just had to highlight this blatant fraudulent activity at Amazon reported by my friend Lee Badman. A quick glance shows that the same thing is widespread – too-good prices on items offered off-Amazon with payment through gift cards. It’s a straight-up scam, and I wonder how many people have been hurt by it and why Amazon hasn’t done anything to stop it!
I’ll let Lee speak to the scam. If you’re interested in reading his whole tale, including a personal investigation and attempted transaction, I urge you to read his story, The Curious Case of Bogus Amazon Sellers.
I’m sure I’m not alone in admitting that I generally love Amazon. The access to massive product variety, frequently great prices, the whole Prime feature, and a sense that you can really trust the entire framework just makes Amazon easy to appreciate. But that trust thing… well, lately I’ve had it rocked a little bit when it comes to Amazon. Here’s the executive summary:
- I have found multiple clearly fraudulent sellers in the “used” category
- I’ve engaged Amazon’s customer service and investigations staff, had my suspicions confirmed and told by Amazon they’d get rid of the bogus sellers
- The same sellers keep coming back, and they are pretty convincing if you don’t know better
- There seems to be no way for Amazon to keep them out
Essentially, there are scammers actively “selling” on Amazon, blatantly asking to go “off-site”, and using classic phishing techniques to defraud customers. And Amazon does nothing actively to stop this. Back to Lee:
That anyone can join the Amazon used market as seller and then be allowed to tell customers to go through email and break Amazon’s rules WITHOUT AMAZON THEMSELVES CATCHING IT is bewildering
It’s easy to find similar offers on Amazon. Search for something expensive (a MacBook Pro, for example) and look for too-good-to-be-true offers in the used section. As Lee notes, the scammers appear alongside valid sellers. Amazon does sort them to the bottom of the list (maybe because they’re new/unverified sellers) but allows them to appear!
Here are the hallmarks:
- Too-low round-number prices roughly half the retail cost
- Items sold as used but with specific notes that they’re actually new
- Instructions to email to begin the transaction rather than using the Amazon site, including obviously obfuscated gmail addresses with spaces between letters
- “Just Launched” seller profiles with no ratings
They’re honestly very easy for a buyer to avoid. But I wonder how many people take a risk on a “great deal” and get burned!
What Can You Do?
First, buyer beware. Do not assume that Amazon polices their third-party sellers and be very skeptical of offers that seem too good to be true.
But it’s not fair to place all the blame on the buyer. This is Amazon’s site, and they should stop this practice. Sure this one is pretty blatant, but I bet none of us would like to live in a totally “caveat emptor” world. We shop at sites like Amazon because they offer us some peace of mind. We will stop shopping there if we lose this.
Everyone reading this can contact Amazon and publicize the problem. Share Lee’s article on Twitter and tag @Amazon so they know it’s a real issue. Tell them you are upset and want some resolution. Escalate!
If something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is! It ought to be easy for Amazon to create a scam filter to block these, but they don’t seem at all interested, as Lee shows. This is their responsibility: By creating this marketplace, Amazon took on the responsibility to police it. It’s time for them to step up!