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Friday, April 28, 2006

It was a matter of time. I have finally been the victim of an internet scam. What suprised me about the whole thing is Amazon's reaction....

Basically, I received an email from Amazon stating that an item I had posted for sale has not sold. This upset me since I had already shipped the item. I wrote Amazon to complain.

Amazon Responded:

Dear Mr. Patke

Thank you for contacting Amazon.co.uk Marketplace.

Please note that Nigeria is not a country which is Payments enabled
and sellers are not permitted to sell electronic items overseas.

As advised on the Seller Announcements Board, we have had a number of
contacts from sellers stating they have received fraudulent 'Sold,
dispatch now.' emails recently.

Therefore if you are using the 'Sold, dispatch now.' emails as your
primary means of order notification, we strongly suggest you check
the validity of the order in the 'Manage Your Orders' section of your
Seller Account before dispatching the item.

You can always determine the validity of your transactions online
from your Seller Account. There are two easy ways to access your
Seller Account:

- Click the Your Account link at the top of our home page, and then
click on "Your Seller Account" in the box on the right.

- Go directly to this URL: http://www.amazon.co.uk/selleraccount

Next, under the heading Manage Your Orders, click to "Search your
Marketplace orders". On the search page itself, select the search
option you prefer and then click the "Search" button. You can click
on the order ID for your sale to view order details, including the
delivery address. You can also print a packing slip from the Order
Details page by clicking on the "print shipping label and packing
list" link.

Unfortunately, no such transaction has been made through this account
and therefore the email you received could not have come from us.

If you believe your contract has been breached and you have already
dispatched your item, please contact your local authorities or visit
any of the following organisations:

National Criminal Intelligence Service

The Citizens Advice Bureau

Office of Fair Trading

UK Serious Fraud Office

Consumer Links Library

For more information, please visit the Resolving Differences section
of our online Help Desk:


We hope that you are able to resolve this situation to your

Thank you for your interest in Amazon.co.uk Marketplace.

Warmest Regards,

[Amazon guy number 1]

After checking into the "ship it" email, I found out that I had indeed been scammed.

I replied to amazon:


Well, apparently, I have been scammed.

...but this is totally unacceptable. How did this guy get my email address?

When I post information on Amazon, Amazon accepts a responsibility to protect my personal information - like my email address. If amazon had done this, then this guy would not have been able to con me.

Further - where are you getting "Nigeria" from? This guy lives in the UK.

Marc Ribeiro
63 Gwelmeneth
TR13 8JJ
United Kingdom

So basically, just because I did not fully check the address on the "automated" email I am out of luck? Amazon charges a lot of money for this service, and I find it very difficult to believe that it is a no risk venture. It is absolutely Amazon's responsibility to protect the sell and buyer. For example: Why not force a login to get the buyer's address before sending the product? In effect, I paid to use your software which was faulty and has now caused damages.

Do you have records of this guy as an Amazon customer?


Dear [INSERT SELLER NAME], (Toby: amazon's words - not mine)

Thank you for contacting us at Amazon.co.uk Marketplace.

Further to your enquiry, we can confirm that the police are
investigating a suspect for sending bogus e-mails authorising goods
to be sent to an address in Helston, Cornwall. For security reasons
we are unable to discuss any investigations we may make, but we are
actively assisting the police with their investigations into this

If you believe that you have fallen victim to the practices of this
individual, we would ask that you contact our Merchant
Investigations team, with the following information;

*Any correspondence received from the aforementioned individual
*The value of any loss of item,
*The date the correspondence was received

In addition, we would ask that you contact us via email to confirm
that you give authorisation for us to pass on any applicable
personal details pertaining to this issue to the police, which could
form part of their investigation.

We would ask that this information is sent via email to
[some special amazon address]

If you have not yet done so, you should report this incident to your
local Police Station. An Officer should obtain a witness statement
from you and you should provide him with a copy of the false email
with the full Internet Headers visible. The Officer can then contact
the Case Officer on [some email address] at devonandcornwall.pnn.police.uk.

Amazon do not give out your email address initially. This individual
sent you a message through the online form requesting information
about a product on 2nd march, "Could you confirm this is in like new
condition before I place an order
please?". By replying to this query they got your email address.

Please be aware that Amazon.co.uk continually review our processes
to maximise the security of all our participants. We are aware of
the existence of this type of issue on the internet, and therefore
endeavour to ensure that sellers are forewarned about how to
validate their orders.

We thank you for your cooperation and participation on Amazon.co.uk

Warmest Regards,

[Amazon guy number 2]



Are you guys looking for software developers, because this is slightly unbelievable.

...I am trying not to be too upset. I do appreciate the quick reply and will certainly participate in the investigation in anyway I can.

>about a product on 2nd march, "Could you confirm this is in like new
>condition before I place an order
>please?". By replying to this query they got your email address.

But clearly there is a flaw in the process? Amazon should protect it's business partners. ...and when they fail to do so, they should not come back with a "sorry mate - looks like a YOU problem."

I see two major flaws with this process. 1) My email address can be so easilly extracted (How do I differentiate between a ligitimate seller and a bogus seller?) 2) The fact that your "ship it" emails are so easilly duplicated. As mentioned, this type of con can be easilly prevented by forcing a login to get the customers shipping address.

>the existence of this type of issue on the internet, and therefore
>endeavour to ensure that sellers are forewarned about how to
>validate their orders.

Well...either I am an idiot, or Amazon is not doing a very good job of forewarning. I have been registered as a seller for months now. At no point during that time have I received an email from amazon stating, "We have received complaints about a 'bogus' buyer in Helston Cornwall". Nor have I seen any thing on the web or anywhere else about this scam. Also, I have not seen anything on your website describing this problem. If a link does exist, perhaps it should be more prominent?

Clearly, Amazon is not doing enough to prevent this problem. Wouldn't it be wise at this point to send an email to all of your registered sellers to explain this problem?

Amazon needs to take responsibility for the damages caused by its software.

I appreciate you help,


...and btw...I am so going to blog all of this.


Dear Toby

We request you please write to us at sentinel@amazon.co.uk with all
the information about this transaction and your suggestions which
would help us in the investigation process further.

We recognize that a customer's decision to shop on our web site with
a third-party seller may in some cases be determined only after
contacting that seller with questions about a product. Amazon.com
takes the privacy of all its customers--buyers and sellers alike--
very seriously. We do not sell customer information.

Buyers may contact a seller when coming from the Marketplace offer
listing page by clicking on the seller nickname, then on "Contact
this seller." Using this method, however, a buyer must be signed
into their Amazon.co.uk account, and the buyer must use our web-
based e-mail form to contact the seller. The seller’s e-mail
address is not displayed.

E-mail addresses are also provided to transaction partners after a
transaction takes place in order to facilitate communication. This
means, for example, that if you make an Amazon Marketplace sale, we
will provide your e-mail address to the buyer, and the buyer's to

We apologise for any inconvenience this situation has caused and we
wish you luck with your future transactions at Amazon.co.uk.

Warmest Regards,
[guy number 3]


Can you please answer two questions for me:

1) Will amazon take responsibility when customers lose money as a direct result of their software or processes being hacked? You have my credit card data in your database - should I be worried?

2) Does amazon attempt to protect customers against fraud? If so, why will Amazon not send an email to all registered sellers to warn them of a potential threat from this buyer?

Thanks in advance,



No response.

So it looks like I am out £20. No big deal - but I am really suprised at Amazon's "Not our problem" attitude. Heck, my emails were not even answered by the same person! It really makes me think twice about doing business with Amazon. Eventually they will have competition. I am certainly going to give a lot more thought to Google Base in the future. I am even tempted to starting writing software to make Google Base better...and I don't like Google.

So, in conclusion: People should really think twice about selling things on Amazon. Not because of a security issue (which happens), but because they are charging 20% of the selling price and not providing much service or security in return. Amazon is taking all the profits and taking none of the risk.

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