The most effective scams take advantage of our greed, so it’s always good to have a reminder that deals that seem too good to be true probably are. The problem is that even if you know that an amazing deal from a seller who just joined Amazon last week and has no feedback is a red flag, Amazon’s buy box doesn’t necessarily understand this.
The problem isn’t necessarily Amazon’s fault, Buzzfeed reports. The e-commerce megastore bans bad sellers when they’re reported, asks new sellers for detailed information, and issues refunds to customers who are ripped off.
In a statement to Buzzfeed, Amazon explained its policy: “In the event that sellers do not comply with the terms and conditions they’ve agreed to, we work quickly to take action on behalf of customers.”
The problem is that scammers are very, very determined.
“As soon as Amazon sets up a way to identify these sellers, they have a way to get around it,” a consultant to Amazon sellers who used to work for the site told Buzzfeed. It’s variously compared to “cat and mouse” and “whack-a-mole,” but doesn’t seem like much of a game to customers who receive counterfeit goods or nothing at all.
Buzzfeed looks at this from the point of view of sellers who have to compete with phantom prices. One seller of board games explained that Amazon asks sellers complaining about potentially fraudulent competitors to perform “test buys” from them and see what happens.
This spring, he made 33 test buys, and 27 of them were scams. The seller might claim that packages were delivered to the wrong address, or there was no evidence that they were shipped at all.
One customer shared a scam with Buzzfeed that we hadn’t heard of before: Sellers who ask for payment on an Amazon gift card on a site that looks like Amazon. One user reported that a vendor with a great deal on a camera she wanted requested that customers e-mail them before purchasing the item from the site.
She did so, and was instructed to buy an Amazon gift card and submit the number. The seller later asked her for another gift card for shipping and insurance, which she sent.
When she contacted Amazon, they knew nothing about the transaction. She was able to obtain a refund eventually, but take this as a warning that when you’re shopping on Amazon, you shouldn’t carry out the transaction over email.