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Amazon Marketplace Awash With Scams

As Amazon revs up potential Marketplace participants it’s been revealed that some of their merchants are cheating and that the site is awash with scams claims Bloomberg.

Earlier we revealed how Amazon are refusing to buy and ship questionable 110v Vs 240 Volt electrical appliances to Australia because they might explode but their Marketplace merchants are prepared to ship questionable devices into the Australian market.

Maintaining order on Amazon who are still set to launch in Australia, where 2 million merchants compete to win billions of dollars in business from 300 million shoppers it appears has become a running problem for the online giant and it only heats up during the busy holiday season.

Mike Molson Hart the President of VIAHART a New York City Marketplace merchant told Bloomberg the Amazon’s Marketplace, “It’s still the Wild West, there are tons of scams and they constantly evolve to keep gaming the system.”

Hart, who sells toys on the Amazon marketplace, realized earlier this month something was amiss. His company’s popular disc-shaped plastic building set, called Brain Flakes, had dropped precipitously in the ranks of Amazon’s best-selling toys as the critical gift-giving season approached.

He visited the product page on Amazon.com and suspected he was the victim of “sniping,” when one merchant sabotages another by hiring people to leave critical reviews of their goods and then voting those reviews as being helpful, making them the most prominent feedback seen by shoppers.

Freelancers in China and Bangladesh willing to do this for $10 an hour are easily found online. Even though the toy has a 4.8 star rating out of 5 based on more than 1,100 reviews, shoppers first see a string of critical one-star reviews and many may get scared away.

Some merchants engage in black-hat tactics with precise timing, trying to maximize their own sales when shoppers spend most before their tricks are detected. When Amazon clamps down on one exploit, they regroup and find a new one.

“This stuff has been going on nonstop since we started selling on Amazon,” said Hart.

According to Bloomberg Amazon said it “does not tolerate fraud or abuse of our policies.” In a statement, the company said it’s “constantly working to improve the ways we detect and prevent abuse from impacting customers.” Amazon said it suspends or blocks “bad actors” suspected of illegal behavior or infringing on others’ intellectual property rights.

The trickery escalates during the holidays when the stakes are highest.

Manipulation of reviews has been increasing the past several months and Amazon doesn’t appear to be fixing the problem, said Chris McCabe, a former employee who now runs a consulting business to help Amazon merchants. The gamesmanship on the site is so bad he has created new teams to help merchants fight review manipulation, he said.

“It’s a massive problem and until it’s more publicly known I don’t think they’ll do anything about it,” McCabe said. “There’s blood in the water and everyone knows they can get away with it, so it’s a free-for-all.”

Two years ago, Amazon filed lawsuits against more than 1,000 people it alleged were writing fake product reviews for money through the online marketplace for small tasks Fiverr.com, saying they were diminishing consumers’ trust. Last year, Amazon filed lawsuits against merchants it accused of selling counterfeit products, acknowledging it couldn’t police the problem on its own.

The Seattle-based company also clamped down on “incentivized” reviews written by people who received free or discounted products. Amazon initially saw such posts as a way to help new products get discovered and required those receiving free and discounted items to make disclosures. It has since realized the practice of offering freebies for reviews was being abused.