Amazon Scams Make Big Money, Ruin Trust, Company Sits Pretty


My friend Divij (name changed) wanted to gift his mom a nice Android phone so she could gossip with her sisters on their WhatsApp group. He chuckles and describes it to me as a symptom of being a middle class Indian; you want to give your parents when they’re 50 what they got you in first year of college. There’s a pause. The phone he ordered turned out to be from a fake seller.

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It’s not a big tragedy. There’s a lot of fake sellers masquerading on the online store, armed with the lucrative “Just Released” tag. Several people have reported the issue, but Amazon maintains there is no severe impact on the platform. Maybe there isn’t a lot of money the organisation is losing this way, but there is one crucial capital being lost several customers at a time, trust!

Divij saw a Google Pixel phone available for $20. “I was suspicious, but it said the phone was used. I don’t expect myself to be able to pay for a new one with the peanuts I get paid at my internship, but it would have been the perfect gift to give to mother and make her feel assured I was doing alright.” The accessories he ordered right away are set to arrive tomorrow. But the handset’s order has since been cancelled after being confirmed for shipping.

It’s not just the buyers who’re frustrated, though. Sellers who have been working with the app aren’t too happy either. They report a pattern. It is usually new sellers which turn out to be fake. Offers are usually too good to be true; and so many add a detail which attempts to justify the price. There are usually a few 5 star reviews from anonymous customers as well, which makes any dissatisfied customer’s attempts to rate them 1 star not as effective as they’d hope. Old sellers going rogue or being hijacked isn’t unheard of as well.

The more popular products, the more the chances of being ripped off. Which is why this scam is perhaps the biggest threat Amazon faces currently; you don’t want the products most frequently pursued by customers to turn out fake listings.

Then, there is the possibility of the app being subject to corporate espionage. If MI’s trend of flash sales of a tiny number of phones to a teeming mob of patrons is anything to go by, the possibility of Chinese corporations employing nefarious tactics to disarm the e-commerce mammoth is not all that distant.

While Amazon’s A to Z guarantee does refund money, my friend did end up without a phone for his mother’s 50th birthday. But he says his faith in online shopping has taken a big hit. As for me, I sit and estimate if there were 10 people who fell prey to the entry on the platform, which is a pretty conservative estimate, at $20 each order, they still made $200 for a product that probably did not even exist. Amazon promises that the sum is transferred to the seller only when it is known that the customer has received the product. But showing a fake transfer using a made-up tracking number isn’t all that hard. Amazon refuses to take action on the vile trend. Meanwhile, customers and sellers on the platform bear losses for no fault of theirs.