Has your company been impacted by Amazon return fraud or other buyer scams?
Most Amazon buyers are honest, but unfortunately, some are not. While Amazon, the world’s largest retailer, provides an excellent opportunity to sell your products, it is crucial to protect yourself and your business.
Amazon fraudster scams can siphon away your company’s money, time, and seller ranking if you don’t stay vigilant and safeguard your business from the latest scams.
In this post, we’ll be discussing Amazon buyer scams, how to prevent them, and how to deal with them when they invariably happen.
Let’s dig in.
Most common buyer scams on Amazon
The most common buyer scams on Amazon include:
- Failed delivery
- Replace and refund
- Partial return
- Email, and
- FBA return scams
Failed delivery scams
This scenario is probably the oldest online buyer scam. The buyer orders something from Amazon, you ship it out, and the buyer claims they never received it and claims a refund or a replacement.
We all know that sometimes packages go missing, but you’ll want to ensure you take every precaution to make certain you’re protecting your company from fraudulent refunds or replacements.
Use track and trace shipping for all outbound packages to verify that the item was delivered to the customer. Then, when a dispute arises, your company will be able to provide delivery information via your shipping provider.
Replace and refund scams
In this common scam, the buyer will purchase a new product from Amazon and then replace it with a used or damaged product and request a refund. While the scam occurs across many product categories, it is most common with video games and electronics.
Fraudsters will order a game, and once it has been delivered to them, they will exchange it for a scratched or damaged game and then return it because it no longer works.
This fraud is especially challenging because it’s difficult to prove that the product was in working order when it was originally sent.
The most common fraudulent return practices include:
- Swapping a new product for a damaged model,
- Swapping a new product for an older model
- Swapping a new product for a less expensive model of the same product
This can be challenging for sellers because fraudsters can claim that the item they bought from you was not as described or counterfeit if you submit the dispute.
Additionally, some fraudsters have been known to return an empty box or one filled with rocks or sand to approximate the product’s weight.
Tamper-proof stickers can often counteract this Amazon buyer scam. The stickers state that the item has been quality tested and are specifically designed so that if a buyer attempts to remove the sticker from the new product to place it on an old or damaged product, it will tear.
While this strategy likely won’t deter the most determined fraudsters, it can significantly cut down on this type of buyer scam.
Partial return scams
In this variation of the buyer scam, fraudsters will purchase a set of items, keep some of the items, and return the rest. The buyer then claims they have returned all of the items they originally received, blaming the seller.
Include language at the bottom of your packing slips and in your shipping confirmations that the customer’s order has been packed and inspected at your fulfillment center. This language communicates to scammers whether you monitor the quality of the items you are shipping out. You can likely provide video evidence of the order being sent from your warehouse.
Spoofing or phishing scams
Phishing scams occur when a fraudster contacts your company, pretending to represent a trusted organization such as Amazon. The fraudster’s goal is to extract your company or personal data for the purposes of theft.
Most Amazon fishing scams occur via email, although some enterprising fraudsters also use text messages. In phishing emails, links and attachments generally contain malicious viruses designed to capture your passwords and private, financial, and banking information.
Another variation on this scam is when a fraudster will call about your account, pretending to be an Amazon representative. Again, the scammer’s intention about this type of call is to extract personal and financial information for theft.
Be sure to trust your gut on this one. If you receive suspicious phone calls, emails, or text messages, do not give the scammer any details about your account.
You’ll want to report the details of the suspicious contact to Amazon right away. Additionally, you can protect yourself by only contacting Amazon via phone numbers and emails publicly available on their website. That way, you can be sure you’re actually speaking to someone at Amazon.
Email scammers will often ask you for personal details or may ask you to log in via email. It is important to remember that Amazon does not ask for your login information via email.
If you receive an email claiming to be from Amazon that you are unsure of, delete the email and do not open the attachment. Instead, go directly to Amazon’s website and check for issues there.
While Amazon fraudsters are often quite sophisticated, emails with poor grammar, spelling, and punctuation are often a red flag that something is not quite right.
The only way to ensure that your Amazon account remains safe is by logging in directly on Amazon and enabling the two-factor authentication process on your account when available.
Two-factor authentication requires entry of a unique six-digit code sent to your phone before accessing your account. Contacting Amazon support on the site will allow you to verify any messages or issues with your account safely.
FBA return fraud
If you are an FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) seller, your buyers will be instructed to return products to the Amazon fulfillment center. Once the customer’s return arrives at the Amazon warehouse, an Amazon employee will quickly inspect the product and decide whether it should be returned to stock to be resold, or to classify the return as damaged or unsellable.
Because Amazon warehouse workers are only allotted a few minutes to make these inventory decisions, it is not uncommon for unsellable items to be returned to stock, especially with a buyer who has repackaged the item they are returning carefully.
To stay on top of your FBA customer returns, Amazon offers several tools to help you monitor your account. You’ll want to run the ”Manage FDA Returns” report at least once a week (or more frequently if you’re a high-volume seller) to monitor your return trends, stay on top of potentially fraudulent activity, and spot quality issues with your products.
How to prevent buyer fraud
Buyer fraud can impact both your seller reputation and your bottom line. That said, there are a variety of tactics you can utilize to protect your business from scammers.
Here are some of the most effective strategies:
Use the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) Program
A significant number of Amazon scams involve buyers claiming their item never arrived, was stolen during the shipping process, or was signed for by someone unknown to the buyer.
This is especially prevalent for sellers who use the Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) program because they are solely responsible for shipping, unlike the FBA program, where Amazon is responsible for shipping your orders to the customer.
Amazon has a dedicated fraud team and sophisticated technology to spot and stop buyer fraud. Using Amazon’s FBA program places the responsibility and hassle of managing fraudulent customer returns entirely in Amazon’s hands.
Track your shipments
If your company chooses to fulfill its orders, always use the shipping option that allows you to track and trace your shipments. This is one of the easiest ways to prevent scams, because when
buyers claim they did not receive their package, the shipper can verify it was delivered and signed.
Familiarize yourself with Amazon’s policies
As a company, Amazon is extremely customer-centric and often favors buyers in disputes. Fortunately, there are many policies in place to protect your company. This is why it is critical to make sure you fully understand Amazon’s return policy.
For example, sellers are not obligated to provide a refund to a customer until the product has been returned. Yet many sellers will immediately issue a refund to avoid the hassle of handling a dispute before the product has actually been returned.
This is a seller strategy that is ripe for buyer fraud. Knowing the finer details of Amazon’s return policy, and following them to the letter, will help you avoid scams.
Defend yourself against a buyer’s claim
Sometimes, when scammers do not obtain the results they desire, they will file a claim with Amazon. Next, Amazon will contact your business and let you know that you have seven days to provide information supporting your defense against the buyer’s claim.
Make certain to provide as much evidence as you can, and be detailed as possible in your response. If you have utilized shipper tracking numbers, tamper-proof stickers, or have warehouse video of the item being shipped, be sure to provide this to Amazon to bolster your case.
When in doubt, report to Amazon
If you suspect fraudulent activity, you’ll want to reach out to Amazon right away. Amazon has a number of loss protection safeguards to protect your business. Many buyer-seller disputes come down to what you can prove, so you’ll want to be sure to protect yourself and your business at every opportunity.
While buyer scams do occur on Amazon, many are easy to prevent by staying on top of your reporting, Tracking your shipments, utilizing tamper-proof stickers, and familiarizing yourself with Amazon’s return policy.