Fake sellers dupe one million Amazon customers

Posted at 10:45 AM, Sep 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-08 11:46:30-04

A local woman bought something on Amazon, but her package never showed up.  In this case a thief didn't steal it - a fake seller took her money.  As the I-Team discovered this is a growing crime, and so far it's affected one million customers.

These thieves pose as third-party sellers on Amazon.  They list all kinds of products for sale at ridiculously low prices. By the time customers realize they never got what they ordered, the fake seller has disappeared.

Jessica Jakubiak loves her new bike bag, but the purchase came with some inconvenience.  The one she uses now is the second bag Jessica bought.  The first one didn't exist.  "I thought it was just a legit mistake," she told us. Last September Jessica ordered a bike bag on Amazon from third-party seller Hlife.  

"I found the cheapest price," Jessica said.  She paid $9.99 for the bag and didn't mind waiting the two to three weeks for delivery.  

"And then I realized 'oh it didn't come.  Where is it?'"

Jessica tracked the package. Her Amazon account showed it was delivered in Kenosha. Jessica had the bag shipped to her Milwaukee address.  She reached out to the seller but never heard back.  

"I never really looked at the seller feedback," she commented. After her order never showed up Jessica checked out the reviews.  There were more than 200, all customers with the same complaints.  The seller only has a 4% positive rating. 

Joe Kaziukenas is the founder of Marketplace Pulse and told us, "we were surprised to see just how much of it is out there."  

An e-commerce consulting firm, Kaziukenas and his employees follow what's happening in the marketplace, which is how they stumbled across the Amazon issue.  

"It's not just like once in a while, once a month. It happens all the time, every day."  

57 fake sellers a day according to the firm's data.  Marketplace Pulse started a website to track these sellers. In the last 12 months it found more than 21,00 of them.

"A lot of these attacks are riding on the simple thing of listing all the products at very, very low prices," Kaziukenas explained.

So far it's estimated one million Amazon customers have been affected, and it's not just happening in the U.S.  "All Amazon marketplaces internationally, from Japan to Germany to the U.K., " Kaziukenas pointed out.  

And Marketplace Pulse is expecting this trend to jump during the holiday season with a lot of new sellers popping up.  The firm saw a spike last year in disappointed customers, left with no gifts right before Christmas.

"In the world we live in people do any way that they can to earn money the wrong way," Jessica shared.  In her case, Amazon couldn't reach the seller either. So she filed a claim and got her money back.  Jessica is now cautious limiting her orders to products sold only by Amazon.  If she does buy from a third-party she checks out the seller first.

An Amazon spokesperson told us customers are always protected, and it will refund their money in this situation.  The company also said it doesn't tolerate fraud.  According to the spokesperson "as fraudsters get smarter so do we. Amazon is constantly innovating on behalf of customers and sellers to ensure they buy and sell with confidence on"

So how do you spot fake sellers on Amazon?  They are usually selling thousand of products at hard-to-believe prices.  Lower than other sellers offering the same items.  Always check out reviews for the seller.  If there are none, because the seller is new, experts advise buying the item from someone else.