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Beware Common Scams On Amazon

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As the largest digital marketplace in the world, Amazon unsurprisingly attracts many scammers looking to make money off unsuspecting online shoppers. Although the company has made many efforts to reduce this kind of activity on its website, people always find a way around it. Amazon customers aren’t the only targets of these scams, however. Some scammers go after third-party sellers or even Amazon itself. What are some of the most common scams involving Amazon, and what can you do to avoid them?

Third-party sellers selling counterfeit products

Amazon allows anyone to sell products on their platform. As a result, there’s a plethora of third-party sellers who offer generic or counterfeit versions of name-brand products. Selling a product you claim is a pair of Bose headphones when they’re really not is a scam, but if customers know upfront it’s not the same brand and just a similar product, is that a scam? Don’t brick-and-mortar stores also stock generic versions of name-brand products?

The scam is in the reviews. Because the third-party seller doesn’t own the listing for the product, when the customer gives the product a bad review, it reflects on the name-brand company.

How to avoid this scam:

Consumers can do a little digging to determine if a seller is the original brand or a knockoff. Firstly, read the reviews. Although reviews on Amazon can be problematic or even inauthentic — more on that below — it’s still worth checking the recent activity on that account to see if anything’s amiss.

The second tip for avoiding this scam is to look up the name of the company you want to buy from. Do they have a brick-and-mortar store or a website? Does their website look legitimate or like a template site? Also, see if they’re active on social media. Not every seller on Amazon will have all this infrastructure, as there are Amazon-only sellers that are perfectly legitimate. But no company presence anywhere else on the web is a red flag.

If you do end up receiving a counterfeit product, always return it to Amazon. Amazon accepts 99% of returns and it lets Amazon know something was wrong with your product. If enough buyers return that counterfeit product, Amazon can take action against that seller.

Returning counterfeit or fake products

Sending counterfeit products runs both ways on Amazon purchases. Some consumers will try to scam sellers by returning a product and sticking a fake or wholly different product in the return packaging. A buyer might order a laptop and then return it, filling the box with socks instead of a laptop, for example. This scam works because Amazon always sides with consumers. 

Businesses that sell at a high volume on Amazon see this scam as the cost of doing business, but it can hurt smaller sellers significantly. Amazon is cracking down on this tactic, however. Sellers can alert Amazon when this happens and Amazon can flag the buyer’s account.

How to avoid this scam:

There are no precautions sellers can take to avoid this scam. The most they can do is alert Amazon when it happens. If you’re a seller and this happens to you, take photos of the returned packages filled with fake products as evidence and notify Amazon.

Inauthentic reviews on Amazon

Two companies recently got kicked off Amazon for what appears to be a fake reviews scheme. According to a report by SafetyDetectives following a massive data breach, top tech accessory manufacturers Aukey, Mpow, and Tomtop were sending direct messages to buyers offering free products in exchange for positive reviews.

This practice explicitly violates Amazon’s terms of service, and product pages for Aukey and Mpow were blank or showing products as “currently unavailable” last week. The SafetyDetectives team believes there are about 75,000 Amazon accounts being used to leave illegitimate reviews.

Amazon prohibits sellers from doing anything at all to solicit any kind of review for their products. Over the years, Amazon has clamped down on the various ways sellers used to get fake reviews but some sellers still look for ways around Amazon’s terms of service. One method is offering products at huge discounts or even for free. The seller will require the customer to pay full price, leave a positive review, take a screenshot, then the manufacturer will reimburse the buyer via an Amazon gift card, PayPal, or some other means. The secret to this scam is the customer paying full price on Amazon, so it improves the product’s rankings.

How to avoid this scam:

If you see a product with an 80% or 90% discount, ask yourself why it’s priced so low. Businesses have to make money, so what’s the incentive? They likely want you to leave a positive review after purchasing the super-discounted product.

Although reading reviews before purchasing on Amazon is always recommended, you should be wary of reviews as well. Amazon consumers have so little incentive to leave reviews, that only 1% of all products sold on Amazon get organic reviews. If you see a product with 40,000 reviews, multiply that by 1%. The math doesn’t add up, and it’s possible those reviews are inorganic.

Interestingly, the consumers purchasing these incentivized products are usually resellers. They will purchase the product, leave the positive review on Amazon, get the full reimbursement, then resell the product at full price on another platform such as eBay.

Amazon Scams

Unfortunately, scams involving the Amazon marketplace are common, targeting sellers and consumers alike. While it may be convenient or less expensive to buy on Amazon, it doesn’t come without risks. Remember to keep your guard up, do your research, and shop smart.

Want to learn more about Amazon scams? Listen to our Easy Prey podcast episode featuring Shaahin Cheyene, an award-winning entrepreneur, investor, filmmaker, and CEO of Amazon marketing agency Accelerated Intelligence. He also has an Amazon course called Amazon Mastery and is a featured mentor at the Founder Institute.

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