WARNING: Too Good to be True Amazon Pricing, Possible Scam Accounts & How to Protect Yourself

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Amazon Low Price Possible Scam

Note: I am sharing my opinion and commentary on what might be going on in this article. All sellers names have been removed since I am not accusing any single person or seller of scamming the public.

Amazon Low Price Possible Scam

As someone who buys and sells things A LOT, I notice trends that perhaps the average consumer doesn’t. When determining my pricing and which products to buy, I try to find the subtle changes in the market and take advantage of them. Lately though, there have been some interesting developments on Amazon that I think just about everyone has noticed.

The other day Amazon briefly had the Nintendo Switch in stock at its MSRP of $299.99. I tweeted this news out hoping that someone who wanted a Switch would be able to get one. As I predicted the available stock lasted only a couple of minutes. Of course someone tweeted me back having noticed something interesting.

Perhaps you have noticed this too? Over the past few weeks many listings have been bombarded with “too good to be true” offers. Here is today’s pricing on the Switch as an example. The price has dropped from $150!

Amazon Low Price Possible Scam

Wow! Only $87 for Nintendo’s extremely hard to find new console that has an MSRP of $299 and is selling many places for close to $500. WHAT A DEAL! Look closely though and you should notice something. Most of these sellers are “Just Launched”. This means they are brand new accounts.

But that first account has 2 positive ratings?!? Surely they aren’t scamming anyone? Well, if we look at the ratings then we can see that they are both from about 7 years ago.

Amazon Low Price Possible Scam

My guess is that this is a hacked account. Now, I want to make it clear that I can’t guarantee these accounts are fake or that one or all of them won’t actually ship you an $87 Switch, but I would say it is highly unlikely. These accounts haven’t just taken over popular listings like the Switch, but they have taken over many more.

For example, the above account which has been dormant for 7 years, suddenly has over 260 listings! If you guessed that each and every one of these listings is at a price well below the normal selling price then you are a winner!

How Does This Work?

Now this is just an educated guess, but all of the items being “sold” are fulfilled by the merchant and generally have long shipping times. Most likely they are selling a product and marking it “shipped”, often with a fake tracking number. This means that Amazon will pay them within two weeks.

Perhaps you as a buyer are expecting the item to come in 2-3 weeks and by the time you realize it hasn’t arrived and check to see the tracking was fake, that account is shut down, the person has their money and now you need to go through a process with Amazon. Yuck.

A Test

Because I love to be all scientific and stuff, I decided that I am going to run a test so that I can report back on exactly what I experience with one of the “lowball” accounts. To start, I wanted to buy something cheap since I fully expect to lose my money. I zeroed in on a Nintendo Switch accessory that normally retails for $79.99.

I don’t want to pay $80, but thankfully I found a seller willing to generously get me one for just $2.58 + $3.99 shipping. I can wait for April 6 -21 to receive this product since the discount is so good!

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The best part about this seller is that they have 131 reviews with 95% of them being positive. The most recent review is from 2013, but I am sure this is legitimate.

Amazon Low Price Possible Scam

So I have now purchased this item from this seller. I did have it sent to a prep center I work with so the seller won’t have my address, just in case they actually do come through. I am not holding my breath. 

 

Why This Is Bad!

 

Of course it is terrible for consumers any time they get ripped off, but this is also going to be bad for Amazon sellers in the long term. The less faith people have in the Amazon ecosystem the less they will use it. More importantly, when Amazon starts to crack down on scams, they tend to do it hard and normally innocent sellers end up getting caught in the middle. My guess is this wave of new scammers will only bring on tougher rules and restrictions for legitimate Amazon sellers.

How to Protect Yourself

In order not to fall victim to one of these accounts, first off do your research. If the price is way too good to be true then it probably is not legitimate. You can use Amazon price comparison tools Keepa and Camel Camel Camel to find out what the normal price should be and can also price shop across different sites.

Amazon is flushing these accounts quite regularly, but more pop up everyday. That is why it is important to take a few seconds to look at the seller’s account when buying a product, especially if it is merchant fulfilled. Is this new a new account or does the account have any recent positive reviews? You can also buy from third party merchants who use Fulfillment by Amazon. You will see their listings with the “Prime” logo next to them. This means that Amazon actually has their merchandise in its warehouses and Amazon ships and fulfills the order.

Conclusion

I’ll report back on what happens with my deal of the century purchase in order to help everyone understand better what exactly is happening here. In the mean time make sure you are diligent when buying on Amazon and you should be fine. 

Have you encountered any of these sellers on Amazon? If so, what was your experience like? Let us know in the comments!


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32 COMMENTS

  1. Shawn, we use Amazon less and less because of all the fake chinese crap that they sell. Even Prime stuff is trash.
    The only truly valid product are their books and their streamed entertainment.
    Don’t trust hard goods(razor blades, golf clubs, shoes etc…) they sell any more.
    Thankfully their return policy is generally pretty good.

    • Of the hundreds of non-book items over the last decade I’ve not had this problem. My guess is you had a few bad experiences and are painting with a broad brush. Yes, knock offs can happen, but generally speaking if you buy Prime only items and avoid new sellers you should be ok. Also, the saying “if it’s too good to be true” is something to be aware of with third party sellers.

    • I know for a fact that you are incorrect, Geoff, because I am a third party seller on Amazon. I nearly exclusively use FBA, and I buy my products from reliable sources, so I know that if I’m selling, for instance, a brand name set of sheets, it WILL be made by that brand, and new, just as I’m telling the buyer it is.

      To paint every seller on AZ with a broad brush, when there are literally millions of customers engaging in satisfactory transactions on a daily basis is more than a litttle over the top.

  2. Interesting post. Somewhat related – I’ve definitely received some obvious counterfeit items from a couple fulfilled by amazon purchases lately, and both times Amazon was quick to issue a full refund and didn’t even require me to ship back the product.

    So I’m curious why you think you’ll “lose” your money?

    If after 2-3 weeks the tracking number is clearly fake, and you never receive the product, even if the seller shuts their account down, I can’t imagine Amazon won’t immediately refund your payment.

    • I bought a cheap item before I figured it out. Then, when the seller didn’t respond, I went to ask amazon to step in and they gave me the option of getting a refund to an amazon gift card right away or waiting a few weeks to get a normal refund. I accepted the amazon GC because I paid with an amazon gc.

      I just thought it was interesting how they were much quicker to give a refund to a GC rather than a regular payment method.

      As others mentioned, I was never concerned about losing my money but who wants to wait weeks ?

      Especially when the item I bought wasn’t supposed to be here for 2-3 weeks anyway. I suspect that long delivery time helps the scammers keep more of the money.

  3. Amazon should be able to deal with these clear fake listings. Simple algorithms would reveal prices that are clear outliers and then someone looking this could identify it as a fake in 30 seconds. Shut them down and demand confirmation. Or better yet, hold the money when the algorithm trips until buyer receives the goods.

    Then the scammers would have to post realistic prices at which point few people would buy from a sketchy account over a proven seller.

    • Amazon does have algorithms that seek out outlying prices. I have had listings suspended because of this (low price to clear stale inventory). Unfortunately sellers can just reactivate and the bots ignore them. Given the new problem and the scads of data that they have available, I am sure Amazon is working on new filters.
      Ultimately, it will be real sellers and Amazon that take the hit. Buyers, though inconvenienced, will be made whole at the expense of the sales side.

  4. I noticed this 4-5 months back. Amazon doesn’t make it easy to report the scammers either.

    There is no reason amazon cannot figure this out & prevent it. Little or no sale feedback & price way below avg ?

    Don’t allow them to post.

  5. Shawn –

    Wonder if you have reached out to Amazon with any specifics. As you say they are flushing these accounts regularly but if a product is directly competing with yours and you suspect its seller to be a fake account or some other type of scam it may be in your best interest to alert Amazon to the issue.

  6. Hi Shawn,
    Two datapoints on Amazon scams for you:
    – I went through the exact thing you described above for a projector. Price was low but not unbelievable. Seller had just launched. Item was delivered to a different state. Immediately contacted the seller who was starting to get many negative reviews (from 0 before) and instead of shutting down his account was actually responding to folks that his account had been hacked and someone had thousands of items for sale in his name for a couple days. Amazon is taking care my refund. Interestingly, a colleague of mine had ordered from the same seller a day after me but his purchase was cancelled before he was charged. It would suggest that hackers are possibly appropriating inactive accounts and leave the actual owners of the account to deal with the consequences (after taking the money I suppose)
    – Purchased a printer. Seller had recently launched, but order was fulfilled by Prime and at the normal ongoing price. I was sent an old, used printer of a different model. I sent it back and got immediately refunded but a month later the seller claimed not to have received the item back and I was charged again. Obviously Amazon was able to track the return and once again refund me but if it had been a smaller item I may have not noticed. Not sure if I am reading too much into this but as you says… quite a few interesting techniques for bad sellers!

  7. I bought a pair of Cole Haan Shoes, regularly $100 but was being sold from a new seller for $45. Of course, I got a tracking number that was from 5 months ago. I filed a complaint with amazon, but in the meantime I saw a new seller selling the shoes for the same $45. Interestingly, this seller was selling the same exact 10 items at the exact same price as the first seller. Now I see a different seller selling the same 10 items at the same price. Clearly, Amazon needs to do something as they are going to be losing lots of mkoney and customers if they don’t fix this soon.

  8. Amazon is junk. High prices, low security and a lot of scams. Somebody hacked into my account and bough a kindle membership using my gift card balance. It took me more than a week to get a refund and multiple phone calls. And then they refunded me twice. Their security is complete junk, they forced me to change a password, but I was able to change it to the same one, just to test.
    Ebay is much better on the other hand. Never a problem and always fast refunds.

  9. This sort of thing is absolutely not new and Amazon continues to allow it to happen.
    I’m after a Yamaha RX-A3060BL AV receiver which goes for a little under $2,000 new or $1,500 used. Take a look at it on Amazon and there’s one for sale at $390 from a seller who has just launched and which requires the buyer to text him before making the purchase. There’s also lots of weird characters (ë instead of e, ä instead of a for example) and numbers spelled out as words in the description which raises a huge, red flag.
    I see this all the time with this and other high demand items – too-good-to-be true prices from just launched sellers who require the buyer to text first and which use wacky letters in the condition field. If I can spot these items as fake so easily there’s really no excuse for Amazon not to have a bot flag them for deletion.

  10. Here is my suspicion of what’s happening.

    Scammers have got hold of the yahoo hack dump which includes usernames and passwords. Amazon login security is pretty weak unless you have enabled 2 factor authentication. So if you have used same credentials on Amazon, then your account is compromised. I don’t think Amazon sends out verification email to old email address when the email is changed.

    My amazon account had same password as yahoo. I had changed my Yahoo password long before the hack was made public but didn’t change my Amazon password. One day someone changed my Amazon email address and password and started draining the gift card balance I had. Fortunately, I was able to contact Amazon support and after providing an old order number, they were able to locate my account and restore my access. I now have 2FA enabled on my Amazon account.

    I suspect that scammers are continuing to try Amazon login with the Yahoo email dump. When they are successful they overtake the account, create dummy listings etc. If the user is still active, they try to recover it; but if the account has been dormant then no one challenges this.

    Amazon needs to beef-up their security.

  11. I recently bought an underpriced item on Amazon that fits the bill. Hadn’t read this post or the one on EcommerceBytes about the same issue.
    Long delivery times aren’t enough of a trigger. Amazon themselves frequently have multi-week deliveries on back-ordered or drop-shipped items. A low price also can be just an aberration. Long time sellers will tell you never to assume you know what someone else’s cost is. Or their motivation for selling.
    That said, the clue that made it clear to me that I am unlikely to get what I bought is the timing of the shipping notification from Amazon. I’ve been on Amazon since 1997 and it is quite rare to get a notification at 3 in the morning! Coupled with the other particulars of the purchase, it looks as if I will be getting a refund from Amazon in a few weeks.

  12. Amazon Seller Discussion board has been bombarded with news about this crisis lately. However, Amazon has made it very slow, time consuming, and ineffective to rid Amazon of these scammers. Hope Amazon wakes up soon to this disease because its spreading to listings all over Amazon.

  13. Amazon has now locked this down for sellers of the Nintendo switch. You now need approval to sell as new. If you have sold this previously before the lockdown you can just go in your seller acct and change quantity from 0 to 1

  14. Looking for a camera on amazon? Look VERY carefully at the “new and used”. I found lots of sellers who have just launched and no feedback. They all say to email such ans such an address to check it is still available first. When you do, you get an email back from someone different, with a different email address (usually hacked accounts I suspect), saying to let them know if you are interested and they will then list it on amazon just for you. (this is often done on ebay, where it is usually all perfectly honest sellers, but used to be unheard of amazon).
    You will get your money back from amazon, so this is an inconvenience for you, but amazon will loose a lot of money. Amazon would not discus these listings with me when I queried some as a customer. So they know they are a problem and are trying to delete all such listings as quickly as possible. Thankfully my normally suspicious nature save me.

  15. If Amazon pays the vendor when they say they have shipped it, don’t they have to have posted a tracking number? If so, then Amazon could simply have a program to check the tracking number info to make sure it’s legitimate before paying the vendor. That doesn’t seem like it would be very difficult. it could all be automated and would be a pretty sure way of determining if something was shipped. Of course, it would guarantee it was the same thing advertised but at least the vendor would have to ship something of the same weight and size as advertised.

    • I think ebay requires positive feedback from new sellers buyers before funds are released. Or at least a week after confirmed delivery.

      Hard to believe amazon is losing a ton of money without taking action to stop it.

  16. So many hacked and bogus accounts lately. I’ve seen one with 200k items from a just launched seller where every item was $3.88. Really screws resellers since their prices won’t even show up in the list of sellers page.

    • I am an Amazon seller and have watched and read a great deal about this, and I have concluded that it is happening with the blessing of Amazon. It would be too easy to fix if they wanted to. On one item I sell, there were 8 Newly Listed Sellers scamming a $21.00 item for about $4.00. Wholesale is about $11.00, and the entire product line is tightly controlled by the wholesaler. My personal opinion is that Buyers know that an FBA seller has already delivered goods to Amazon to sell, so there is merchandise behind the listing (unlike the newly listed sellers who have no merchandise, just listings), and this would tend to make buyers buy from FBA sellers, which is a big thing for Amazon. This puts pressure on sellers to migrate to FBA because it indicates there is product behind the listing. This whole thing is Amazon’s way to push sellers to FBA.

  17. Thank You. I knew something might be fishy. I found a 7volume book set that falls under the religious category for $94.03 + tax sold by Amazon Prime as new. The publishers site shows this set to be $220.00. I understand a discount to 175.00 or maybe 150.00 but for Amazon itself to be selling it at less the half the price????

    Could it be possible. It is Amazon selling it, but of course, it is too good to be true. If Amazon is selling it, what could be the catch.

    Thank you for informing the public.

    • Does it say shipped from and sold by Amazon.com? If so Amazon is the seller and nothing to worry about. Religious items often have huge markups so Amazon’s price is likely legit. If you saw the same item for $10 from a 3rd party seller that’s obviously fake.

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