With over 6 million sellers and accounting for nearly half of the online retail market, Amazon has grown too big to ignore. People are taking advantage of its size and of you: the customer. With so many products and sellers to sift through, it becomes a challenge to spot the scams before they happen. The balancing act of buying from the most reputable seller, with the highest quality product, at the lowest price is all a guessing game. Then you get your package, or maybe you don’t, and only then do you know if you made the right call. Thanks to the effort of Amazon, fellow sellers, and the unfortunate victims or scams, identifying a scam before becoming their next victim has gotten just a little bit easier.

Unauthorized Sellers

Big brands sell their products to carefully selected distributors and stores, but once it’s on the market it’s basically fair game. If a distributor offers a big sale or even if it’s Black Friday at Walmart, anyone can get their hands on a product at a discounted price to turn around and resell it at a higher price. The issue here is that any average Joe can stockpile a bunch of bulk buys in his garage and list it online.

This is one of the biggest obstacles for fellow sellers who have received authorization from the brand, or often are the brand themselves, because these sellers compromise the brand integrity. They often undercut MAP, don’t adhere to the storage or packaging guidelines, steal the sales of reputable rule-following sellers, and cause bad reviews on what were once well ranked, successful listings.

These sellers evade legal action under the first sale doctrine which basically says anyone has the right to buy and resell a product. Brands can overcome this legal loophole by trademarking not just the product, but the way the product is handled. When a rogue seller pops on with their unauthorized inventory, the threat of legal action is much more real if they can’t adhere to the handling trademark. This helps prevent you from receiving someone’s garage inventory that’s see who knows what kind of exposure and elements.

Counterfeit Products

When purchasing a product on Amazon, typically the buy box is devoted to a seller with a combination of the best price, most convenient shipping, and a solid reputation. But sometimes merchant sellers with low or no reviews will discount the prices so low that they get the buy box by default. The question often is, how can these sellers afford to sell and ship the items as such a low price?

The answer: it’s not always the product that you think it is. These scam sellers can launch their account and within just a couple days, they have hundreds or thousands of listings. Their prices are unbeatable, enticing the customer and jeopardizing the brand’s integrity. Then the consumer receives a product that they really didn’t want. By the time consumers and Amazon catch on to the scam, the seller has likely already made several sales, lots of money, and they’re gone in the wind.
It’s safest to beware the “Just Launched” Seller. Sure, everyone has to get their start somewhere, and often new sellers will discount products to grab initial attention and begin building sales. But as always, it’s too good to be true, it often is. If a seller has just launched, doesn’t have any reviews, and offers a popular brand’s product in new condition at an unreasonable price, you can bet it’s a scam.

No Show Packages

The biggest drawback to purchasing products online as opposed to in person is the lack of personal guarantee. In a store you can see and hold the product, ensuring its authenticity and that it is, in fact, there. Any time you purchase something online you’re risking the guarantee that you would get from that personal experience, but it’s a gamble we’re often willing to take for reduced prices and increased convenience.

So, what about when you take the chance and the product just isn’t there? You don’t receive a counterfeit item or the wrong item. It’s not damaged or broken. It just never arrives. Much like counterfeit items, these listings are often owned by just launched sellers who have tons of available products, generate sales quickly, and then disappear.

Amazon has started beating these sellers to the punch by requiring legitimate tax identity information. This verifies the authenticity of the account and holds the seller responsible for their account’s performance. They have also tackled security look holes that were previously abused by scam sellers. This all makes it more challenging for someone to use fraudulent or stolen information, but still it’s not impossible.

Stick to the Site

Possibly the biggest red flag of all the scams out there is when a seller asks you to contact them outside of the site. Reports have been made of high dollar items at heavily discounted rates being sold by scam sellers. On the listing there will be information that requests you to email the seller outside of Amazon to purchase the product. They receive an email response with an Amazon logo from what appears to be an Amazon email address. The email has a link for you to purchase the product, enter in all your card information, and now you’re waiting for your package. But it never comes.

What makes this so much more stressful that fraudulent accounts on Amazon is that Amazon cannot help you in this situation. They have no record of your transaction because it happened outside of their website. They can’t issue a refund or resend the product. You just lost your money.

Amazon typically does a good job policing content on their listings and flagging certain wording that would request you to contact or purchase from another site, but consumers must remember that most of their systems are automated. If a scammer creates a listing from scratch, it’s easier for them to control the content without alerting Amazon or other sellers. Scams are also orchestrated from a human level, so it comes down to the human brain versus an algorithm, and the human brain will always find a loophole. The best rule of thumb is to only purchase from the Amazon website, verify the URL address bar, and don’t correspond off the website.

Trust Your Gut

The first step to protecting yourself from scams is knowing how the scammers target consumers and carry out their scams. Knowing the issues that other consumers have already faced can help you protects yourself in the future from fraudulent listings and dishonest sellers. While Amazon and authentic sellers are working together to get scams shut down before they can even begin, there will still be some that slip through the cracks. It’s important for you to be vigilant, as well. Remember to scout thoroughly, checking reviews on both the seller and product level. Do not purchase products from an Amazon listing outside of the Amazon market place. And as always, trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.

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