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Spotting Scam Sellers on Amazon

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There is a wide world of bargains to be had on the internet, but where there is commerce, there are criminals. A quick search on your phone, tablet, or computer will bring up an endless number of products for sale. Then, comparison shopping leads you to the best deals. Some scammers, though, are using your nose for bargains to separate you from your hard-earned money and they're doing it on the retail giant that is said to account for 43-cents of every dollar spent online: Amazon.

"Amazon, without a doubt, is the best and safest place to shop online," said David Humphrey, owner of McPhrey Media, Used Books & More. "Every retail market out there has bad actors whether it's in the real world or online."

One of the good guys, Humphrey has also been in Internet sales nearly 15 years. Recently, he has noticed a disturbing trend. "I guess it's been about three or four months ago there was just an explosion of 'just launched' sellers," he said. 

As the name suggests, the 'just launched' label is given to third-party sellers, those who are not Amazon, whose accounts are new. The scammers seem to be listing popular items, sometimes at a lower cost. "But, when you buy, they don't ship anything," Humphrey explained. There never was an item.

It took Humphrey no time to find a suspected scammer for us at his desk computer. The first hint: so many products. "He has 200 pages," he continued as he pointed to the screen, "each one with 12 items per page, so that's 2400 items, all at $1.49. This is one giant red flag that says 'do not buy from me!'"

Jamey Tucker, host of "What the Tech," looked into the problem for us. "Whether it's Craigslist or eBay or now Amazon, you're going to run into problems like this because that's where the money is and the bad guys are going to go where the money is," he said. "The bad guy opens the store, the bad guy gets discovered by other Amazon shoppers, Amazon shuts them down, these guys just re-open another store under a different account."

"All they need is one or two really popular products that will sell 1000 a day at two or three dollars, cash out at the end of two weeks before Amazon wises up, and they made thousands of dollars," Humphrey added. Those are your dollars.

Some things that should make you suspicious: A 'just launched' seller with numerous items listed for sale; maybe thousands. "I mean, that right there is a red flag," said Humphrey. "Because most people, when they start off, they dip their toe in the water. They don't cannonball in."

Other flags: no or intermittent customer feedback and an extended shipping time. Amazon holds new seller funds for two weeks. "So, if you get a ship time that's two weeks or more, you're not expecting it for two weeks, they've got your money out of the bank before Amazon realizes that they are scamming people," Humphrey explained.

If you fall victim, try to contact the seller, first. If they don't respond, file an A-toZ claim with Amazon. Tucker says, everytime you buy, leave a review. "If it's good or bad, it's going to help other shoppers on Amazon; other shoppers like us," he said.

"The protections Amazon provides its buyers are the best in the industry, without a doubt, HUmphrey added. And the vast majority, 99% of the third-party sellers on Amazon, are honest, hard-working people, and they will do whatever they have to do to make it right for you."

An Amazon spokesperson provided this statement to Channel 3 concerning their work to stop these scammers:

"We want customers to buy with confidence anytime they make a purchase on Amazon.com.  With the A-to-Z Guarantee, customers are always protected whether they make a purchase from Amazon or a third-party seller. If ever the product doesn't arrive or isn't as advertised, customers can contact customer support for a full refund of their order.
 
Amazon has zero tolerance for fraud. We withhold payment to sellers until we are confident that our customers have received the products and services they ordered. In the event that sellers do not comply with the terms and conditions they've agreed to, we work quickly to take action on behalf of customers. There have always been bad actors in the world; however, as fraudsters get smarter so do we. Amazon is constantly innovating on behalf of customers and sellers to ensure their information is secure and that they can buy and sell with confidence on Amazon.com.
 
There are several steps sellers can take to protect their accounts, including monitoring their account on a frequent basis, updating their password regularly and by using two-factor authentication. If anything looks suspicious, sellers should reach out to Amazon immediately so we can investigate by contacting Seller Support via our urgent help feature in Seller Central." For more best practices, sellers can visit here

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