Dirty Tricks Pulled by Amazon Sellers… on Other Amazon Sellers

A growing number of unethical Amazon sellers are abusing the system to take down their competitors. Here’s how they do it.

We all know that Amazon is a competitive marketplace. The battle can be intense and sellers are constantly on the lookout for ways to boost their listings. When it comes to the Buy Box, this is usually through price, maintaining good performance metrics and using FBA.

But some sellers will take things a step further and try to shoot down their competitors using a range of dirty tricks. Their aim is simple – to get a competing seller or listing suspended.

This underhand behavior is rife on Amazon, and a variety of different tricks are being deployed. These range from leaving negative reviews on competing products to switching genuine items with counterfeits, then making inauthentic item claims to Amazon.

Massive disruption is caused for the “victim” sellers, who lose money while their account is suspended. They are left frustrated, having to write a Plan of Action to reinstate their account – for problems that don’t actually exist.

To raise awareness of these anti-competitive practices, we’ve found five of the most prominent dirty tricks being pulled by Amazon sellers on their competitors.

The Counterfeit Switch

What happens?

In this scam, an unethical seller buys their competitor’s product, for instance a designer jacket. Then they go elsewhere and purchase another jacket that is either a cheaper version or a counterfeit. When the designer jacket arrives, they switch it with the cheaper jacket and claim that the product they received was inauthentic. They return the cheap version and keep the designer jacket, which they can then sell on.

The scammer then either leaves a review saying that the product was a counterfeit, or complains directly to Amazon. Either tactic can cause Amazon to take a seller’s account down immediately, as they take claims of counterfeiting very seriously.

This dirty trick is very popular and, despite its complexity, it is something that Amazon suspension consultant Steven Thompson, from Thompson and Holt, deals with frequently. He told me that this year alone he has dealt with between 50 and 60 cases of people being suspended due to their competitors pulling this scam.

How would you know this has happened and what can you do?

This scam is easy to spot, because when you receive the returned item you’ll know it wasn’t the item that you dispatched.

You wouldn’t know at first glance that you were being targeted by a competitor, as it could simply be the work of a dishonest buyer. It would take some serious detective skills to pin down the culprit and find out if it was indeed the work of a competitor.

Even if you can trace it to a competitor, Amazon doesn’t really buy the “someone set me up” excuse. Frustratingly, the best way for a seller to get their account back is to take responsibility – even when it isn’t their fault. Joshua Price, Managing Director of eCommerce Geek, has found that this is a far more successful way to get accounts reinstated:

I’ve never had success with an appeal letter when I’ve directly addressed the faults in Amazon’s system, as opposed to just saying it actually happened. To call them out on it, and say this is definitely a competitor, is very hard to win because you can’t prove it.

So, if you are suspended as a result of this scam, it is probably best to submit a Plan of Action (POA) that outlines how you’re going to change moving forward and, most importantly, how you’ll make sure you source stock from authorized distributors. Even if you are already doing everything your POA says, you have little choice but to present it as a new process you have put in place.

This scam is very difficult to protect against, but there are steps you can take to limit the effect it has. Keeping up-to-date invoices close to hand is an important factor, as it is then easier to present your case and show that you are buying stock from authorized distributors.

Retail arbitrage sellers are especially vulnerable to this scam, simply because they buy from retail outlets and not through authorized distributors. Retail receipts are not accepted as proof by Amazon, so it’s difficult for them to prove their stock was legitimate.

Review Trashing

What happens?

In this trick, a dishonest seller sets up multiple new buying accounts, unlinked to their seller account, and starts to target their competitor with negative product reviews. These could be about the condition of the item, that it didn’t work, or that it broke shortly after it was purchased.

Once the review is posted, they will often use their multiple buying accounts, or even friends and family members, to up-vote the negative review. This is voting “yes” underneath a product review where Amazon asks, “Was this review helpful to you?”. They may also down-vote existing positive reviews. In the eyes of buyers this gives the fake negative review authenticity and discredits the genuine positive reviews. The overall effect is to make buyers wary of purchasing items from you, and drive more traffic to your competitor’s product.

How would you know this has happened and what can you do?

It can be hard to tell whether a review is genuine or not, and it can be harder still to prove that you’re being targeted by a competitor. Suspicions should be raised though, if the negative review was not accompanied by a refund request or a buyer message, as normally a customer with a faulty item would also want a refund. A bad review alone suggests foul play.

If sellers see these types of comments or notice an unnatural amount of up-votes or down-votes they can use the “report abuse” button beneath the product review to report it to Amazon’s Product Review Abuse team. This tends to give mixed results. In the experience of former Amazonian and ecommerceChris founder Chris McCabe, it doesn’t usually help sellers combat the actions of unethical sellers:

People report this trick all the time and generally they tell me that no action was taken, or that they got a generic message saying it’s being looked into and that Amazon will get back to them, but they never hear anything. Everything stays up; the down-voting stays the same and the fake reviews stay up.

The Product Review Abuse team was created to deal with this but they’ve apparently invested most of their energy in taking down sellers who paid for positive reviews. There’s not been a lot of attention on people leaving negative reviews to cut down a competitor.

Bogus Safety Claim

What happens?

With this one, a crooked seller again starts by purchasing a competitor’s product. They then leave a product review saying that the product was dangerous. For instance, if it was an electrical item, they could use words like “fire”, “dangerous” and “hazard”. These terms are picked up by the keyword algorithm that Amazon uses to patrol product reviews.

When these keywords are detected, your product can be taken down automatically. On a branded or private label product where you are the only seller, the whole listing would typically be taken down. But on a listing with multiple sellers, if Amazon assess that only you are selling an unsafe version, then it can just be you who is kicked off, leaving your competitors still able to sell the product.

This scam is also very popular on Amazon. Steven Thompson currently deals with suspensions caused by bogus safety claims on a daily basis. He finds that scams come and go in phases on Amazon, and that right now, this is the favored dirty trick pulled by sellers on their competitors.

How would you know this has happened and what can you do?

Joshua Price from eCommerce Geek has dealt with a vast amount of bogus safety claims, and finds that the content of them tends to be different from genuine negative reviews:

The reviews are often very over the top because they want to ram as many keywords in as possible. This is because sellers don’t know exactly what keywords Amazon is looking for. So it would include things like ‘it exploded’, ‘it burnt my arm’ and ‘there was fire’, to try and trigger something.

A genuine product review would say ‘it fused out and there was a tiny bit of smoke’. When things go wrong, people are a bit calmer, often more so than the fake reviews make out.

There are other factors that can indicate you are the target of bogus safety claims. One is by looking at the balance of good reviews to bad reviews. If there are only two bad reviews complaining of safety faults, when hundreds of people have had no problem, this could be a sign that the negative ones are bogus.

Unethical sellers also have a habit of including the full name of a product in fake reviews, exactly as it appears in the listing title, in an attempt to associate the safety trigger keywords with that product.

Once again, the tricky part is pinning this underhand tactic on your competitor, as they will have bought the item and left the review with a buyer account unlinked to their seller account.

More tricks after the video…

False Infringement Claim

What happens?

This is where the unethical seller pretends to be a brand owner and targets one of your products. They report the product using Amazon’s infringement claim form, saying that you are breaching their rights by selling that product. Amazon usually acts on these immediately, suspending your ASIN until the brand owner contacts them saying that you are authorized to sell that product.

Amazon will provide you with the email address used by the person who made the complaint and tell you to contact them. But there lies the problem. Amazon doesn’t require people making infringement claims to have seller accounts, and unethical sellers know this. They simply create a new email account, find their competitor’s bestselling listing, and submit an infringement claim about that product.

Amazon won’t reinstate your product until they hear from the supposed brand owner, so you have little choice but to send messages to the email address provided. You are very unlikely to get a response. Of course, this is your competitor’s aim, as the more time you waste emailing them, the longer your ASIN is down, and the more profit your competitor makes in your absence.

How would you know this has happened and what can you do?

There are a few ways that you can tell you’re being targeted and that the claim isn’t genuine. The first is if you receive no answer from the email address that Amazon provided. This should raise your suspicions, as a genuine brand owner is likely to want to resolve the issue.

It can be fruitful to contact the brand directly instead, as it is not unusual for them to tell you that they never made the claim. You then simply need to get the brand to contact Amazon, explaining that they are the legitimate rights owner and that they never made the claim. This should see your ASIN reinstated.

Another scenario is when you, as the seller, are also the brand owner. Is not uncommon for competitors to file an infringement claim on a private label product that you actually own the rights to. The effect is just the same as for a third-party brand, and it can take a good deal of effort to convince Amazon that you really are the brand owner yourself.

If all else fails and you are completely sure you really aren’t infringing any rights, you have the option to lodge a DMCA counterclaim, where you contest the claim being made against you. This can be made as soon as you receive a notice from Amazon, saying that your product has been taken down.

The counterclaim should be forwarded by Amazon to the person who has made the claim against you. Unless the claimant seeks a court order, Amazon should reinstate your product within 14 business days of receiving the counterclaim.

Chris McCabe believes that as Amazon becomes a more aggressive marketplace, the need for sellers to have an attorney to work on matters like these is increasingly important:

I think in the future, almost every seller is going to need an attorney, to better understand trademarks, intellectual property and copyright. I’ve dealt with thousands of sellers on these topics and many have no understanding of them.

Sellers need an attorney to advise them specifically on these issues because everyone knows that a false infringement claim is in effective way of knocking your opponent off a listing and they also know there is no Amazon team in place to strike down these forms as they are coming in.

Chris McCabe wrote about this topic in detail in False Infringement Claims are Rife on Amazon and How to Fight Amazon Rights Infringement Claims.

Listing Hijacking

What happens?

There are a number of ways that unethical sellers can manipulate product listings. One variation that is now common is altering a listing for a generic unbranded product. For example, imagine selling a pink plastic cup on a competitive listing – with multiple other sellers offering the same product.

Then an unethical seller comes along. They’ve sourced the same generic product but their version is slightly different, for example a pink plastic cup with a white lid. They know that they should create their own listing, or find an existing listing matching their particular variation. But your cup sells well and has good reviews, so they connect to this listing instead.

Here’s where the dirty trick comes in: they submit a new title and description, stating that the product is a “pink plastic cup with a white lid”, and submit a picture of their own item.

Now the listing no longer reflects your own product. The rogue seller sits and watches, as the other sellers on the listing – including you – start to get complaints, because the item sold no longer matches the description. When you and the other sellers have been kicked off, the hijacking is complete and the black-hat seller takes over.

Rogue sellers also pull this trick by taking a generic listing and adding a brand name to the title. This causes sellers to get counterfeit or “not as described” complaints, because customers were expecting a branded item and received a generic one instead. This can lead to your account being suspended for selling inauthentic goods.

Hijacking also occurs on branded and private label products but the experts we spoke to believe it is on the decrease, partly because of factors such as Brand Registry.

How would you know this has happened and what can you do?

Often a seller finds out that their listing has been hijacked after someone has left a negative review, saying the product was not as described or a fake. The seller might read the review then check the listing to find that it is totally different to their product – the title will have changed and the images may also be different.

This dirty trick is most accessible to large sellers because, as Joshua Price explains, the algorithm that Amazon uses to decide whether to accept changes is tipped in their favor:

Amazon will basically rank the sellers that have submitted information and the original listing and decide who should win. If you’re a large seller with great feedback and a good sales history, they’re going to put things into your favor. Whereas if you’re a small or new seller, you’re very likely to not win in that situation.

This opens the way for further aggressive tactics. If large unethical sellers discover that their suggested changes are often accepted by Amazon, they may be tempted to go on the rampage, sourcing new products and hijacking existing listings at will to get sales off to the best start possible.

Brand Registry can offer some protection to private label sellers, but it doesn’t give complete control over a listing, just increased authority. It still makes sense for brand owners to apply, but the benefits should not be overstated.

Frustration Free Packaging offers more protection. Once a product has been certified as FFP, Amazon will only allow you, and sellers that you authorize, to sell the FFP version of that product.

Offering a warranty on products is another option. If you sell a product with an Amazon-approved warranty and another seller appears on your listing with an identical product, but doesn’t offer a warranty, this makes their product materially different, strengthening your case for Amazon to remove them from the listing.

But… what about account hacking?

Account hacking hasn’t been included here because it’s usually the work of cyber criminals, or sometimes disgruntled ex-employees, rather than competitors.

Cyber criminals will hack seller accounts and list products with bargain prices but long dispatch times. This way they can make a lot of sales, and receive funds from Amazon before the buyer expects to receive the item. Another variation is to hack active accounts and simply redirect sales proceeds to the criminal’s own bank account.

We have heard a few reports, however, of unethical sellers hacking into their competitor’s accounts and making subtle changes, such as marking warning notices as read, in an attempt to get their competitors suspended in the long term without revealing that their account has been compromised.

Account hacking usually starts with a phishing email, to obtain a seller’s email address and password. Using two-step verification helps protect against unauthorized access to your account, as you have to enter both your password and a unique code, that changes every time you attempt to sign in. Some Amazon sellers are reporting that two-factor authentication will be mandatory from June 30th, 2017.

In Closing

So how is this anti-competitive behavior shaping Amazon as a marketplace? Joshua Price thinks that sellers on Amazon are increasingly those willing to try anything, leading the marketplace down a more cutthroat path:

The type of sellers who employ these dirty tricks are often sellers who do have really good accounts. They are more proactive, keen to make changes and can perform much better because they’re clearly very knowledgeable about Amazon. They don’t let some metrics about late dispatch impact them, whereas a newer, less knowledgeable seller could fall foul of the performance metrics that Amazon raves about. It breeds a culture of being a harsh and aggressive competitor on the platform.

Chris McCabe too believes that Amazon sellers will have to become more pugnacious to survive and be ready to combat the underhand tactics of their competitors:

Everyone has to act more aggressively now, whether that’s sellers, attorneys or Amazon. I think in the very near future, every seller will need a battle plan to protect against someone trying to attack their business on Amazon.

In many ways Amazon is the ultimate free market. The sellers with the best products, prices and customer service are favored by Amazon’s algorithms, and they thrive.

But those same algorithms can be abused by unethical sellers. Those who understand a system can also subvert it. On Amazon, a growing number of selling are taking advantage of processes designed to protect consumers and brand owners, to take down their competitors instead.

36 comments on “Dirty Tricks Pulled by Amazon Sellers… on Other Amazon Sellers

  1. Great article. The only thing I would do differently would be to employ someone, or possibly just simply use a grammar correcting program. There are some wording mistakes in the article, especially in the use of ‘underhand’. Underhand means to throw an object very much in the way a softball is thrown. ‘Underhanded’ means in a deceptive way. Otherwise, it was a great article, keep up the good work.

      1. It’s an optional complaint for redress at best. The option to keep it limited to ones opinion should have been exercised as the point was made with the same intention as it was given. One must conclude that they know what they are reading to eliminate confusion when they perceive it. At no point, did I feel you changed topics from Amazon sellers dirty tricks to Amazon sellers dirty softball team. Proper English is imperative to our communication, but pausing communication to criticize proper English will prove catastrophic. Even with a liberal and more forgiving approach, it would indefinitely cripple the lines of our communication when you consider how late in response any attempt would be, and only for a negative of no return outcome. I think we’ve set ourselves back far enough to agree comfortably to leave this as a preferred silent option. If no, you missed a semicolon in your statement somewhere. Thank you.

      2. Daniel and Amber Foote of Sosa games purposely use family members and friends of theirs to do stealth purchases on their competition and then they report the competition for selling fake items or they just completely demolished the item and send it back for a complete refund and leaving negative feedback saying that the item didn’t work when they received it when in fact they destroyed it when they got it just so they can leave your negative feedback they destroyed my store on Amazon by doing this to me. And they’ve done it to others check out the badbuyerlist for Sosa games it’ll blow your freaking mind

      3. Sosa games on Amazon uses stealth addresses to ruin his competition. He has friends and family buy other seller items and report to Amazon that they are selling fake items. His name is Daniel Foote

    1. Oh please, nobody cares if there are any minor errors or not. It’s about the content of the article.

      Stop the grammar policing.

  2. The counterfeit switch is EXACTLY what happened to me on Amazon, three years ago now. I had a healthy business with a six-figure turnover selling batteries for phone, cameras etc. but I started to receive negative feedbacks on a regular basis, one a week at first, then every other day, then two or three a day, stating that the items either had not arrived or were counterfeit.

    I knew something wasn’t right because I had been selling these for over two years, thousands every month, and averaged one neg feedback every three months. It was also slightly odd in that many of the names of the buyers had the letter ‘z’ in their name, as though those responsible were in some way goading me, wanting me to know it was them.

    Then the A-z claims started to arrive, one after another, and photos were added to the claims. I could see from the photo that the item were not what I had sent but poor quality copies, with mis-spelt labels and so on. Amazon supported me at first for a short time but eventually suspended me because they “were receiving too many complaints”, this despite the fact that I obtained a letter directly from a major manufacturer confirming that I was an authorised distributor. Over three years on and technically I’m still suspended (as opposed to them actually closing the account), but nothing I tried, including offering to drop the product line completely made any difference and I effectively lost my business in an instant.

    There is more, that any Amazon seller needs to be aware of. I had a huge job trying to get my final payment from Amazon, a total of over £12,000, although I did get it in the end but I believe that in many cases Amazon keep the money, so if you’re suspended but advised to keep on sending out any existing orders, my advice is absolutely do NOT send them. Also get rid of the bank account direct debit and any card details you have on there because they will keep on taking payment off you for future returns.

    On top of that most of my stock was with FBA. The thing is, Amazon charge you PER ITEM to return items, in my case it was around 80p per battery, so despite the fact that they managed to pack 1,400 batteries into 6 boxes they still charged me over £1000 to return them to me. Again I’ve been told that in many cases you get nothing back, they keep the stock, and although I didn’t do a stock check at the time I’m pretty sure now that about a third of my goods were not returned.

    There’s no nice way of saying it, if you have similar problems not only might that ruin your business but Amazon might also steal your money and goods, covered by some clause tucked away in the T&C’s.

    I thought ebay were bad for seller support but I wouldn’t touch Amazon again with a barge pole. The real joke is they got rid of a decent, genuine seller while the scammers are still on there.

    It’s a deliberate policy too. As one Amazon manager told me at the end, it’s not that they don’t believe me but I was now taking up so much of their staff time that I had become a liability and it was cheaper and easier just to shut me down.

    1. Mark, Your story is heartbreaking. It is also a very real possibility for any Seller. Have you considered posting your informationi as a blog that will be indexed to search engines? Others should be made aware of Amazon’s actions and/or lack thereof in your case. What you described is a clear manipulation of the Amazon platform and sound reason for Amazon to take action. Public awareness of Amazon’s handling of your matter and failure to properly compensate and reimburse you for your merchandise is vitally important. I’d enjoy communicating with you on this matter. How can I get in touch with you?

    2. Mark,

      This is very similar to my story of working for Amazon. They have attempted to manipulate every angle of facts and offer no supporting evidence to their conclusions that always see me as out of luck, to where I am now, which is out of money. I’m losing everything as we speak due to Amazon not initiating payments to my account. Instead, they continue to lie to me daily stating that it will take 3-5 days for disbursement of funds to be made available in my account. That is why I am here. To hopefully find a solution instead of the unfortunate reality I fear most. I think with the interior knowledge you have of this situation, the latter is undeniable. I think people need to be made aware of the fact that no matter how much you prepare, how secure you think you are, how much money you have, or how hard you’ve worked to get it, it’ll only take an instant to realize its all gone, and trusting Amazon is precisely why. It appears there aren’t many ramifications for them either. No one really wants to hear horror stories from victims who just lost everything, so its easy for Amazon to alleviate themselves from any accountability in wrongdoing. I’m just thankful I don’t have kids to have to explain this to. It’ll be a long road ahead, starting with a cold winter, and that I can a-z guarantee. It’s just unfortunate
      that wishful thinking led to my borrowing of time that should’ve been used to make changes toward any kind of income, instead of Amazons T&C income that equals nothing. It’s funny that somehow the greedy never get to feel the wrath they inflict upon others, and the others are only trying to survive with so much less. I guess this solidifies or confirms the idea that good fortune is out of my reach simply for choosing not to be greedy. Then again, I have never been given the opportunity to prove otherwise or wouldn’t have recognized it if I had been. Thanks for the info. Take care.

  3. Just deal with buyers in your own country and verify addresses. When one of them tries to scam you, turn up at his/hers address and front them up.
    If you do it right, you should get your money back, an apology and out of pocket expenses.

    1. Robin, that’s an interesting idea. It would be awesome to confront face-to-face with an unethical seller. But, what do you mean, specifically, when you say “If you do it right”? How do I do this right?

  4. It doesn’t work like that unfortunately. You can’t verify addresses if you have dozens of orders going out every day, It’s not practical or even physically possible within the time you have available to do so.

    Apart from that, if they are being sent by Amazon’s FBA service you don’t have the chance to cancel them, and you certainly can’t spend your time driving around the country investigating several addresses every day and you don’t know it’s a scammer until something happens, i.e. a negative feedback or claim. On top of that many of them were false address anyway, items were coming back with “not at this address” some weeks later, while in the meantime the scammers had filed claims for fake items or items not received, or left poor feedback.

    1. Sosa games on Amazon uses stealth addresses to ruin his competition. He has friends and family buy other seller items and report to Amazon that they are selling fake items. His name is Daniel Foote

  5. Alas, doing business on Amazon is truly a two-edged sword: hugely rewarding, potentially, yet very precarious, with little to no avenue for redressing injustices. The bottom line is that, with as many 3P sellers as they have, they simply don’t care. You are but a single pebble in a quarry of seller accounts – not worth their time!

    It is, therefore, my advice to always take as much profit off the table as possible; keep as little inventory in FBA as possible, and run as lean an inventory management system as you can. Also, diversify as quickly as possible. All because, at any moment, you could lose it all!

  6. Amazon needs to do a better job at providing relief from scammers. They’re so good with algorithms surely they can configure a few to protect sellers better…

  7. Yes, absolutely. It’s long been a complaint of mine that they don’t do enough. It’s all part of cybercrime which is a huge industry now. Shoplifters would be prosecuted so why not people who are trying to scam you on ebay, amazon etc?

    I believe that pat of the reason it has become such as big problem is that sellers are an easy target and there is little to no chance of prosecution. On amazon you have virtually no information on the buyer and are effectively sending everything out on trust, while on ebay you do have a little more information but they seem to care even less.

    I reported a buyer on ebay a few weeks ago that left over 30 negative feedbacks for “items not received” from around 50 purchases of low value items. Nobody, but nobody loses 30+ items in the post from 50 purchases so obviously they were lying but I checked back a few weeks later and they were still active on the site. How much evidence do you need?

    Returns are the biggest scam now, people returning items in poor condition or claiming they are faulty or not as described, so they get return postage paid. Over 9 out of 10 buyers on ebay do this yet less than 1% are actually faulty.

    1. Thank you! So the only way eBay/AZ will change is if it impacts their bottom line. Cyber crime could include fines for doing nothing about it. I don’t like feds in our Internet but they did create it and to leave it as the wild west can surely hurt many many small mom and pop sellers just trying to get by. Perhaps a serious competitor that takes seller security seriously would be a rather big wake up call. Thank you again for your earlier response, Mark.

      1. Yes, that sums it up completely Steve, unless their profits were hurt they will never be particularly interested.

        The reason they always find in favour of the buyer in disputes isn’t incompetence, it’s actually a very clever business ploy. Keep the buyers happy and they will come back to your site. A few sellers might lose out here and there but it’s not your money (as the site owner) that is taking the hit, it’s the sellers. It’s win-win for you, no losses in a dispute and the buyer comes back and buys more.

      2. I think individual sellers are a burden to Amazon at this point. They have WalMart and the other box stores selling on their platform, and Amazon’s main interest lies in becoming so big that they swallow them up in the storm. So the independent seller is just in the way.

    2. It’s time to verify everything you do. Whether you have the time or not. Watch who you sell to. Dont sell to those accounts that have letters & symbols for names & next to no feedback, who just sold 150 items and they just set up their account 2 days ago. Video your order fulfillment, and require a signature on every item you send. FedEx, et al are using GPS to verify where they left packages these days; I guess they are getting hit by the scammers, too. When they claim an item wasnt received, or the box was empty, or the item was a fake, tell them you will notify their local police & have a police report for theft completed. We have to be proactive in every way we can imagine. And then, once weve done everything we know we can do, and Ebay/Amazon still wont back their sellers, maybe a class action lawsuit is in order.

      1. Unfortunately you’re a long way off the mark and with all due respect you are showing your naivety there. If it was that easy the problem would have been eradicated years ago.

        First of all, if you are selling hundreds of small or low value items every week on Amazon it is a physical impossibility to check every single order, even if you worked 24 hours a day. Those items don’t make enough profit to hire staff to cover that sort of thing and even if you had the resources it would still be a near impossible task.

        As for Amazon you have no indication whatsoever who the buyer is like you do on ebay. All you have to go off is a name and address. There is nothing to prevent scammers ordering dozens of low value items and having each one sent out to different, even fake addresses and as far as you know they might simply be genuine details.

        You have no way of knowing until it comes back with a “Not at this address” label on it, and by that time the neg feedback will have been left long ago. This is exactly what was happening to me, they were using false names and addresses and then reporting that the items delivered were fake, or that they didn’t receive them.

        For items not received the process is very simple, if it’s over a certain value you send it tracked and as long as the carrier shows it has been delivered then ebay/Amazon will support you. If you have no proof of delivery they won’t. Unfortunately this does not work for low value items because it would cost too much to send them tracked.

        Also I’ll tell you now that you could video the whole packing and posting process and all the buyer has to say is that the box was split open when they received it. Neither ebay nor Amazon will cover you, they will simply tell you that they have to protect the buyer because you have no proof it arrived intact. But once again, you will find it completely impractical to video the whole process of packing and handing it over to the carrier or post office, and if you can’t prove it wasn’t opened somewhere between you packing it and handing it over then you have no case anyway. Again, it would be totally impossible to do this for a large number, or even a small number of items on a regular basis. Even if it was effective it would still be far too time consuming.

        Finally, if you reported this sort of thing to the police they would probably book you for wasting police time. Their resources are so stretched these days they don’t even investigate burglaries or car theft in many cases, they simply tell you to claim on your insurance so they sure as hell are not going to investigate an alleged missing parcel – good luck with that one.

      2. So, you dont think that just the idea that a seller had that much documentation of a sale, or just the suggestion that a package could be tracked to their door w/proof of signature (who would sign for an opened box?) or that a police report might be filed, etc., wouldnt be enough to deter many would-be scammers? Sure, there are always those out there who are set on scamming you, but I think these ideas would go a long way in deterring many scams. I know Im naive, but I know it has deterred at least a few scammers already. So, I dont think it can hurt. I also realize that a larger scale seller might not have time to go through all that I suggested, but like you said, Amazon doesnt care about the seller, so we have to do *something* to take care of ourselves. It’s a start, at least.

    3. As far as eBay (I don’t sell on Amazon), I’ve discovered something that’s had success for me … mostly out of irritation at the bogus returns. I sell cosmetics, with a no return policy. As opposed to just agreeing to accepting a return, I reiterate that my terms were in writing and they agreed to that by their bid and eBay’s TOS. We all know no one reads the TOS. In my case I have a valid reason for not accepting any return due to hygiene. I do let them know that they can try doing something through eBay’s program, but that eBay now has a seller protection program and may require them to ship the item to them for inspection.

      I think I’m batting 1000 on this quelling that BS. I know I sell good product, ship carefully, and my spidey senses go off about certain customers before they even get their package. Sure, I could get one that may pursue the matter with eBay, but I have 100% positive feedback, been doing this for over 15 years, and I think they’re too intimidated to even try and open that can of worms.

      On a separate issue, isn’t shipping back an item that wasn’t the original (and even sometimes a box with a brick in it, I’ve heard) considered mail fraud? To my knowledge you can get the postal authorities involved in that. English is a second language to a lot of the scammers, and they often don’t like hearing terms like this.

      1. Thank you for your comments regarding your process for discouraging bogus eBay returns for beauty products. Would you mind sharing the terminology that you post to the listing that defines your return policy?

  8. Sure, I understand where you are coming from but for claims for items not received, it’s not a major issue except for small, cheap items that are too cheap to send tracked. The “penny” scammers as I call them are more of a nuisance but are not costing you a great deal of money in the greater scheme of things, and you have to look at it as you would with a retail store, you’re always going to get a few shoplifters no matter what you do. For tracked items you’re fairly well covered.

    But if somebody wants to claim the box is empty they would probably win. Scams are a multi-million dollar “business” and if it was that easy to prevent it, then it wouldn’t be happening. The “professional” scammers are usually the one who go after the larger items and they do it because it works for them. They know the police won’t get involved, and they know you won’t be able to prove the box wasn’t empty when they received it. All they have to say is something like this: “The driver put the box down while I signed for it, and had got back into his van and driven away when I picked it up and realised it was damaged/empty” etc.

    The next problem is if you then accuse them of lying and they leave you a feedback to that effect, that’s not going to look good on your record and will put genuine buyers off buying from you. You are then also technically guilty of libel unless you can prove the box was not empty when they received it.

    1. Is there no responsibility with the courier or driver ?
      They are not to blame, but surely they can put into writing that they do not deliver and make people sign for empty or damaged boxes.

  9. Yes, not trademark claims, but copyright claims. Disputes can be countered in a few different ways, depending on the kinds of complaints and the resulting clarification by the right’s owner of the specific rights infringed upon.

  10. Recently One of the brands I consult for was the victim of false IP infringment claims that were made against them on their own branded products by a malicious seller who was angry they had been asked not to sell a particular ASIN because it was not a product this company makes or sells. In short it was counterfeit. The seller reported three of the top selling products and the ASINs were suppressed and the inventory at Amazon was labeled defective. For 3 weeks each product was not available to shoppers and Amazon never even sent the “contact the rights owner” email that it always does to notify someone they’ve violated someone’s IP! The first two times It took me almost 6 days just to figure out that this was the cause of the supressed listings and defective inventory. Writing to amazons notice-dispute team was futile. They at one point told me to write to myself to seek permission to sell again since I was the agent on the claim that originally angered the seller, they were so confused they couldn’t understand WE were the brand owner and that someone had falsely filed this claim. Clearly they failed to check to see if the reporting person had brand registry. But why did they not ever notify us we had been removed from an ASIN along with the fake email of the rights owner?! It happened three times and it was an absolute devastation. Hundreds of cases opened tons of hours wasted on the phone and re-explaining and explaining again and then we explaining what happened to the customer service reps one after the other, at least $200,000 in lost sales. So frustrating. I love this article but I hope it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands this is basically a recipe for how to take down your competition hopefully only morally sound people read this blog!

  11. Thanks for the comments and for reading along. Well, these tactics are already known and understood by any party interested in abusing it.

    I don’t think this post is giving anyone a guide they don’t know already. So it seems like you’re having trouble disputing the infringement against the brand’s products from an outside party, but what contacts have you written to? Have you had a worthwhile attorney contact either Notice-Dispute/ Seller Abuse or Amazon Legal to resolve this? Have any other actions taken place?

    I’d need to hear more about the specifics, to understand what exactly happened here and help. — Chris

  12. We have customers ordering items that does not fit their appliance just so they can return them and write bad reviews. The product information shows the size yet they order it. When we investigate by looking at the appliance they need it for, we notice the dimensions are nothing like the spare they want. We always thought people at the age of 60 plus were honest people not any more. There are some rogue sellers on both amazon and Ebay who get their friends to make fraudulent purchases.

  13. The saboteurs are constantly making adjustments to remain stealth to Amazon’s lame attempts to curb fake negative reviews. For several years we saw that almost zero fake reviews resulted in a refund for the product receiving the fateful one-star review. Now they are starting to ask for refunds through third party reviewers. A single negative review can hurt the small seller tremendously. It takes about 8 five-star reviews to undo the damage (when the seller is not buying fake positive reviews). We neither buy positive nor negative reviews, and sales are down 40% in the last four months because of the bogus attacks on out products.

  14. My question is why haven’t, or why aren’t there any real alternatives to Ebay and Amazon? Bonanza? C’mon! Why haven’t a band of pissed off sellers said enough of this nonsense, and started a new platform that addresses all of these issues from the jump? I would like to think it can be done. There are obviously some intelligent people on here and if you consider how much money you’ve lost at the hands of eBay and Amazon alone, not to mention the scammers therein, it as mazes me that no one has even attempted it. Ebay and Amazon are the ones profiting from all of this, I hope you understand that. I don’t know how many times now that I’ve caught both of them stealing my money red handed. Over-inflated invoices, made up cases, a-z claims that only appear after you’ve been suspended, resolved cases and no options to dispute for not knowing about them, etc. I have told paypal thousands of times that I don’t want them in my life at all, for anything because I know what they are in place to do. First and foremost, they are stealing your money openly to begin with. Who really needs a 3rd party to transfer funds? And at an additional fee? From the start they were designed to steal, that why they can’t help themselves. Those are the culprits that need to be taken out, period! The real scammers! EBay, Amazon, paypal, are the foundation to the small timers you all are referring to. I just got an email from eBay not 30 minutes ago, telling me a buyer who, unbeknownst to ebay is a close friend of mine from church, stating that they awarded them a refund due to their item being not as described and per ebay policy. I never even had a chance to dispute their theft!!!! I have many of instances like this on file. I am currently suing paypal in small claims for similar criminal activities, and yes you can sue them!!! Their TOS & UA’s are only a solid defense for them if they haven’t broken any laws. Once they break the law, they cannot hold that agreement or contract over you for anything! They have opened themselves up to me on several occasions and I plan on suing them for each one. Is it right? Yes. Is it deserved? Yes. Am I gonna win? Yes. That’s if I get a judge who is not on the take and it appears as of now that I have. If we’re not gonna start our own, stop placing blame elsewhere with the small timers. It’s the ones running the platforms that are the thieves and they are playing you all like idiots.

  15. I failed to mention that my long time friend has confirmed to me that he did not file a claim, nor did he return his item that he purchased. Anyone ever wonder why you never receive your “defective” item in the mail? It’s probably because it wasn’t defective. Your customer was 100% satisfied with what you sent. Ebay or Amazon were not. How is your customer gonna ever know that ebay or Amazon opened a case on their behalf to steal your money? They won’t. If they did know, would they care?
    Who’s to say there was a real customer at all? Amazon is especially guilty in that scenario. If you think I’m out in left field on this, first of all you’re wrong and second, how do you think these companies got to be so big? Their customer service? Or their propensity to surround themselves in thievery? They are the biggest thieves and who for the most part, who you’re complaining to. Just like the government. If they do you wrong, who are you gonna complain to that can help? That’s the position we’ve allowed them to take. I say we take it back, from all of them. Government included.

  16. Hi all,

    ALL of THIS is what makes me afraid to even start selling on Amazon, even eBay!
    I’ve been selling on some other platforms which are real cut & dry compared to Amazon & Ebay. 2 of the platforms don’t allow buyers remorse purchases to be refunded which is so nice being a seller who sells brand new items & goes all out to send customers a nice package! I could never afford to go thru losing everything! Seriously, brakes my heart reading about some of your stories!
    I’ve been wanting to sell on Amazon & eBay for years but I’m scared too! It makes me sick reading stories of people losing everything when they were doing everything right, following all the rules/guidelines of the platform & all because of strategic planned out scamming! Why is this NOT considered PRE MEDITATED theft or various other things under the law??
    Even on the platforms I sell on w/them being very easy compared to Amazon & Ebay, I’ve noticed a HUGE surge in both bad/scam buyers & sellers over the last 2-3 yrs. It’s crazy! You couldn’t walk into a store locally & be permitted to help yourself to whatever then walk out of the store w/o paying or telling the store owners you want to only pay 20% of the items price or using/eating items then leaving them destroyed so the next customer can’t buy it…..so why is all of what’s happeneing OK to do to anyone who sells online???
    I know I’m not the only one scared to sell on Amazon or eBay. Do they not think they could make just as much money?? Do they not think about all the people who are put off by the scammers that could be working hard driving sales to/thru their platform?
    I agree, more people need to become involved creating an organized mission to hit Amazon, EBay & any other platform that doesn’t protect their OWN user base in full, where it hurts them the most….their pocketbook! Let’s see how THEY like to lose their livelihoods, have PO’ed shareholders screaming at them for their losses.
    It’s ridiculous that anyone who is doing everything the right way should have to be afraid of theft, then NO support from the platform! It’s stealing, premeditated stealing! Competition is 1 thing but actual slander, libel, theft by claiming you never got your item, it was not as described & purposely attacking sellers by any proxy is quite another!
    Why is blackhatting legal?
    It’s also not fair to all the buyers who may end up hosed out of a good product because they bought a knock off of someone else’s product assuming they were getting the real deal! I’m a buyer too & nothing makes me more frustrated than getting an item that is NOT as described or shown!

    So sad…..

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