Getting scammed on an Amazon purchase sucks. But it is avoidable.
Amazon has revolutionized the way people shop. A couple clicks on your phone or computer and a few days later items show up at your doorstep.
People like you and me buy $17 million worth of stuff through Amazon every hour!
But people also get scammed on Amazon every single day.
Amazon is one of the biggest marketplaces on the planet. But Amazon doesn’t just sell its own products. It also lets smaller companies sell items on its marketplace. And some third party sellers are scammers.
As a third party seller myself, I run an ecommerce business and have sold nearly $2 million worth of products on Amazon. So I’ve seen – and been the victim of – Amazon scams.
And I’m happy to lend my experience to help you avoid Amazon scams.
So in this article I will describe the two most common Amazon scams. And then give you 6 powerful strategies to avoid being scammed on an Amazon purchase.
Dropship Copycat: How the Most Common Amazon Scam Works
Did you ever buy something from Amazon, and when it arrived it looks nothing like the photos and description of the listing you looked at?
This is the most common way people get scammed on Amazon.
As a seller on Amazon I learned the hard way that when you create and sell a successful product you’ll gain the attention of Amazon scam pirates.
And these pirates are unscrupulous. They will steal an honest seller’s photos, scrape all the data from your listing, and set up listings selling the ‘same’ product as yours for a fraction of the price.
And then, after undercutting your price, they will ship a piece of junk from China that looks nothing like your product.
I created and sold a 2020 commemorative COVID Santa Christmas ornament:
It’s a high-quality ornament that I designed myself.
But once it started selling well on Amazon, suddenly there were hundreds of copycat listing on Amazon selling for a fraction of my price!
How the Drop Shipping Model has Led to Chinese IP Piracy
Drop shipping done properly is a great side-hustle. In fact, it’s one of the ways we recommend making money while traveling.
But unscrupulous Chinese manufacturers have perverted the model to promote Amazon scam piracy.
These manufacturers keep track of selling trends on Amazon. When a product takes off, they steal your photos and listing and offer it to Chinese (and other) drop shipping sellers.
These sellers create listings on Amazon using your photos and content. Then sell the product at a fraction of the price you are charging. Sometimes these sellers know they are ripping off your listing, but sometimes they are just unwittingly using the photos and words that the unscrupulous manufacturer gives them.
Following the drop ship model, the sellers pass any sales made back to the manufacturer who produces a piece of junk and ships it to Amazon buyers in a Chinese epacket – meaning the shipping cost is subsidized by the Chinese government.
And that’s why one day in mid-October I woke up and searched for my COVID Santa on Amazon and found this:
Hundreds of scam listings. Anyone who bought these items did NOT get my Santa. They got a cheap piece of junk instead.
And worst of all, you can’t return the piece of junk because they are not sold under Amazon Prime and so the scam sellers won’t accept returns nor provide refunds.
If you’ve been a victim of an Amazon scam seller you know exactly what I am talking about.
Listing Squatter: How the Second Most Common Amazon Scam Works
A second scam involves pirates taking over a legitimate seller’s listing by offering junk products for a lower price.
When you order from them, they send you a piece of garbage.
Here’s an example:
The item advertised on this page is an authentic blown-glass ornament from Old World Christmas. There are many sellers claiming to have it.
Most of them are LYING.
On Amazon, all sellers with the same product are supposed to list against each other on the same page, so buyers can compare all offers side by side. Amazon chooses (by computer system – not by any human thought) ONE of these offers to make the “featured” offer, the one with the ‘Add to Cart’ button conveniently next to it.
In Amazon nerd-speak this is called ‘owning the buy box.’ Unfortunately Amazon frequently gives the featured listing to the CHEAPEST version – which literally invites fraud, hurting both the real seller and the consumer.
Numerous counterfeiters, mostly from China, but some from the US, falsely claim to have the Old World Christmas Santa ornament being advertised and add themselves to this listing.
When you order from them (because they are cheapest), they send you a piece of garbage, as you can see from the negative reviews posted by people who got ripped off.
This form of Amazon seller piracy is really insidious because the scammer not only steals customers from the real sellers, they also prevent the real sellers from easily selling the legitimate product at all!
Want to avoid both of these scams?
6 Ways to Avoid Getting Scammed on Amazon Purchases
You don’t want to be tricked into buying junk on the Dropship Copycat nor the Listing Squatter scams.
So how do you avoid getting scammed on Amazon purchases?
1. Tick the Amazon Prime Only Box
Honest legitimate Amazon third party sellers like me only offer products via Amazon Prime.
Ticking the Amazon Prime Only Box is the easiest and quickest way to avoid scam and counterfeit sellers on Amazon.
For a buyer Amazon Prime mostly means free shipping. But it also provides significant protection against Amazon scams.
That’s because being an Amazon Prime third party seller means I have my products stored and shipped from an Amazon warehouse by Amazon. This means I must abide by all the terms and conditions that Amazon itself abides by. Including free shipping. And no-questions-asked refunds for returned items.
A corollary to this advice is to consider shipping time. If a product listing says it will arrive in 5 weeks you know you will likely be getting junk shipped from China. With Prime, you know you’ll get the real product. And fast.
You might still get scammed by an Amazon Prime third party seller, but the odds are significantly reduced. And if you are you can just send the item back for a refund.
If you don’t have Amazon Prime, click here for a special offer to try it for free!
2. Avoid Products with No Reviews
Approach an Amazon listing with no reviews with a great deal of skepticism.
With so many items being sold every day on Amazon it usually doesn’t take long for a listing to get a buyer review. So if there are no reviews, it’s likely and very new listing. And might be a scam.
When my Santa was being ripped off by Amazon scam sellers I was eventually able to shut them down. But every time I shut one down, other new scam listings would pop up.
And of course, once one buyer has been scammed they tend to leave a bad review.
When that happens the scam seller just shuts that listing down and opens a new one so they can scam another unwary buyer.
I’m not saying every listing with no reviews is a scam. My products start with no reviews too! But I personally never buy a non-Prime item that has no reviews. Because that’s how I got scammed.
3. Don’t Just Research the Product, Research the Seller
The quality of what you receive will depend *entirely* on whether you order from an honest, authorized seller, or one of the dishonest and unethical sellers who just want to rip you off.
How do you know who to order from?
Simple: do a bit of research.
When there are multiple sellers on the same listing you can click to see the other sellers’ offers:
Then you can do some side-by-side comparisons to see which seller you want to buy from:
In this example, the cheaper option owns the buy box. So if you just click ‘Buy Now’ on the listing you will be buying the cheaper options.
But it’s a PIECE OF GARBAGE scam seller that has only 3 reviews and 2 stars!
The real seller is more expensive, but has nearly 2,000 five star ratings.
So who would you buy from?
You can ‘save $8 by buying from the scammer. But you’ll get scammed.
Also note that the real seller is selling through Amazon Prime. And that’s why Amazon Prime is still the #1 way to avoid getting scammed on Amazon!
Always, always check the other seller offers before buying on Amazon. It’ll keep you from being a victim of the Listing Squatter scam!
4. Odd Spelling, Description, and Grammar is a Warning Sign
Another sign that an Amazon listing is a scam is weird spelling and/or grammar. Also, beware of listings with random Chinese characters in them.
Here’s a scam COVID Santa listing:
They ripped off my content…but also edited it and added really odd phrases. And the Chinese characters are actually a warning to me, as the person whose item they pirated, not to retaliate against them.
Anyone who bought from this listing got scammed.
Here is another example – most people who actually celebrate Christmas and understand who Santa Claus is would not refer to him as a ‘Faceless Old Man’. I have to admit this one gave me a laugh.
Best to avoid listings with weird wording and random Chinese characters.
5. If a Price Seems Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
In the early days of online shopping we were all amazed by the incredible deals found on eBay, Amazon and so forth.
And there are still great deals to be had shopping online.
But if an item’s price seems too good to be true then it probably is a scam.
For example, I was selling my high quality Santa for $34. Scammers using my photos were selling their piece of junk for as low as $3. Which means the piece of junk was being produced for pennies.
Anyone who paid $3 for what they thought was my Santa got scammed.
6. If You See a Page Full of the Same Product, Beware
As I said, when a product sells well on Amazon the copycat pirates come fast and furious.
Seeing a page full of the same item over and over from different sellers (as happened to my Santa) is a sign that the copycat pirate scam is well underway. Especially if the product is unique – a COVID Christmas Santa rather than a rubber spatula.
You can always find the original product by doing some digging or following the other advice here like ticking the Prime Only box and avoiding listings with no reviews or odd spelling and grammar.
But don’t be surprised if the original product costs a lot more than the scam listings!
What to Do if You’ve Already Been Scammed by an Amazon Seller
So now you know how to avoid getting scammed on Amazon purchases.
But what if you have already been scammed. What should you do?
- Return for a refund, if allowed. If you bought through Amazon Prime this is obvious and simple. If not, you may have limited recourse. Try reaching out to the seller. But don’t hold out much hope.
- Leave a scathing review. Don’t let the scammer trick other buyers. Be specific in your review that the item did NOT match the photos.
- Check out the Amazon A to Z Guarantee. Reporting a scam there often results in a refund because the item received is ‘materially different’ than the one shown in the listing.
Bottom Line – 6 Ways to Avoid Getting Scammed on Amazon Purchases
Amazon has changed the way we shop. But unscrupulous sellers exist on the platform.
Amazon scams are bad for everyone. You as the buyer, me as a legitimate third party seller as well as Amazon.
So, as the old saying goes: buyer beware!
Follow this advice and you can significantly reduce your odds of being the victim of an Amazon scam.