Recently my daughter's Lenovo Laptop died and Lenovo refused to honour the warranty (long story short, Amazon stepped in and refunded the full price of the item within 6 hours of me posting it back to them!). Anyway following this, I needed to find a replacement for her. Since the laptop was nearly a year old, I thought that I could probably get one of similar quality or perhaps better for about the same price. So I started looking on Amazon for laptops in the sub £300 category.
After a bit of searching I found a good looking one that had good specs and was in my price range, however when I looked at the description in the sellers name it said "New- please contact us at somename[at]gmail.com to make sure we can deliver to your area" - this was interesting because I've never seen this message before. I did some checking on whether this is normal practice and found this webpage warning about bogus amazon sellers. A bit more digging found a number of similar messages and social media posts warning about the same thing.
Basically, these bogus amazon sellers either hack into an existing seller account and list products or they create their own fake accounts. I have seen so many of these fake products on the laptops that I'm beginning to suspect that they might be using some sort of automated software to do it. Look at the number of products on the fake accounts and you will may see many thousands of products in all kinds of different categories on their shop.
Some products are quite obviously fake, like this one which is less than half the price of what it should be, or this one below:
which is normally about £1,200 but on amazon for only £280.
Click on the Available from These Sellers link and you will see the following
However, a lot of scammers are more sneaky than this, and might advertise products at just below the market value, or possibly even above but include promotional offers. Often they will target higher value items like TVs and mobile phones.
How to avoid fake seller scams
There are a few ways to protect yourself:
1. never buy anything which has a disguised email address in the seller name, product details or item condition. This is a big giveaway that it is a fake or hacked account trying to take your money off you. These fakers know that if you buy through the amazon shopping channel, they won't be able to steal your money so they do everything they can to persuade you to transfer your money via different channels. Sometimes they will direct you to a fake website with a payment page, or sometimes they will ask you to do some other action to transfer money. In the example above, they tried to get the chap to buy an amazon voucher and send them the voucher code.
2. if you are really worried and want to avoid the risk, only buy where the item is shipped directly from amazon. In the left hand side, there are two options for "delivery option" - Prime Eligible and Free UK Delivery by Amazon - click both of these and you will no longer see the fake products appearing.
Don't be fooled into thinking that a product sent from Amazon prime is legit though, there are examples of people who have bought fake goods on amazon prime.
3. Check the seller out. Look at the seller reviews and the product reviews and if possible check the seller's own website, some sellers such as Betty Black have their own websites on which you can contact them online to make sure they are genuine. If a seller is quite new ("just launched") and has no reviews then steer clear of them.
Why doesn't Amazon do anything about scammers?
Well Amazon removes the fake listings when it finds them, but amazon has over 400 million products in the marketplace with over 90 thousand added every day, so keeping track of all this is quite a task. You can get into an arms race of filtering out email addresses, but scammers will get round this easily by disguising the address or using some other contact method to lure you out of Amazons ecosystem.
You can report sellers using their contact form, but really the speed at which they can close accounts and reopen new ones means that its probably not worth your time. What amazon need to do is issue warnings and guidance for people using their marketplace and also start a solid program of filtering out bogus selling accounts to give people greater confidence that if you buy something from amazon, you are going to get what you paid for.