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I Fell Victim to a $1,500 Used Camera Lens Scam on Amazon (petapixel.com)
937 points by QUFB 102 days ago | hide | past | web | 428 comments | favorite

Recap as I understand it, since the blog post isn't

0. Buyer purchased item from third-party seller on Amazon

1. Seller picked a name and address in buyer's town, from an obituary, and sent parcel containing two baking mats thereto ( instead of camera lens )

2. Occupant of that address signed for it believing it to be for the deceased relative

3. USPS updated status to 'delivered' with signature and address recorded

4. However the proof of delivery shows the address from (1) and not the buyer's address

5. Buyer repeatedly appealed on the basis of (4) but Amazon only check that the parcel was signed-for IN THE SAME TOWN. Therefore requests for refunds or further action were denied.

Very clever seller, knows the system well. I wonder how many items he had to sell before striking it rich with a $1500 "lens".

I got hit with the same-zip-code scam for a $6000 VNA on eaby and the response was completely different. Customer service immediately shuffled me off to a special claims department that investigated and got my money back within about a week.

At no point did I encounter anything resembling the Kafkaesque web of strategic incompetence that I half expected. They followed up every step of the way with courtesy and professionalism even though the seller had woven a substantially more convincing lie than in OP's case -- they had a many year history of selling equipment and radio astronomy books along with two previous successful VNA sales. Evidently it was an account hijack. In this price bracket, even a solid account history isn't a guarantee.

I no longer resent the 10% cut eBay takes. They saved my bacon on this one. It sounds like Amazon's team could learn a thing or two from eBay.

I have shifted all my budget and used buying from Amazon Marketplace to eBay.

At this point it seems like there are new stories about Amazon Marketplace scams almost daily. Does anyone think Marketplace is a priority for Amazon leadership these days? Does Bezos even know it is still operating? It's not getting the A team, obviously.

Meanwhile connecting sellers and buyers is all eBay does. They don't make devices, produce TV shows, run cloud services, etc. etc. Of course their support is good. It has to be.

If you're buying eBay is great. If you're the seller however, it's an entirely different story. eBay heavily, heavily, heavily favors the buyer in almost all disputes -- so much so that at times it seems as if it's automatic to the buyer's favor. I guess that's how they get people to spend money on the platform, and of course take their cut of the transaction.

There are tons and tons of seller horror stories, especially with buyers from Asian countries. They will buy an iPhone or something, pay for it, then request a return/refund from the seller but they send back a box of scrap. Even if you don't manually refund their money, they will dispute it, and eBay just sees the return tracking # as 'delivered' and gives them their money back. It really doesn't matter how much you protest, eBay pretty much always sides with the buyer.

But what's the solution here? Without an escrow service which verifies the contents both ways, the best they can do is arbitrarily choose the winner.

What we need is maybe a species of md5 for mail packages

A formulae that mix weight + dimensions + sender data + receiver data + followed route + category of contents. In several parts. Some parts (buyers adress, weight, category, etc...) can be verified for buyer, other for seller. The total formula is available only for the postman and would be easily verifiable.

When the package is sent, a mobile app sends the buyer a message with the buyer part that is checked against the data entered by the buyer in his/her own telephone. The buyer can quickly compare both md5 in the phone and must answer to the postman approving the message in order to the package being accepted in the post.

All returned packages have to be put in a special post yellow envelope available only in the post and checked against the maild5 using the weight and measures of the original (plus-minus a reasonable confidence interval). A machine calculates the statistic probability of having a different content and if under some p-value the postman will not accept the returned package.

>What we need is maybe a species of md5 for mail packages

Or maybe just more honest people?

Having honest people would help. But they can decide at some time not to be honest anymore, or can have their accounts hijacked by other people, giving the buyer a false sense of security.

And where do you propose we find more such "honest people"?

No ideas, most probably it will be many years in the making, you have to start with children ...

It was just an alternative (jokingly) to the idea of the "MD5 for mail packages".

The actual issue is not with the Postal Service or the delivery, it is with Amazon checks on it.

The package was sent to address B instead of address A, it was delivered by the post/courier to address B, and properly signed for by a valid recipient at address B.

It is the Amazon checks that failed to detect that the order was intended for address A and that having it delivered to address B does not represent a fulfillment of the order.

There is however IMHO no need of a complex verification algorithm, and a statistic p-value calculation triggering this or that action.

> It is the Amazon checks that failed to detect that the order was intended for address A and that having it delivered to address B does not represent a fulfillment of the order

Of course. But maybe this should be automatized and solved in advance instead to allow it and solve (or let fall the customer) later, at least for most valuable items

Well whilst a directive "check that the address is exact" to the people providing assistance for issues at Amazon would be fine and cost very little, revolutionize the whole way packets are sent, courier/postal service procedures, etc. to have the "MD5 for packets" seems too much.

I mean, it's not like the number of this kind of frauds is that large, probably somewhere there is an Amazon report stating that they have a fulfillment rate with full satisfaction of customers of 99,9999%, the whole issue (not only Amazon's of course, most "remote" or "call center based" assistance is terrible) is about how poorly this (minimal) 0,0001%is managed.

If the numbers are so small, I believe these large firms could well put in charge of these cases someone with some more capabilities than the "standard" call center guy/gal just reading a script and incapable of solving (or not allowed to solve) these cases.

It probably sounds silly, but I've been the victim of similar scams and so I started video taping myself opening every single package I receive. I be sure to show the tracking information on the box and then leave the camera rolling as I open it and inspect the contents.

In the OP's case, it doesn't seem like Amazon would even care to watch the recording seeing as how they are ignoring pictures that clearly show the item delivered to the wrong address with incorrect contents, but it gives me peace of mind at least.

its not silly, i had the same idea to do that. i do it for any particularly expensive/valuable packages.

Anecdotal, but I have /never/ had an issue selling on eBay. I've even sold an old tube power amplifier (around ~700$) to HK and the transaction went smoothly.

Once upon a time, strong protections and support for customers (buyers) is what Amazon was known for.

So many stories were shared like "the thing arrived damaged, and when I called Amazon I talked to a person and they shipped a replacement out right away no questions asked."

Where is that now?

"Amazon gives better protections to sellers" is not a compelling story for attracting customers.

I won an eBay dispute as a seller and it was very easy. Buyer didn't scam me though, his account was hijacked. I believe him because when I looked at the shipping address more closely it was a mail forwarding service.

eBay is only in the buyer's favor in terms of refunds. It doesn't actually go after fraudsters who refund you immediately to make you shut up after you call out their counterfeits and whatnot.

Both eBay and Amazon are "hackable" by both the buyer and seller. The available scams are different, but neither party of a transaction is 100% safe.

In my experience, eBay is MUCH more slanted to the seller than Amazon.

The real sophisticated scammers are truly unbelievable. Unfortunately, I can't say more on this stuff, but I'll hint that the most egregious scams use both eBay and Amazon, pitting the flaws of each company against each other.

I can't say with any pride that I likely know every possible scam to run on each site as a buyer or seller, although I've never personally executed any scams.

As an FYI, any seller who sells on eBay sells on Amazon. They will push to whatever they can get away with on each platform.

I'll add: to protect yourself as a buyer, find the seller ratings before you decide to purchase. For eBay, bare minimum, 99%. Anything less is too low, even for Top Rated. For Amazon, 99% as well.

Curious whence comes your familiarity with the scams?

My guess is lawyer of some kind who has somehow managed to drown in this exact type of case, either by chance or deliberate job placement.

Can you share any hints that could be used to red-flag a particular seller? Sophisticated users are surely not going to use the same account name on both platforms.

Right, but if you're a seller and you get scammed, you're screwed, since eBay heavily favors the buyer.

This is when human logic overrides a dumb policy. Really, people at Amazon shouldn't be overriding their brain with a bunch of text in a policy.

ebay favors the buyer. I have over two hundred purchases on that site from simply every day stuff to antiques. I have had three bad purchases all of which were refunded, two were refunded by ebay the other by the seller.

In the case of the seller refund they state on their pages to please contact them first because honest sellers value their ratings.

now if you are a seller ebay can be trouble and you really need to filter out selling expensive items to low rated buyers and nothing expensive to new accounts.

Well, ebay screwed me over with their "no action after 30 days" policy when it took me longer than that to figure out the item was never shipped. Maybe they've gotten better over the last 8 years, but I'm not coming back regardless.

I think 30 days is really reasonable to see if something shipped or not. Maybe eBay could do more to alert you but if you purchase something you really should follow up and make sure you're getting it.

Until you find out it takes 30 days for UPS to rule on a lost delivery.

But that's separate right? UPS losing it is different than the seller never shipping it. In the former you should have paid for insurance, and the latter you should know within 30 days if it shipped.

They really can't. This opens up the buyer and seller to myriad scams. You'd be surprised at how many buyers contact the seller, having no clue what site they bought the actual product from.

They should ban pre-orders as well, then.

There's several holes with buyer side fraud as well with Amazon. Similar issues where common sense things are ignored by Amazon.

Mentioned because I think it's the case that they just don't care about anyone...versus, for example, being biased towards sellers.

> I wonder how many items he had to sell before

"The seller had one good review but didn’t appear to be selling anything else." so it looks like maybe just one item

eBay fraudsters mastered this. They would buy and sell bullshit items like old postcards that would be shippable via first class mail, then wait a few months for the auction listings to expire, than sell a fake laptop or camera.

I was almost defrauded like this but refused the shipment and was able to claw the money back via chargeback at the cost of my PayPal account. With about 15 minutes of searching I was able to find networks of these phony sellers building up eBay points and running these scams.

I remember there was an issue where you couldn't easily see a seller's recently sold items, only currently listed and items with feedback already received. So you couldn't see that this well-reviewed person selling an Xbox for a suspiciously low price just sold 30 other Xboxes in the past 48 hours.

Probably has many alts.

You would need a credit card for each. Maybe they purchased fraudulent cards or this is the first of many scams on that account.

There are virtual credit card services around, don't think amazon managed to ban them all

The same credit card can't be added to multiple accounts? Are you sure?

I actually tried that last week. It seemed to work at first, but a couple of minutes after ordering they sent me an email that they blocked my (second) account due to suspicion of fraud, and invited me to FAX THEM (I'm not making this shit up) a bunch of documents, and they'd get back to me in a couple of weeks or so... Well, fuck you too.

No details for the fraud scoring given, of course, but I'm guessing the dup credit card combined with an overseas delivery address must have done the trick.

I'm not sure if you could or not, however if you were a scammer, you would probably not duplicate cards across accounts. If one account was banned, they would likely ban all accounts with same credit card, thereby wasting all that effort to starting multiple accounts.

In addition, the package (listed on the USPS documentation) didn't have the correct weight, which should have been further proof that something was wrong. The package was 8oz, the lens itself, even without packaging, weighs 3.2 pounds.

Yup that seems like it, everything needed to prove that the transaction was fraudulent on the seller's part is included here by third party sources. Amazon completely blew it.

So it seems that as a buyer, if you receive the wrong item, or the item is delivered to the wrong address, Amazon will do nothing. I'm not sure why the seller went to the trouble of sending to a different address, but didn't bother to bulk up the mass.

Technically, this also comes under Mail Fraud which is a federal crime[1]. This suggests that our author should contact both the FBI and the postmaster of their town because someone is using the Mail Service to commit their fraud. And as the latest rounds of advertisments from the Post Office state, "When you use the mail to do your business, it becomes our business."

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mail_and_wire_fraud

also its funny that even though the mail was sent to Jeff himself, no one in Amazon cared enough to verify the delivery address?

A couple of possibilities:

  *The customer service reps have to answer a huge volume of cases and they really don't take time to read the email
  *It's ingrained into the customer service reps to follow policy to a T.  So if it was signed for, deny.  
  *They're using some sort of automated system that shows whether something was signed for.  If 'yes', deny.

I still use Amazon because of the convenience and because the vast majority of the time I never have to deal with their customer service, but in the rare instances I do I've noticed that over the past few years Amazon has become very Google-like in terms of putting everything behind systems that are either automated or may as well be (strict script-following offshore customer service).

There used to be useful links ("Where's My Stuff?") directly attached to your order for inquiring about status if things are late, etc, with just a click or two... this all kinda still exists but has been buried so far up into the user interface that there's no way it isn't intentional obfuscation to try to limit any kind of meaningful interaction between the customer and anyone alive within Amazon, with a further barrier between the front-line alive people who are clearly all offshored and anyone in the US.

I once bought a projector that stopped working after 6 months. I tried all the "channels" directly available in the UI (like contact the seller) and got no answer.

When I thought there was nothing else to do, a friend told me: "The first thing you need to do in Amazon, is getting in touch with a real human". And he showed me how, which involved a complicated series of UI steps. Once I talked to a real person I got my money back in a week.

So, yes, I definitely agree. Amazon is making it increasingly difficult to talk to real humans. If I can't get into a phone call, or at least a chat, I don't bother anymore.

Personally, I would never buy anything on Amazon with a price tag more than a couple hundred dollars. They can't even confirm what carrier they will ship through; I'm not about to trust them for high-value items.

Agreed. I once had a new MacBook Pro delivered by OnTrac. That was not pleasant.

I think buying from Amazon itself is relatively OK, I'd have hard time believing Amazon would run any scams. But third party sellers, given no customer service beyond robots and robot-like script readers... yep, better to steer clear.

Buying from Amazon isn't enough to avoid scams. Amazon mixes their stock with 3rd parties stock.

If it's the same item, then it's already not a scam. At least not that one. The whole scam is that there is no item at all. And if Amazon doesn't check stock before mixing (which I have hard time believing) then you'd get much better luck getting money back from Amazon branded sale than from third-party one, IMO.

I've been decrying Amazon's usability for years. Such an unintutive mess of menus and sub-systems. Such a poor customer experience for anything other than simple "click and buy" usage.

I blame their extreme position ahead of other emarketers. They have very little reason to be nice and helpful. People will throw money at them regardless.

Hopefully this publicity on HN and elsewhere will encourage Amazon to refund him and deal with the seller.

I don't understand why Amazon keeps claiming it was sent to the person's address when it was clearly shipped elsewhere. He even has a picture that shows the tracking number and the fact that it was delivered somewhere else. This should be an open and shut case for Amazon, a very obvious scam.

Why would amazon trust the customer anyway? You just could say that in the package was bricks instead of a lens.

I started to make a video while i pack or unpack expensive stuff. Otherwise there is no proof there anyway.

I wouldn't have open the package in front of the ups guy just to return it immedialy.

He had concrete proof that the package was sent to the wrong address and had the wrong weight. The people at Amazon weren't actually listening or comprehending. Yes, it would be possible to just ship a bunch of bricks instead of the actual product, but this scam was pretty transparent.

For this very reason, I always open packages with expensive stuff in them at my local post office, under the nose of a postal clerk.

That way, if someone tries to scam me, at least I have a presumably reliable eyewitness to what was actually in the package when I received it.

Lana is usually a female name, isn't it? Not that it much matters, they still appear to be jerks.

It's common in white collar crime/social engineering schemes to use female names regardless of the criminal's gender as socially people are less suspicious of women, for whatever reason.

That's probably true, though I'm not sure that's enough to assume the gender of the offending party.

Tangentially related, and not white collar, I once had a car stolen by a female. No damage was done and, being a silly old man, I didn't press charges. I was kinda surprised that it was done by a female.

Sorry, I never meant to imply the offender was male or female. On the contrary, due to the value of using a female name, it should not be regarded as evidence of the offender's actual sex or gender at all.

It's all good. It just seemed a bit odd as we're usually pretty good about not assuming gender at HN. I'm not sure why someone would vote me down, but what good is karma if you don't spend it? ;-)

Perhaps because talking about "assuming gender" is nonsense and a complete waste of time? I'm sure you have other things to do aside from looking for ways to be offended.

Why start at 0? Did you echo this from an array?

I think Amazon is part of the scam for allowing it to happen while doing nothing about it and profiting off it like the seller!

I'm wondering more and more why Amazon hosts third-party sellers at all.

They dilute the Amazon brand to a tremendous degree. It used to be that buying from Amazon meant a certain level of quality and service. Now there are really two Amazons: the old one, and a new one that's basically a shitty version of eBay.

I have to go out of my way to avoid these crappy third-party sellers when I'm searching for stuff on Amazon. It's not a nice experience to go searching for a product and have to step through a minefield of "cheap" items that take two months to arrive, or have outrageous shipping fees, or are outright scams.

It is really worth it for Amazon to have them? I struggle to see how.

Newegg went through the same bifurcation when it introduced third-party sellers in 2010. It turned a largely hassle-free shopping experience into one where extra care had to be taken to filter out results that weren't sold by Newegg itself.

I'd argue that Newegg was more hurt by this than Amazon, because customers were trusting Newegg to deliver a consistent experience at the expense of fewer categories of inventory, while Amazon's offerings were already diluted by a smattering of tiered experiences and bundling with tangentially-related services, of which the Prime/not Prime distinction became increasingly more intrusive.

Though many people use Amazon to find quirky, oddball, one-off products, it does tend to work best when used as an online-only warehouse club -- for repurchasing the same mainstream product over and over; with the added benefit that then you largely avoid having to wade through the filters of 'Sold by Amazon' and 'Eligible for Amazon Prime'. And since they pushed Prime on so many people, they can branch out into eBay's territory with little worries about the health of their customer-facing bottom line.

Didn't I read that Prime loses them money most of the time? I don't think the membership fee is a real replacement for regular revenue streams; it seems to me like the point is more to encourage people to "get their money's worth" by buying from Amazon more.

People do really get their money's worth from Prime: "40% of Amazon Prime members spend over $1,000 a year on Amazon, while only 8% of non-Prime shoppers do so."

I'd be really interested to see what Amazon's numbers as a whole would look like if Prime didn't exist, clearly it is profitable enough for Amazon to be able to keep bundling "free" stuff into the package like video / music, file storage etc.

82% of households making more than $112,000 a year have a Prime account (https://www.thebillfold.com/2017/06/at-what-age-do-teens-get...). Once you take that into consideration your numbers aren't that surprising.

I think a similar effect is at work with Costco memberships.

Nope, you must be thinking about hotdogs. Hotdogs are a loss leader for Costco. Memberships make them money.

"The most important factor about membership fees is that they go straight to the company's bottom lines. Costco operates its warehouses on essentially a breakeven basis, making its profits on memberships instead of merchandise. "


Not that they lose money (they hardly give you anything besides the right to shop at the store) but that they cause people to buy more than they otherwise would because they feel like they've made an investment and would otherwise be wasting the money they spent on the membership.

I haven't done the math, but I don't know how accurate this is given that 2/3 of their sales are to members who receive 2% cash back ($110 executive members). The executive membership would need to average $5500 in purchases to wipe out any Costco profit on their memberships. $8250 average to wipe out ALL membership profit.

I'll have to come up with a formula based on the numbers in your article. It'll be interesting to see how accurate that "profit from memberships" statement really is.

Please post if you figure it out :) I've heard the statement for a while and am curious as well.

This 100 times.

I never buy from third-party sellers in Amazon, but I am having such a hard time explaining to friends and family how to do the same. They keep buying from third-party sellers and keep wondering how it is not "Amazon".

I wish there was an option to set it once and never see third-party seller items again.

There have been a couple of previous hacker news discussions on the problem of counterfeit goods being sold by Amazon. The problem here is that if there are counterfeit goods being sold by a 3rd party, you might get them even if the product listing your ordered from says that it is sold and shipped by Amazon. Amazon co-mingles goods from Amazon and third party sellers unless the third party seller explicitly opts out of it (which costs more money for them and someone selling counterfeit goods has every incentive to co-mingle their goods with others). I don't think I have run into counterfeit goods, but others claim to have:



I like the convenience and selection of Amazon, (and have been a customer since they started) but until they stop this comingling, I feel I have to be a little more careful what I buy from them.

I received a counterfeit item after paying more for the item that was "Sold my Amazon", thinking that way, I would get the real product. What's more frustrating is that Amazon didn't really care or do anything about it. They offered a return or an exchange but couldn't guarantee that that the exchanged item wouldn't be fake. I no longer trust them with items that are easily faked.

> Amazon didn't really care or do anything about it. They offered a return or an exchange

Sorry to sound like an Amazon fanboy, but what else could Amazon do for you?

They offered a return without even questioning you. I don’t know a lot of companies that would do that.

They could allow me to purchase only items sold by Amazon, not by third party sellers, with no inventory co-mingling.

Apple bought a bunch of chargers and found over 80% were fake iirc.

If you buy a charger/power brick on amazon, from any vendor, amazon's unethical inventory mingling and lack of care mean there's a very high chance you get a cheap chinese knockoff that wouldn't come close to passing UL.

ps -- I told amazon about a charger they had with a fake Intertek (a UL competitor) mark. Their response was to offer me a refund... and keep selling the device. Which (imo) should be illegal to sell.

They could stop selling fakes. Or at least stop co-mingling their own inventory with unverified inventory sent to them by 3rd parties, so that it's even logistically possible for them to know what they are selling.

Ok fair enough. I meant what more could it to to rectify the situation after he received the item and found out it was counterfeit.

Why they choose to mingle their inventory with 3rd party inventory is beyond me.

> They offered a return without even questioning you. I don’t know a lot of companies that would do that.

There's an automatic right to a refund within 14 days of delivery in the EU, so every company must offer that. I wonder if that means these frauds don't happen here?


They could offer to check the stock bin the counterfeit item was sold from; they could check suppliers to that bin.

"I wish there was an option to set it once and never see third-party seller items again."

This is my biggest issue by far as a customer of Amazon.

I have zero interest in buying anything off Amazon that isn't Amazon fulfilled with Prime shipping because virtually 100% of the reason I use Amazon is the quick, predictable shipping. While they do have various filters to show only prime-listed stuff in search results, the system is real fucky and you still end up getting into situations way too often where you are seeing items that can only really be bought through third parties (eg. the same SKU sells on Prime and via third party, so it makes it through the filter, but the prime option is sold out).

My enjoyment of using Amazon as a buyer would increase by like 100% if I could just tell it to act like anything not available through Prime just doesn't exist to me.

>My enjoyment of using Amazon as a buyer would increase by like 100% if I could just tell it to act like anything not available through Prime just doesn't exist to me.

So you check mark the little box on the left that say "Prime" and it removes all non-prime listings...

That doesn't take availability into account.

Checking "Prime" includes only those listings that are prime. It does not remove non-prime listings.

If only listings that are prime are including then by definition non-prime listings are excluded.

No because products are sold by both Amazon and 3p sellers. If you filter prime you get things that have prime offers, not things that have only prime offers. It's possible you see something that is sold by Amazon and is prime but is out of stock and in stock for 3p fulfillment.

> I never buy from third-party sellers in Amazon, but I am having such a hard time explaining to friends and family how to do the same. They keep buying from third-party sellers and keep wondering how it is not "Amazon".

3rd party sellers are usually fine.

There are things I check for:

1. A "critical" mass of 4-5 star reviews

2. Prime Shipping

3. History of selling the types of items I want to buy.

If I am going to buy from someone who is a one-off seller, I'll do so locally via Craigslist, or OfferUp.

I feel pretty comfortable if the seller's name is the manufacturer, and their inventory is full of stuff they manufacture, with a long history of positive feedback.

I get scared off by seller names that sound like alphabet soup, small numbers of sales and reviews (for a $5 item I'll chance it, though), and recent reviews suddenly changing for the negative.

And I'm really skittish about clothing, unless I know the brand. Too many times, I've gotten what was listed, technically, and it really isn't what I was thinking. T-shirts that look glorious but are really crappy iron-ons, shirts that look great but are really, really thin... that sort of thing. I don't want to go to a store, but I order brands I like and trust directly from them instead.

Especially with camera equipment there are a ton of sellers that have no reviews and great prices. I am sure they almost all are scams.

I also use only sellers that have many reviews and 90+% positive.

I buy from third-party sellers all the time for hobby equipment/parts. Yes, they mostly resell bulk container-ship-specials from East Asia. But that's fine for hobbying around - sometimes you don't want to pay a lot for a bunch of M3 screws/nuts and you don't mind a poor shear strength and heads that easily strip. You know what you're getting, and the two-day shipping is very nice when you don't want to wait for an agent to collect your RMB orders, chuck as much extra weight as they can, and drop it in the international post. Things like:

- Small screwdrivers/hex keys

- Breadboards

- Hookup/jumper wires

- Perfboards and copper-clad FR4.

- Bulk discretes like resistors/capacitors/buttons/potentiometers/LEDs. Especially buttons.

- Springs

- Bolts, nuts, spacers, etc.

- Common microchips (a bit risky, but these days at the IC level, knock-offs are often sold as their own similarly-named brand at a steep discount. You're usually fine if you pay the prevailing price and don't scrounge for a suspiciously-good price. Issues like the famous FTDI bricks are rare, so again, okay for hobby work.)

- Active elements (ceramic heating elements, piezos, peltier modules, small DC/stepper motors, pumps, etc.)

These are fairly specialty items, but there is still enough of a demand for several players to take advantage of arbitrage with shipping and bulk discounts. The quality is bland and rarely outstanding, but it is fairly consistent. While I wouldn't use most of the stuff in a critical product, I still have a lot of hobbying to do and frankly I can't afford high-quality parts/equipment for all of my projects.

If Amazon banned third-party sellers, they would not bother stocking most of these niche items. I would have to go somewhere else; ebay, or making strategically-timed Taobao orders to minimize international shipping costs and the weeks of waiting. Companies like Adafruit, Seeed, Shapeways, Tindie, Etsy, and Sparkfun would probably step in with their own centralized 'hobby marketplace' offerings that Amazon's current customers would hop to.

That said, I do agree that they should at least make a search option to filter them out.

"I do agree that they should at least make a search option to filter them out"

They have a filter "Free Shipping by Amazon" under "Eligible for Free Shipping". It should filter out most if not all items not serviced by Amazon.

I believe the feature OP was looking for was to filter out 3rd party sellers regardless of who fulfills the order.

Or just stop using Amazon altogether, until they can sort their crap out.

Would love to see some official response now that the story has hit HN.

> I never buy from third-party sellers in Amazon

Does it actually make any sense now? Wasn't it confirmed many times that Amazon just ship it to you from closest warehouse even if it's item by 3rd party seller?

AFAIK there are three kind of items:

1. Sold and shipped by Amazon

2. Sold by third-party, fulfilled by Amazon

3. Sold and shipped by third-party

I never buy (3) and generally avoid (2) when there is a possibility of counterfeit, but otherwise I agree with you (2) is fine.

I think there's a kind of 1.5 as well - Sold by Amazon, supplied by god knows who (co-mingled stock of varying authenticity - could by Amazon, could be Chinese knock off), fulfilled by Amazon.

That's actually not 1.5, that's 1 that you just described. There is no option 1 that isn't co-mingled with inventory of unknown authenticity that (unless it happens to be an item that's never had inventory sent in by a 3rd party, but you have no way of knowing that).

Depending on the item and seller "sold and shipped by third party" may actually be better - no mingled inventory, might even be direct from manufacturer.

Agree. I send some people here[1], but they still mess it up.

[1] http://www.nomarketplace.com/us/

sounds like a browser extension to me... hmm....

That's exactly what I was thinking!

Perhaps blocking all the 3rd party sellers and/or checking with fakespot.com then injecting some <div /> in the page displaying some sort of rating...

What the brand gains at the expense of quality is MUCH more valuable: the notion that "if I only have time to check one website, Amazon's going to have it because Amazon has EVERYTHING." Adding third-party sellers allows it to have a much larger catalog of obscure items.

Any shopper who's been burned will still use Amazon in the way you are, just being careful to filter by Prime and/or Fulfilled by Amazon. So the damage to the core brand is minimal even for rare cases like OP, who even ends his article with "even if it’s through an online retailer as trustworthy as Amazon." Despite this experience, he'll still buy his memory cards and Whole Foods groceries over Amazon Prime.

The notion that "Amazon has EVERYTHING" only works if you can actually count on the purchase to work. Once it becomes apparent that third-party sellers are crap and those items don't count, you're back to "Amazon has certain things."

And I'm not merely careful to filter stuff. Amazon is no longer my go-to in general. I do buy stuff from them sometimes, but they're not the first place I check for most things.

A less savvy buyer probably won't even do that. If they get burned too badly on an Amazon purchase, they'll just abandon Amazon, not learn which checkboxes mean "hide the scams."

This is my experience too. Since I can't trust Amazon entirely, I don't start there anymore.

If I have to do careful homework on the seller for any Amazon purchase anyway, it's just as easy to find a more niche e-commerce site, or use a dedicated marketplace like eBay or Craigslist.

I still use Amazon's dedicated product sites like Zappos or Diapers.com. I feel much confident I'm going to get what I ordered there than on Amazon.com.

Frankly, I don't think you're in the majority. Personally, I buy from third-party sellers a lot because I get two-day shipping free and it's easy to shop on Amazon. If I got badly burned I might change my behavior but so far I haven't. I wonder how many even notice the difference.

I just don't see how Amazon isn't the go to. Anything handled directly by Amazon generally has the most competitive pricing, near guarantee of two day delivery or faster, and far larger selection than any other individual store. I cannot think of any general purpose store off the top of my head I would prioritize over Amazon.

To be clear, there are some specific purchases I would not make over Amazon. Amazon's clothing section is a complete joke, for example. I also like B&H, and use them when buying high end equipment.

Amazon frequently has prices much higher than other places. It depends on the product, of course, but it's definitely not a situation where I can just buy from Amazon and be confident I got a good deal.

There isn't any general-purpose store I prioritize over Amazon, but usually I know which stores sell the things I want. For example, Home Depot often has better deals with less search hassle than Amazon for hardware stuff.

Amazon's clothing section is generally reasonably priced (especially for delivery) once you've already found what you're looking for elsewhere.

The fact that Amazon's search is essentially unusable is a longstanding criticism.

Personally I've been using Walmart for consumables (paper products, cat food & litter). Still use amazon for books (the dead tree variety) and the occasional electronic item. Delivery time is comparable, and the free shipping threshold is $50 IIRC, regardless of what you're shipping (e.g. 100lbs of cat litter).

Amazon doesn't have close to competitive pricing, even before you factor in cost of Prime and/or slow shipping times from random 3rd party vendors and/or free shipping minimums.

My go-to is now froogle.com (Google's product advert index). It used to be Amazon, but they have way too many issues now.

I started doing comparative shopping via the local trovaprezzi.it since amazon collapsed third party seller inventories by sku and seldom buy from amazon today unless is from amazon itself (not even warehouse) and still I return a third of purchases

Shame because I previously bought dozens of books completely hassle-free

I've pretty much switched most of my online shopping over to eBay instead of Amazon because of this. Before Amazon opened the floodgates to 3rd party sellers, I had much more confidence that I wasn't going to get scammed there or buy some counterfeit junk. Now it's probably equal likelihood as on eBay. Most of what I buy is cheaper on eBay and almost everything comes with free shipping, so the balance now favors eBay.

For things that I absolutely 100% want to get without the hassle of dealing with fraud, I'm back to the online stores of traditional retail places. :(

If Amazon could clean house of all that trash, I'd probably move my shopping back.

I agree. Amazon could also ban third-party for certain classes of items or make it harder to be a seller of those items. Camera equipment is notoriously fraud prone, and was before Amazon was even a thing.

I only buy used camera equipment from B&H or Adorama, and even with new equipment I am very cautious on Amazon. I tried getting used lenses a few times on Amazon and every single time the first order was the wrong, cheaper version of the lens I paid for. Amazon always quickly sent the right one, but I'd rather not deal with hassle. Particularly, since at that price point B&H or Adorama both have free shipping.

Buy and Sell forums at FredMiranda.com are very very good as well.

Don't publish this too much. I think scammers could easily destroy that forum if they jumped on it

So is keh.com.

Also the incredible number of "new seller" listings with suspiciously low prices. And the seller description is * PLEASE EMAIL X Y Z (at) gmail dot com *. Which of course is an address which replies with instructions on how to finish the transaction off Amazon.

You figure they'd have filters for these things.

> It is really worth it for Amazon to have them? I struggle to see how.

I think the main reason is that it gives Amazon huge amounts of market data essentially for free. For example, they can easily identify best-selling new products even if they're not sold directly by Amazon. If you're successful selling stuff on Amazon, it's only a matter of time until Amazon will compete with you and possibly destroy your business.

That is a really interesting angle on it.

> If you're successful selling stuff on Amazon, it's only a matter of time until Amazon will compete with you and possibly destroy your business.

Mind you that this is not just a "when Amazon turns bad" scenario, but actually what they are doing daily. When I was writing software for Amazon sellers, their most profitable items were always some new niche product they discovered and worked well for ~1 month until Amazon swooped in and sold the same thing.

The real damage to Amazon from this behavior is that it's no longer reflexive to buy things on Amazon.

The problems with fraudsters makes it enough of a cognitive burden to buy small items at a reasonable price -- which often are cheap knockoffs requiring careful vetting or overpriced resellers -- that I routinely find myself thinking "Eh, maybe I'll just stop by the store on my way home."

It's not that I'll stop buying things at all from Amazon, it's that other sellers now have a chance to make their case for my dollars because Amazon isn't a clear win in terms of effort involved, satisfaction with purchase, etc and that I no longer feel comfortable making impulse buys -- I have to second guess the quality of the product, which often means I just won't buy it.

My Amazon bill is down ~25% YoY because of that.

The cognitive burden part is a really important point. I used to like it a lot more, but recently I find shopping on Amazon.ca exhausting. Even for a cheap little $4 whatsit, I routinely find myself paging through multiple options, all with terribly inconsistent descriptions, in search of one that looks the least like a scam. Only to find that the one size sold by Amazon[1] is sold out and everything else is sold by random bozos and shipped by turtle at six times the price, and probably not even the same product anyway. If I decide to buy it somewhere else, I am then followed by that gizmo everywhere on the internet.

Meanwhile, as Amazon has descended to the realm of YouTube comments[2], my local retailers have actually been getting pretty good at this whole online shopping thing. Which isn't terribly surprising, come to think of it. Even smaller department stores like London Drugs have been doing searchable inventories, order fulfilment, curation, and distribution for a hell of a lot longer than Amazon. All they needed was the technology and the incentive. I think it's a matter of time until people realize there are better options and just leave.

[1] The size sold by Amazon is of course measured in shekels, while the others are measured in furlongs and picoparsecs.

[2] I'm being rather unkind to YouTube comments.

Same here. Somewhen last year I realized that buying on Amazon is becoming stressful with so many questionable sellers. Unfortunately Newegg and Walmart have gone in similar direction. For camera stuff Adorama and BH are still reliable but fir other stuff it's difficult to find a good seller.

As someone who sells on Amazon (just used books and whatnot), the third-party system is great when everyone's honest. I can sell a $40 book for $15 used because otherwise it's just collecting dust, the buyer can easily find the item and shop among third-party sellers. (since my item gets organized under the main amazon search result, vs. ebay where every item is totally seperate)

The big issue is scammers ruining it for everyone

It's much worse for me now that I have a kid. I of course categorically refuse to buy any kids products from third-party sellers on Amazon, and Amazon provides no good way of filtering them out, so I have started to drive to Target much more often. The secondary benefit is that Target has much better prices than Amazon.

I'm sure they optimized for this but going to Target is sort of fun too.

Same is happening with Walmart and Newegg. It's really annoying and I wish they'd all stop it. Worse thing on Amazon is the third party sellers that race to the bottom with price but have insane shipping fees.

I used to sell some items on Amazon and paying them %15 - %25 of sell price. I think this is where Amazon makes its major money. I was costing Amazon very little, unlike Prime and free one day shipping, 2 hours shipping, etc.

I think Amazon lose money on lots of its own services to drive customers in, and force 3rd party sellers to use its service for a nice commission.

Also items which are 'fullfilled by amazon' are supplied by third parties and stocked on the same shelf in amazons warehouse. So even if you buy direct from Amazon if any 3rd party seller is qualified to fullfill the same item, then you may just get that item from the shelf - and it might be a fake.

Amazon Mexico opened a few years back and my experience has been mostly negative precisely because most of the products are sold by third parties.

I just avoid amazon.mx and buy at amazon.com.

Even when buying at amazon.com I only buy products sold or handled by Amazon. I've also run into problems with scams, shipping, etc, with third parties.

I had someone set up an amazon.mx account using my credentials somehow.... they ordered a bunch of online books, include a $1200 textbook. I have no idea how they were able to do it.

I was able to get them to reverse all the charges pretty quickly, but I still get messages from amazon mexico saying i should buy stuff, and for a while amazon.com would ask me if i wanted to go to amazon mexico when i logged in.

I have only been to Mexico a few times in my life, and my spanish is really bad. I have no idea how it all happened, since they didn't seem to be able to (or didn't) change any settings that would lock me out of my account.

As a sort of counterpoint, I really wish that Amazon UK was integrated with the Amazon US customer database. I'd like to be able to log into Amazon UK with my normal credentials and order something from there, with the option of international shipping - because occasionally I want to order a product that's not available over here in any way.

It works this way for me. My credentials work for both .uk and .com although I only have Prime on .com. My order history is unique to the country site, but address book is the same for both.

Are you sure you didn't create accounts on both with the same credentials? That's what I did.

I've gotten counterfeit body wash (Shiseido Super Mild) and counterfeit microSD cards off Amazon, and, ironically, the only things I buy off amazon.com now are books.

Everything else I'd rather buy from the manufacturer (and pay the full shipping cost and not Amazon Prime) or a reputable distributor (digi-key/mouser for electronics, CS Hyde for films/tapes, etc).

Counterfeit items -- and the co-mingling of items "fulfilled by Amazon" -- ruined the whole experience for me.

Counterfeit body wash, I haven't heard of that one before. How did you know it was counterfeit? The body wash or the packaging?

The legit / non-counterfeit versions of this product have the {ingredient list, usage instructions, country of origin} printed directly onto the plastic of the pump bottle -- no paper label involved.

An instance of the product that I ordered off amazon.com was received by me, with a low-quality (it flaked off in the shower...) self-adhesive paper label stuck onto to the pump bottle, with another country of origin listed.

Yeah, I suspected. Counterfeiter seem to really cheap out on the label a lot.

Not even books are safe on Amazon https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13924546

I think it is mostly about maximizing scale (and lower costs) for the shipping and logistics business. It also used to be that buying from Amazon as the seller was safe but that has gone by the wayside as they decided it was worth the risk to not have to manage separately. I think they will soon have to roll that decision back. At least then their brand stays strong and the get economies of scale for logistics for the third parties.

There was also a story recently about the number of people who post stuff on ebay and just drop ship from Amazon directly. Then the customer gets the product and thinks "this is just from Amazon" and looks up the price. The seller had marked it up and the buy say "bullcrap" and returns the original item and buys it direct from Amazon. However, the actual OEM now has countless returns for no reason. The seller was just running a business on top of Amazon. This is something they have to stop.

>I'm wondering more and more why Amazon hosts third-party sellers at all.

Generally the reason any for-profit entity takes a certain action (or inaction) is... yep, for profit. Sure Amazon can have tremendous scale just retailing for itself. But becoming a marketplace greatly increased its ability to compete with the likes of eBay and Rakuten.

I also go out of my way to select the sold by Amazon option if there is one, but often times FBA or completely third-party is the only option. Marketplace increases the surface area of Amazon's product offerings and more importantly makes it a true platform. That's the kind of thinking that can scale up to multibillion-dollar business.

Amusingly, I've actually been finding myself buying more things on Ebay.

Same here! If I'm going to have the hassle of dealing with random unknown sellers, I might as well do it with the company that specializes in it.

There's a lot of good responses here, but the real reason is Amazon isn't set up to do it any other way. The arm of Amazon that does direct purchasing is fairly small and invite only. It's been this way since the beginning. They now have an automated program called Vendor Express that does direct purchasing, but only for certain categories and because it's 100% automated and self serve there are a lot of problems.

They are working on it though, and Vendor Express gets better every day.

Agree wholeheartedly. I’ve also been scammed by a third-party Amazon seller, and I half-wonder if they continue to allow third-party sellers as a way to further promote Amazon Prime — when you’re on Prime, you can simply filter out all non-Prime items. You know in your head you don’t have to deal with all the extraneous, spammy crap associated with non-Prime purchases.

Many third-party sellers are included under Prime though.

But presumably Amazon wouldn't send an empty box to the wrong address through Prime. You still have to worry about commingling, but it is still much better than straight third-party sales.

Fair point.

My only bad experiences with Amazon has been with 3rd parties. From minor things like misrepresentations of when items will ship (very frequent), to poor packaging (also common), to really crappy quality products. I now buy on Amazon only if it's sold and fulfilled by Amazon.

So much this, but I think Amazon could still allow outside sellers through some sort of verification. I honestly often by from ebay with a high seller rating than an Amazon seller that has no transparency. Amazon needs to figure out a way to get sellers verified and rated better.

> I'm wondering more and more why Amazon hosts third-party sellers at all.

To offer better selection. I dislike dealing with third party sellers as well but for certain rare items (say, used vinyl) it's the only way, and it's better than nothing.

Both Amazon and Ebay make huge fees off this and really that is why they do it.

Is there a way to just turn third party offers off?

I don't think so. Filtering for Prime or Free Shipping by Amazon helps a lot though. You still get third-party sellers, but they're at least fulfilled by Amazon so the chances of trouble are quite a bit lower.

Except for comingling of SKUs. If a supplier ships knock-off producrs to a particular product code it all gets mixed in the warehouse and you get product roulette.

They don't prefix with the vendor? So they mix the stock of all their suppliers? That's pretty unbelievably sloppy, is there some public proof of this?

This has been widely reported, is ongoing for years, and is the source of frequent complaints from both users and manufacturers.

Here are a few examples, starting with Amazon's own website explaining commingling:




Thank you for digging that up. Amazon should really not do this, it opens them up to all kinds of scams and has the potential to harm their brand in ways that will not be easy to repair.

I doubt that is true, and I haven't seen any proof of it either.

What I can tell you though, is that Amazon is incredibly lenient on enforcing EANs. So even though there is that identifier that should be able to uniquely identify a product, often times third-party replacements for the product, or even completely unrelated items are listed under the EAN, and Amazon doesn't give a shit.

Proof? Amazon terms of service for vendors is a hood place to start.

Oh that's clever, thank you for that idea. If I ever go back to ordering stuff on Amazon I'll definitely use it. I got burned twice with one order from two different sellers and I'm kind of done with them for a while (both out of print biology texts).

When you search for an item, you can filter it to only items sold by Amazon directly. It's under the "Seller" category. I do this quite a bit.

When I try it, the Seller category is only available if I first pick a department. If I search within "All" then for some reason it doesn't appear. Weird stuff.

Amazon cannot stock everything. 3p sellers exist because they are more efficient than Amazon in their specific niches.

> I'm wondering more and more why Amazon hosts third-party sellers at all.

It's pretty much pure profit from Amazon's point of view. They got their cut of that $1500, and no matter how much furor comes out of this (and similar) articles, Amazon's overall brand won't be adversely affected.

After all, look at the comments here. Everyone is primarily blaming the seller, not Amazon. Amazon comes across as a secondary party to this at most.

Amazon is getting hit with a chargeback on this one, and I see a lot of comments critical of Amazon on here. And this is a tech-savvy crowd. Most Amazon customers probably don't pay enough attention to Amazon to understand the difference between "Sold by Amazon" and "Fulfilled by Amazon" and straight third-party sellers. When it goes wrong, people will blame the one entity they actually interacted with: Amazon.

I order from Amazon exactly because I don't have to deal with this bullshit.

If I was willing to carefully scrutinize sellers, comb through intentionally misleading ads, build a working knowledge of common scams, and keep all records for the occasional resolution process, I would use eBay or Craigslist.

I would much rather switch to ordering from Best Buy and Target than adapt to this kind of adversarial buyer beware model.

The point of this thread is that if you are ordered from Amazon, you actually might have to deal with this bullshit. Selecting a seller requires as much care as eBay at this point. It's not what it was.

That takes away most of the reasons for using Amazon.

You're being persuaded by anecdotal evidence. At the volume of sales Amazon makes, fraud is but a tiny fraction. The probability of your next purchase to be a fraudulent one is minuscule.

Not saying fraud isn't an issue, and there's certainly room for Amazon to improve in that area and keep it at bay even more, but I think the reason they don't do what you say is probably that they k ow the numbers, if they see a million third party purchase, and only 1000 were fraud, its not really cause for killing the other 990000 sales.

I'm being persuaded by personal experience. I haven't actually been the victim of any fraud on Amazon, but the other problems with third-party sellers are already enough to make me shy away.

Personal experience is anecdotal by definition.

What are the other problems?

Anyways, I'm not defending, just surprised the HN crowd accepts a few anecdotes which are statistically insignificant given the Amazon volumes.

I see questions like, how do people still trust to buy on Amazon? Aren't they aware of all the fraud?

And the answer is no they are not, because they've never been frauded through Amazon, and know no one who has. And that's the case for most Amazon shoppers.

People on hacker news have seen the outliers, the blog post about a single third party fraudster, and a few commenters who maybe experienced something similar.

There are many great 3rd party sellers on Amazon that operate in good faith, and give just as good an experience as 1st party Amazon. But on HN, it seems people see black or white only, and somehow they conclude all black even though the canvas is majority white.

I feel like I'm back in 2000, when some people were asking: How can you trust buying anything online, aren't you afraid of the fraud?

I've ordered countless items on Amazon, in the hundreds, most from 3rd party, never got frauded, never had issues. If you go by anecdotes, add this one to your samples.

Should I not evaluate things based on my personal experience...?

The other problems are: third-party sellers pollute the listings with unobtainable low prices, long delays, and shit products I'd never want to buy. It's common for me to find a product on Amazon only to discover that the low price I thought I was getting isn't actually available, and I have to pay some absurd shipping fee with a third-party seller. Or the cost is correct, but it'll take two months to ship. (This just happened to me yesterday with a "Prime two-day shipping" entry!) Or I have to dig past the first page of the search results because the first page is filled with nonsense from third party sellers.

These are the reasons I use Amazon less and less. Stories about fraud (and more importantly, Amazon siding with a scammer for no good reason) just add more weight.

Make sense, you might be seeing a real trend, but maybe not. You can evaluate things from personal experience, and even a small amount of negative individual experience can hurt a business, because of word of mouth. You should also calibrate your experiences once in a while though. A restaurant you had a bad experience at when you went might still be the best restaurant in town.

If fraud was a huge part of their business, they'd kill the 3rd party sellers from their platform, but I doubt it is. I think it's a net positive as a whole, but a small number of customers hate it. What they need to do now is improve those quirks you mentioned. That's much more reasonable then killing the whole marketplace.

filing the chargeback is a good idea... but also, the sender made a critical mistake sending it usps.. that makes it mail fraud. Talk to the US Postal Inspection Service, it's a branch of law enforcement, and I'm sure they would be very interested with all of the evidence youve collected. They can cross state lines and arrest the sender.


This! They have just committed mail fraud and since they thought they were hidden behind amazon, all it takes is one postal inspector to request the banking details of the payout and now there is a person on the hook. You've already done the legwork. Take this to the proper authorities.

is it mail fraud because they used a bogus return address?

No, it's mail fraud because they sent a fake package to the wrong address and used the shipping confirmation to defraud someone out of $1500.

This link is exactly what I was going to post after reading the story. The USPS is surprisingly good at dealing with mail fraud. Currently it looks like Amazon was complicit in a mail fraud case. It would be in USPS's best interest to investigate Amazons' operations in this regard.

I'm a little more skeptical of the claim that crossing the post office is a big mistake after nothing came of this case: http://www.postal-reporter.com/blog/usps-oig-investigating-a...

The comment sections at the time were full of people talking about how it was a federal crime and the cops would be in deep trouble but the postal inspector seems to have been a paper tiger.

That's not remotely close to being the same thing. There isn't a grey area when it comes to fraud (if there is enough evidence), whereas there is plenty of grey area when it comes to making arrests in the field, which may involve some amount of human error and judgement and therefore has leeway.

Would they pursue something like counterfeit software licenses or gift cards mailed via USPS, if the scale isn't as large (like <$100)? Asking since it's happened to me on smaller scales before, but the amount is smaller and I'm not sure how to prove I received whatever I received...

I once had the USPIS hunting for a $10 monthly subscription box of snacks when it was signed for at an apartment building but my friend never received it. Got a call from a gruff-sounding agent promising to look into it and everything.

I don't think I ever got a follow up after that, though...

Slightly off-topic, but for a good bit of fun on the USPIS, you should watch the TV Show "The Detour" ;-)

Why do people do mail fraud?

While mail fraud crimes often involve the use of the United States Postal Service, or USPS, you can also commit the crime when you use any interstate carrier, such as FedEx, UPS, or other delivery services. Mail fraud is super easy to prove [prints on box, cameras at fedex offices, credit cards used for materials, amazon accounts, logged ips, bank accounts involved, federal authority] and carries ridiculous sentencing: 20 years. THIS is a bad plan for $1500. Most likely this person DID THIS MORE THAN ONCE so they could face like 10 counts - it is 20 years per count. Not to mention people doing the investigation are federal officers - they are on point. With 2nd murder you at least get parole and probably wont do 20 years or charged with multiple counts. mail fraud = bad times.


It's probably hard to track the seller. They can use a fake email, illegally obtained credit card to sign up, PO box or just some random address, drop off packages to FedEx drop boxes or just drop ship an item. They may never even touch the packages.

Uh. No. If I were a federal officer I would just contact amazon and find out where the money went. Paypal or Bank account - game over. Contact whatever bank he picks it up from get security camera details, address info, on and on. I would also grab all the ips, entered in info and the prints from the box. I bet he would be in my office by lunch. Plea dealed to 5 years by monday.

It's very trivial to signup for a online bank account with a stolen identity. FBI won't get involved in the case unless it's over 150k in losses and local police don't have skills or desire to do anything online.

Source: work for an online bank

FBI doesn't have to get involved; the USPS has kick-ass federal special agents of their own.

Yes, do not mess with the investigative prowess of the Postmaster General. They are pretty amazing at what they do.

Yes. I agree. The best way to get away with mail fraud is to hope the feds don't care. I also believe it seems from a bank employees perspective is they all get away with it. However, the jails are full.

The problem is these guys repeat offend. If they just got $1500 - they would be fine. But they wont. They will repeat until they clear 150k. That is a life sentence. This is why the federal jails are full of drug traffickers. Drug trafficking is a lifestyle - they can't stop.

Put your money where your mouth is. Go provide your legal services to article's author.

I expect to see an article on Monday, from you, which bemoans exactly how easy it is to track thieves like this. Show us the face of the accused, too.

So become a federal officer by monday? I need an extension.

It sounded to me like you already had all of this figured out. Why do you suddenly need to be a federal officer?

> I would just contact amazon and find out where the money went

I like to think that Amazon won't give its users bank details to random people. A federal officer could force them give it up.

Maybe I'm Pollyannaish, but I'd hope Amazon would not give bank details to a federal office and instead hold out for a subpoena or search warrant or court order.

I bet the feds even have an api.

Yes, I intended "could force them to" as a description of a court order.

Are you a state bar? how can he practice being a lawyer and provide legal services. I expect to see an article on Monday, from you, which explains how you are able to confer the ability to individuals to act as a legal agent.

See how much that sounds like I am an asshole? Maybe read your comments out loud before posting.

Maybe he was commenting on the idea posted elsewhere in this conversation about getting USPS to investigate and explaining how one agent could do so. But your "understanding" may be the correct one.

I would guess a large part of the issue is these sellers are often not even in the USA so probably a bit of legal hoops to jump through. There's also an issue of manpower to track all of these scammers down-- there's a lot of them after all.

I was on a jury that indicted a guy who did the same basic scam. He'd have packages delivered to addresses in the same zip code area, but pick up the packages himself. Felony.

It won't get your money back, but it is worthwhile to file a fraud complaint with the USPS as well. Mail fraud for $1500 is a big deal to sweep under the rug with a charge back.

I don't see why he wouldn't get a credit-card chargeback authorized - he has clear evidence of fraud on the party of the seller, and evidence of the middle-man's (Amazon's) unwillingness to investigate further. As Amazon is accepting the credit-card payment they will eat the chargeback - if they do ever dispute this then elevate it to a small-claims court case and the judge will easily side with the customer.

One potential problem with that is that Amazon can retaliate by closing the users's account if they didn't agree with the charge-back even if they're unsuccessful at fighting it. That can be really difficult to deal with if you're also using AWS for hosting or other things.

Whenever I see comments about how "Company XYZ deleted my account after I issued a charge-back!" I ask: Why would one want to continue doing business with a company that made you issue a charge-back? Charge-back is pretty much the nuclear option of last resort when you have exhausted all avenues of redress. You're basically doing it to get your money back and "salt the earth" as you leave. I've done a few charge-backs in my life, and not once, ever, under any circumstances would want to do business with those companies again.

I frequently see people suggest a chargeback as the first option. I have seen people suggest it instead of even trying for an RMA. I have seen it suggested for delayed delivery.

I have no idea about the frequency, but I have reason to suspect some are quite frivolous.

Like you, I believe it should be the last option. I'm just not sure that we are the majority.

Sure, if everything in the world had competitors that were trivial to switch to. If I suffer through bad customer service for two hours that's bad but it's not itself enough to make me switch companies. As long as I get my money back I'll still be willing to work with most companies.

FWIW, I've had Amazon instruct me to file a chargeback in one instance that they had already identified as fraud.

It was a very different situation, however: someone had my CC info and loaded it onto a new account and made a large purchase.

Oddly when I inquired Amazon said they had already flagged the fraud and I needed to send a chargeback. It appeared that they were not going to proactively let me (or my cc company) about the issue.

I get it, but can't help but lose a little respect for a company that knows with certaintly one of their customers has been defrauded and sits back and waits for them to notice. Maybe they couldn't initiate the refund, but surely they could send a notice or otherwise reach out.

That's weird, as issuing a CC refund is cheaper for everyone than a chargeback.

I thought so too. I had identified the charges as fraudulent but was afraid of retribution from Amazon for the chargeback, so I called them first.

I'm kind of surprised I even caught the transactions given how many legit ones I have each month with them.

A good reason never to mix a shopping account with a development account. If you are using Amazon developer services, I never understood why you wouldn't want that as a dedicated development account with Amazon.

Uh... isn't it obvious that you should never use your personal shopping/Prime account for business-critical services?

Yes, that would be common sense. The problem with common sense is that it's not very common.

Has that happened to people in the past? I do have an AWS account attached to my prime account (a dumb choice from years ago). The stuff on it isn't critical or anything, though.

If Amazon retaliates and was involved in a USPS fraud case. I would think the business owner would have a very good chance of a large settlement.....

He should certainly do a charge back to get his money back, but also file a report with the USPS.

Might not get the money back but might also get the sender 20 years prison and/or a fine: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1341

I would, irrationally, feel bad about sending someone to prison for 20y just because they stole some cash from me.

If it was just myself, I'd agree with you but I seriously doubt someone who knows Amazon's procedures this well did it only once. It's not unreasonable to assume this person is running scams like this full time. If they're running scams full time and making enough to earn enough money to live by, they're stealing a full living worth of money from law-abiding citizens, a full life someone else should have.

That's why I wouldn't have a problem with someone like this getting 20y.

But the 20y is also a maximum and it's unlikely they'd be sentenced that harshly.

Are you assuming that they've never defrauded anybody else before and will never do it again?

I don't know the sentencing rules, but this is an up to, not a minimum. This particular crime showed a lot of premeditation, and it might not be the only instance. I wouldn't feel bad about referring it to the justice system.

That's odd. I certainly wouldn't [feel bad, that is].

The only way I've got problems solved with Amazon is going to the police and let them sort it out. Worked every time.

Amazon was in now way responsive or helpful before I've got the police involved.

Or small claims court. That will get their attention quickly. This is the perfect place for that, though I guess, since this is USPS/Mail fraud that works. Small claims court has appeal because they absolutely can't ignore you, whereas even with a police report they can.

(edit: perfect place for police involvement, since an actual mail fraud type crime was comitted, but also a great place for small claims court. I am just thinking police aren't going to have much recourse since whoever did this is probably very far away. Small claims court you can do it right to amazon for failure to deliver the goods bought, and maybe find some language in the A-to-z guarantee to hold them accountable?)

As someone who recently went through small-claims as a plaintiff, it is time-consuming and the process takes months to complete[0] - don't forget to be prepared to lose a half-day (or longer) to attend your hearing in court too, and you can't add "equivalent wages for time spent in court for this hearing" to your damages claim) - so for many people a claim valued under a $1000 or so simply isn't worth pursuing.

If I could reform small-claims actions, I'd make it permissible to submit evidence online/electronically with a deposition and let the judges/mediators review it in their own time, have them call us up by phone or send emails if they have any questions and only call us into a physical court-hearing if absolutely necessary.

[0]: At the start of this year I was victim to a breach of contract causing me a 5-figure loss. I filed my claim paperwork in April and got a response in June with my court hearing in August - then another week for a judgement - now I've got to wait 30 days before I can begin to attempt to collect on that judgement, which can take 180 days or more depending on how the defendant appeals or chooses to delay things. That's a possible ~540 days after the violation before we reach settlement. In the OP's case, is that really worth $1500? (Most states allow you to collect a nominal interest on a judgement too, California is 10% APR, for example - better than a savings account, worse than the S&P 500).

Depends. At a strictly transactional cost it is probably 20+ hours of effort all told to use small claims court.

I think there is more at play here, though. They wrote a blog post and have clearly been wronged. Holding Amazon accountable is one of the only ways to change their behavior. It is like fighting a speeding ticket. Some shockingly high percentage are never contested. People just take their lumps and move on. So, I think at this level it is a big enough dollar figure that (aside from the calendar time) it is probably worth your actual time too. If it wasn't they probably wouldn't have written a blog post anyway, if 1500 was that inconsequential to them.

How does fighting the speeding ticket, or taking Amazon to small claims court, going to change any behavior? The police are not inconvenienced that much if you challenge a ticket - they can just not contest and let you win. No pain to them, and they can keep writing tickets that are easily challenged. Same with Amazon - they can just agree to immediately give you your money back when you file a claim in court; no real cost to them that will make them change their behavior.

No matter what, you are the only one who suffers.

If enough people do it and hold them accountable it will change their behavior. They have to answer your claims and that costs them a lot of money to deal with small claims in whatever place in IL the blog author lives. Speeding tickets also work on the principle of everyone's ignorance of defending themselves in court if enough people fought them lawd and society would respond to this.

I've had great experiences with Amazon the few times something went wrong.

- Had a fire extinguisher shipped to me but the pin apparently got knocked out in the box and it discharged during shipping. They sent out a new fire extinguisher immediately, I got to keep the old one and got it recharged for $10.

- A water filter was held by USPS and I wasn't able to pick it up in time. They sent out a new water filter (different shipping so it got to my door) even before the first one was sent back for non-pickup.

- Ordered through Amazon Fresh and some bread got crushed by a 2L soda. Sent a one-line message to them "Bread was crushed by 2L soda" Bam -- refund for bread.

- Called, questioning a $10 charge I had on my credit card, even though I hadn't ordered anything. They tracked it down to a Prime Video subscription I had made that had ended its "free trial period." I just said "Oh! I was going to cancel that!" and they removed the charge and cancelled it for me right then and there without me even asking. I've never heard of any company doing something like that that easily. In my experience "free trial periods" are just traps trying to get people to forget and let the subscription run, so I didn't even bother asking, but they went ahead and removed it.

What did that process look like for you? Do you just call up your local non-emergency number and and tell them Amazon cheated you?

(Germany) For example someone used our bank account to buy on Amazon. We found out by checking our bank account. We told Amazon about it, but they only would remove the bank data from that account. No blacklisting of our bank account IBAN or anything else. Then some time later this happened again by the same person with a much larger amount. We discovered it again because we regularly check our bank account. Amazon has no blacklisting or other protection. Again they only removed the account. Then a third time it happened with even a larger amount. Wouldn't we have checked, we'd lost some money. And obviously we would not like to play that game the next 20 years - because let's name it, someone stole from our bank account and Amazon didn't prevent it but helped although told about it.

We made a report online with the police, they had some questions and it never happened again.

This was one of several incidents with Amazon that only involving the police got fixed.

Not OP, but pretty much. Works much better if you can investigate and assemble most of the evidence yourself so all they have to do is make an arrest.

Does it bother them enough to get other police departments involved? I imagine no one they can arrest is within their jurisdiction...

Usually they will forward the case on to the relevant department as long as you stay involved and apply pressure. There's nothing stopping you from personally contacting the relevant department, either.

The chances are the seller is a fake as well. They use stolen identity to sell and transfer funds. Police will likely end up with a dead end. You have to trace the funds. FBI would be a better help here. Now how do you get them involved? lol

> Please contact your local FBI office or submit a tip electronically if you have information about: [...] Financial crimes that involve fraud, especially corporate fraud, mortgage fraud, or other investment fraud schemes where significant dollar losses have occurred, including those impacting you or your place of work


I've heard that the FBI will definitely get involved if it falls into their investigation categories. Also, it can never hurt to call and ask anyway.

Edit: Mail fraud is specifically listed on this page relating to organized crime: https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/organized-crime

What I would be afraid of is if these folks work in groups and they hear about the one guy who dared to go after them. Then you might get one of them arrested but your life might be under threat from a dozen others. Is it really worth it?

This is the poison in Amazon's well. The average layman has very little grasp of sold & shipped by amazon vs amazon marketplace. Amazon needs to tighten the clamps on all of these awful third party sellers before they become a casualty like ebay.

Anecdotally my father purchased a projector recently and the seller tried the "I can't ship it unless you make payment on my offsite merchant page because Amazon is holding me hostage" scam. My father remarkably recognized this as fraud and reported it to Amazon. He said they were less than helpful in getting a refund to his credit card so he could go make a purchase from a legitimate merchant. They made him wait out the full 30 days it could have possibly taken to ship before they were willing to work with him.

It seems like the Amazon reps weren't paying attention to the detail, or the seller was also supplying fraudulent evidence of delivery.

This blog post will likely get it resolved for the buyer, though it shouldn't have to be this way.

Wouldn't surprise me. Superficial reading is an ongoing danger of text-based support. The other day, my wife used Amazon's chat support to ask a question about what would happen if she canceled her free Prime trial. The rep said: give me two minutes to look into this. And then came back with: I've canceled your Prime as you requested, thanks, gtfo.

She managed to unwind this after a great deal of effort, but man.

Reminds me of when I called my cell phone carrier, to have an unused line dropped from my account. Had to give them my phone number, and the number for the line to remove. "Ok, hold on one second..." [click]. Phone didn't work any more -- they removed the wrong line. Had to go to a land line, and hang on hold for 30 minutes to get someone to start restoring my account (and to make sure I didn't lose my grandfathered data plan).

> Phone didn't work any more -- they removed the wrong line. Had to go to a land line, and hang on hold for 30 minutes to get someone to start restoring my account

Haha. I have a similar story where I needed help from Comcast. I was on the my cell with them and they wanted to verify it was me, and hung up to call my home number. Well, I only have a home line for a fax machine and do not have a normal phone in the house. I heard the fax ring a few times so I called back. It took over a 1/2 hour to convince them to use a different authentication method. They kept insisting to call my home phone. Sigh.

Exact same thing happened to me. They couldn't fix it until Monday though (it was Friday and was porting a number).

I'm more sympathetic to Amazon here than most. Scams are hard to detect. They set up a shipping confirmation process that's worked fine for them for almost two decades now. It has a hole (it only checks the town and has no closed loop to verify that the shipper shipped to the right address in that town), but none of the existing employees actually know that it has a hole. They get a report about a missing shipment, check their process, and it says it was received. Case closed.

This is like trying to report a web site vulnerability to a help desk employee. It doesn't work. You have to escalate until you find someone who understands the root issue, and escalation is messy (and involves blog posts like these).

I dont get why you are being sympathetic towards Amazon. They delivered the package to a WRONG address and then closed the case just because it was delivered to the SAME town ? Don't you see an issue with Amazon's system here ? This is just incompetence and nothing else. I love amazon but this particular case is just incompetence on Amazon's part after the fraud happened.

The author appealed, stating that the delivery address was incorrect. Amazon's rejected the appeal on the basis that the tracking information "shows that someone at your address signed for the package." That's not a mysterious hole that low-level employees are unaware of, that's just inattention on the part of whoever was handling the appeal.

The point was more that "mysterious hole" and "innatention" are mostly the same thing. My words were "scams are hard to detect" and I stand by them. The people you want to be more attentive make hourly wages and probably see thousands of these appeals every week, statistically none of which are creative scams worthy of arguing about on HN.

You're asking too much. Those employees don't exist. You have to get over their heads to people who design the processes, and that sometimes requires writing blog posts and making noise in public.

I don't get how this shows that "scams are hard to detect." This scam was trivial to detect. When the seller's supposed proof of delivery shows a different address, then it's not actually proof of delivery. All it would have taken to detect this was looking at the tracking info and looking at the order's shipping address and observing that they weren't the same.

Yes, obviously something is terribly wrong at Amazon which meant that this simple comparison never happened, but I don't see why we should expect this, or why we should be sympathetic to Amazon about it.

> This scam was trivial to detect.

No, it's trivial to understand. It's simply an objective truth that it's hard to detect, given that you and I are hearing about it for the first time in August of the year 2017, when it exploits a USPS tracking data that probably hasn't changed much in 15 years or more. If it's so trivial why didn't you figure it out before? Why haven't Amazon and the post office closed the hole? Why haven't more people been scammed?

What do you mean, why hasn't the post office closed the hole? Are you or I misunderstanding what happened here? The post office had no problems here.

And what do you mean, "why didn't you figure it out before?" Why would I have figured anything out about this...?

Why haven't more people been scammed? How do you know they haven't?

> My words were "scams are hard to detect" and I stand by them.

I think it should be easy to detect that two addresses are not identical. Which should make this scam easy to detect.

* shipped to different address

* shipped to different name

Even low-paid support people should be able to detect that. If they can't, then Amazon is hiring people who can't (or won't) read.

i.e. if support people can't read, they shouldn't be support people.

Yes, it will be trivial to detect - once double-checking the address becomes part of the procedure for verifying package delivery. If checking the address isn't part of the procedure, then the procedure needs to be modified. Low-paid support people are expected to follow the procedure exactly, so that the company can obtain consistent results.

Unless there's something I'm unaware of, they have no way to check the actual shipping address based on the tracking number without direct cooperation from the shipper. The reason they use the shipping city is that most shippers provide that information about every tracking number. To get more information you have to be the one who shipped the package. In this case amazon was not the one who shipped the package. It was a 3rd party seller who shipped on their own.

In this particular case, the customer was able to get a proof of delivery from USPS which included the recipient's address. Amazon had both the customer's address and the address the package was delivered to, for some reason they just would not or could not notice that they didn't match.

I'd hope that checking the address would be part of the procedure for asserting that the package was delivered to the correct address. If not the first time through, it surely should at least be part of the appeal process.

> My words were "scams are hard to detect" and I stand by them.

Amazon had nothing to detect here. The author did all the job and provided all the evidence. What was required by Amazon was to acknowledge the facts.

If the people that are supposed to provide assistance are not paid enough or have too much work to do to pay attention to what is written in an email, Amazon should, well, pay them more and/or don't overwork them.

It's not the customer's fault that Amazon pays its employees poor wages and asks too much of them. It's Amazon's job to put its employees in positions to do their jobs well.

Well, it almost is. That is what happens when you go for the cheapest options.

Valid point.

> My words were "scams are hard to detect" and I stand by them.

Look at the address. Is it the same? No. SCAM DETECTED.

It has a hole (it only checks the town and has no closed loop to verify that the shipper shipped to the right address in that town), but none of the existing employees actually know that it has a hole.

This is an entirely predictable outcome, especially for the brains at Amazon. This was implemented according to specifications and designs that involved several people, meaning that it was a conscious and deliberate decision to only check the city, which is obviously imprecise. This imprecision does not even require computers to recognize it.

> This is an entirely predictable outcome

Said someone about every security bug ever. This is the shipping fraud equivalent of "this never would have happened if you used rust". It's not helpful.

Absolutely not. Where even is the bug? It was a policy decision, and while an argument could be constructed that nobody could have known that they'd need to use greater geographic resolution in validating shipping destinations, they already had this data in the form of shipping addresses. This isn't a "640K should be enough for everybody" situation, it's a "nobody will ever want more than 640K" situation.

Policy is programming, against the fuzzy computer that is the human CPU.

> hard

> messy

Yes, but that's why we entrust it to a half-trillion-dollar company. If it were realistic for everyone and their dog to set up a trustworthy marketplace on their Wordpress site, that's what we'd have.

Amazon should be solving hard, messy problems, it's their job.

Wonder if they could prevent this by requiring third party sellers to print amazon shipping labels. That should give amazon the correcting tracking information and ups/usps/fedex/whoever would have the accurate address.

I was going to suggest exactly the same

Slightly different case but I have a camelcamelcamel alert set up for a fountain pen. I got an alert that the price was very low. I could see it was a NEW third party seller. The price was less than half the price Amazon sells it for. I bought it just to see. Indeed it was a terrible fake. Amazon refunded me but actually I see quite a few of these types of scams on their site.

They could do more to stop these things happening. They really should as it's a waste of time more than anything else.

> They get a report about a missing shipment, check their process, and it says it was received. Case closed.

How about checking the actual address and checking the weight of the item on the package.

So, in my experience (FWIW) every Amazon customer service rep I've ever dealt with has extremely poor grasp of the English language and don't know how to veer off script (so to speak). If you say "the shipping weight does not make sense," they ignore that because their script/training only says "check the tracking number." It's like talking to a poorly programmed bot.


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