Up to 100 fraudulent accounts being set up every day in Amazon scam onslaught: Internet Scambusters #753
Amazon scams involving third party sellers are running at an alarming rate.
Up to 100 fraudulent accounts are being created every day on the Internet retailer's Marketplace service that allows independent sellers to set up shop on its site.
However, there are several signs that can help you identify a crooked seller, as we explain in this week's issue.
Now, here we go...
Amazon Scammers Bombard Marketplace Shoppers
Independent sellers using online retailer Amazon's Marketplace service have reported an alarming rise in Amazon scams.
They say that between 50 and 100 fraudulent accounts are being set up every day, ripping off thousands of unsuspecting customers.
Although Amazon may make good by refunding on these scam purchases through its A-to-Z Guarantee, this can take time, sometimes weeks.
If victims are making purchases for time-critical needs such as birthday gifts, the scams can and are causing needless distress.
One of the issues is that Amazon Marketplace is supposed to be a sort of self-regulating operation, policed by the sellers themselves.
The good guys among the sellers have launched their own website --- www.scamsellers.com -- to report on suspect behavior and help customers identify the crooks.
"We analyze feedback received by all Amazon Marketplace sellers to determine which sellers are likely to be fraudulent," the group say.
"These sellers often offer great pricing, but after waiting for a few weeks customers realize that the product is never going to reach them. By then the seller is long gone, having taken the money, leaving the customer to fight with Amazon trying to get a refund. There are new scam sellers being created every day."
The site also offers tips on how to spot a scam seller, including:
- Bargain prices -- "Scam sellers often list thousands of products with hard-to-believe low prices," the group explains. "If a seller has no feedback and is able to offer low pricing, it's a likely indication that they are not trustworthy. Just-launched sellers should be avoided."
- Long-lead shipping times tied with non-use of Amazon's Prime service. "Even though many trusted sellers do their own shipping and don't offer Prime shipping, if a new seller has great pricing and does their own shipping -- be careful. By doing their own shipping they have a lot of flexibility to cheat the system."
- Be cautious if the seller's name is made from a first and last name or gobbledygook, rather than a business name.
- Check where the item is shipping from. For example, if the seller claims to be located in the U.S. but shipment is from overseas, beware!
- What else are they selling? It's a red flag if a seller seems to have thousands of items on offer. It would be extremely rare for a new seller to have so many items in stock.
- The seller asks you to get in touch with them outside of Amazon's system, to avoid being detected. Never place or pay for Amazon orders other than through their website. If you do, you likely won't be protected by their Guarantee.
Finally, you should routinely check out new sellers or sellers with poor feedback via the Scam Sellers website. There's a search box on their home page.
The site also has lots more useful information for both Amazon shoppers and sellers.
On the subject of Marketplace sellers, there's also new evidence that scammers have hacked the accounts of legitimate sellers, changing bank account details to their own.
According to retail research site Marketplace Pulse, which monitors millions of sellers on multiple sites including Amazon, some accounts that have been dormant for as long as 10 years have suddenly sprung back to life.
"We are making an obvious conclusion that these sellers have been hacked, and it is now someone else using their account," say the Pulse experts.
And they reported in late March: "Out of scam sellers on Amazon.com in the last 30 days, 20 percent are from accounts opened more than a year ago. So, this is not a random occurrence, but a continuing trend."
This account revival is usually followed by a string of negative reviews about the seller.
The trouble is that once the scam is rumbled and Amazon returns payments to the victims, it may then charge the original (legitimate) seller's credit card for the refunds.
The Pulse site says its people have talked to sellers who have been charged thousands of dollars because of this.
They add: "All of these sellers are obviously no longer checking their selling accounts, and are likely ignoring Amazon emails too. So they only notice this when their credit card gets charged, by which point it might take weeks to get this sorted out."
The message is clear. If you have an Amazon seller account, regularly check that everything is in order. And if you're no longer using it, close it.
If you're still an active seller, make sure you set up two-step verification for your account.
Get Your Money Back
Amazon is reportedly taking steps to try to clamp down and eliminate the scammers, banishing lots of suspect sellers from the Marketplace.
In the meanwhile, if you fall victim to an Amazon scam artist, you will almost certainly be able to get your money back provided you didn't break any of the rules.
A customer service rep told us: "We stand behind all the seller transactions made on our website by offering our customers the A-to-Z Guarantee.
Alert of the Week
Watch out for a "special offer" spam email offering cut-price security software supposedly from Norton or McAfee.
Victims who accept the offer are taken to a fake installation web page which says the software couldn't install and asks them to call a 1-800 number.
This connects to a phony tech support service, where the rep sets up remote access to the victim's PC, putting them at risk of malware, ransomware or a straight rip-off repair bill.
Only buy your security software either straight from the maker or from a reputable retailer.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.