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Amazon Scams Continue

Amazon Scams Continue

January 4, 2017

Amazon had quite the Holiday’s, with all of the email scams and negative feedback, they still came out having the best holiday ever!

The author of Ghost Cities of China, experienced this with Amazon firsthand. He shares this awful experience of Amazon scams and customer service with the following article:

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There are 529 counts of negative feedback from people who also never received their purchases from one of the three fraudulent sellers (EVILLE, xkuehns, HJSGHUY) that I ordered from:

“It is obvious from all of the negative feedback that this seller is a scam artist. My package never arrived. Originally said it was shipping from Texas, but tracking is through China Post. . .What a shameful thing to do to people at Christmas time. My trust is broken.” “We still have NOT received this order. We ordered two jerseys for our boys for Christmas and neither one made it by Christmas! Really bummed. . . We told our boys that Santa forgot these at the North Pole and will have them delivered some how!!!!!!” “I ordered this for a Christmas gift for my 5 yrs old son. First it said it will arrive well before Chistmas but it did not. I have no idea where it is. . . My son is really sad during the Chrismas day. Aweful experience.”

This was unexpected. I have never had any problems on Amazon before. For many years I would order items and they would show up, exactly as they were supposed to — it wasn’t like I was using China’s Taobao or something, where you never know what you’re going to get (if anything at all). But now that I’ve been scammed three times in a single holiday season, I’m starting to wonder if Amazon, a company that was once held as the global standard for e-commerce, has descended to the depths of its scam-rife, counterfeit-laden Chinese counterpart. Was my experience this year merely an improbable coincidence or is there a growing pattern of customers being scammed on Amazon? A brief internet search unfortunately revealed that it is more than likely the later. Starting around August 2016 a wave of articles and forum posts were published which outline this exact scam, which works like this: A seller opens a new account and begins selecting popular items to “sell,” which they can easily select with a few clicks using Amazon’s streamlined seller’s platform. They then list these items for prices that are generally cheaper than what other vendors are selling them for. When the orders come rolling in they almost immediately claim that the items have left the seller facility and are in transit to the carrier – which releases the payment to their account. But they don’t actually ever ship out anything. In all likelihood, they never really even have the items they are claiming to be selling in the first place. The game now is to buy time, to wait out Amazon’s two week payment cycle before the negative feedback and customer complaints inevitably begin coming in. To do this, these merchants claim that their items will not arrive for three to four weeks from the purchase date, which enables them to get paid long before customers even start wondering where their stuff is.

Screenshot of the review section for a fraudulent seller on Amazon. (Screenshot taken by Wade Shepard on January 2, 2017)

Screenshot of the review section for a fraudulent seller on Amazon. (Screenshot taken by Wade Shepard on January 2, 2017)

Eventually, after dealing with masses of angry customers who have come to terms with the fact that they were scammed, Amazon boots the offending party from their marketplace. But by this time the scammer has their money and has more than likely already opened a new seller account under a different name, as the process begins all over again. Amazon’s standing policy on these scams is that they are a user-regulating marketplace: they take action when complaints start rolling in, not before — but by this time damage has already been inflicted. As Amazon’s media relations departed confirmed when I questioned them for this article:

“We take swift action if we detect such actions from any source. We encourage any customer not fully satisfied with their order to file an A-to-z claim or contact customer service.”

According to Marketplace Pulse, thousands of new seller accounts are being opened on Amazon each day. During their research into fraudulent vendors on the platform that they conducted in August 2016, they discovered sellers with upwards of 6,000 negative reviews from angry customers who never received what they paid for. So this isn’t merely a scam that is adversely affecting a marginal segment of Amazon’s marketplace but is a widespread cancer that is eroding the trust of tens of thousands of customers and damaging the reputation of the Amazon brand as a whole. As the following feedback from a scammed customer attests:


The amount of money that could be made from this scam combined with the lack of significant risk makes it clear that gaming the Amazon marketplace may be one of the easiest and profitable grafts going in 2017 — especially if you’re a seller in a country that’s beyond the legal reach of the company (i.e. China). “Chances are, the vast majority of the individual sellers will not be identified and even if they are, they will not be located,” the Fashion Law blog wrote about sellers of counterfeit products on Amazon. The same presumably goes for merchants who aren’t really selling any products at all. I looked through my collection of scam orders and, besides the items never being shipped, there was one common thread that held them together: all of the vendors claimed to be shipping from the US or Canada but provided fake China Post tracking information. Many other customers noticed the same:

“Item was supposed to come from USA and after I purchased, I learn its coming from China. I should have cancelled my order immediately, since I knew the item would NEVER arrive on time. I’m VERY, VERY DISAPPOINTED in Amazon.”

I called Amazon customer service and they confirmed that all of the offending merchants were based in China. Amazon has a China problem. Amazon really began pushing to get Chinese merchants into their marketplace in 2015, offering a more streamlined system for them to sell their merchandise directly to buyers in the USA, Canada, and Europe. According to a CNBC report, China-based sellers more than doubled in 2015 alone, as Amazon’s profits soared by 20%. In a short amount of time, Amazon became the largest cross-border ecommerce marketplace for Chinese sellers. According to Payoneer, 62% of China’s online vendors are now active on Amazon, of which 91% sell via its platform in the United States. Expanding the Amazon marketplace to Chinese sellers essentially opened a Pandora’s box of counterfeit products, gross misrepresentation, and an increased amount of all out scams being perpetuated on the network. RELATED: Prevent 2017 Tax Scams “So what’s going on?” I asked a customer service rep at Amazon during one of a series of calls. “Are these merchants really putting items up for sale that they have no intention of actually shipping, saying that they are from the USA when they’re really in China, giving fake tracking numbers, and scamming Amazon and their customers?” “It could really be any or all of the above,” he admitted. “Why are merchants saying on the site that they are shipping from the USA but they’re really shipping from China?” I asked another customer service rep at Amazon, not quite understanding how this could be so unregulated. “That is a very, very good question that I don’t have answer for,” she responded honestly. “There are some merchants who are misleading us and our customers. They put on their page that they are shipping from the USA and that’s all we have to go off of.” By providing an incredibly streamlined and accessible platform to sell merchandise, Amazon does next to nothing to vet their third party merchants. With just a few clicks, someone can set up a merchant account, and then they’re just a few more clicks away from listing items for sale. Nobody checks to see if anyone actually has the items they are claiming to be selling, and the only regulation comes in the form of negative feedback and complaints from scammed customers. This climate has gotten so bad that respected merchants like Birkenstock have left the Amazon marketplace altogether. Birkenstock USA’s CEO David Kahan summed this up sufficiently on

“The Amazon marketplace, which operates as an ‘open market,’ creates an environment where we experience unacceptable business practices which we believe jeopardize our brand. . . Policing this activity internally and in partnership with has proven impossible.”

So how can customers on Amazon protect themselves from these fraudulent merchants? Sites like How-to Geek recommend only buying products that are sold by Amazon directly — which would mean completely ignoring all other third party merchants and essentially degrading the otherwise vibrant, diverse marketplace to a mere online store. While Amazon is generally more than willing to refund a customer’s money when scammed, the damage goes deeper than this. What about the hassle of a customer having to buy the same item multiple times? What about the time that is lost between purchasing something and when you realize it’s never going to be delivered? What about the thousands of people this year who were short Christmas gifts because they falsely believed that an approved Amazon vendor would not be able to sell them thin air?


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