Amazon is usually very reliable, and its buyer-friendly refund policy makes shopping on the platform generally risk-free. Amazon’s large network of third-party sellers has helped them to become the world’s largest online retailer. However, having so many sellers in their network with large amounts of new sellers joining the platform every day brings its own complications. It has become nearly impossible for Amazon to police every third-party seller. While Amazon does make an effort to regulate the marketplace and ban illegitimate sellers, learning how to avoid scam sellers on Amazon is important. It is inevitable that some unauthorized sellers do slip through the cracks, oftentimes selling illegitimate products to unsuspecting consumers.
Many Amazon consumers have had an experience like this- you search on Amazon for one of your favorite products and click on one of the first listings that pop up in the SERP. The pricing and images look legit, so you make the purchase. When the product shows up at your door, something’s not right. The packaging might be damaged, the product is expired, or it seems to be a slightly different color or consistency than you remember. Chances are, you’ve purchased a product that was being sold by an unauthorized reseller.
So how can you prevent this from happening? We’re showing you the green and red flags to look for before purchasing from a seller on Amazon…
Purchase Directly From the Brand or Manufacturer
Make sure you check who the seller of the listed product is. This is as simple as looking at the “sold by” section in your buy box.
Whenever possible, buy directly from the brand or manufacturer of the product, rather than a random re-seller of the product. If you are purchasing a product from a reseller, you could potentially be purchasing counterfeit, expired, or damaged products.
This is not to say that you should never purchase from re-sellers. However you do run more risk, so more investigation into their seller history and reviews is recommended.
Look For Amazon’s Stamp of Approval
If the seller you are looking to purchase from offers Prime FBA Shipping, this is a sign that they are an established market partner for Amazon, and have been vetted. Additionally, if a listing has the Amazon’s Choice badge, they are an Amazon-approved seller.
Look at Seller Feedback
Seller feedback is not the same as product reviews. Instead, they are reviews related to the performance of the seller, not the product. The seller feedback section can be very revealing – if there are multiple reviews claiming the product never arrived, looked counterfeit, etc. this is a sign to avoid purchasing from the seller.
To locate the seller feedback section- first, open the listing for the item you want to purchase. In the upper right-hand side of the screen, locate the sentence that reads Ships from and sold by [Seller Name]. Click on the seller’s name. Locate the box on the right-hand side of the screen then see the percentage of positive and negative feedback the seller has received over the last three, six, and 12 months. Scroll down to find the Feedback tab, and click the tab to read comments other buyers have left about the seller’s service.
Note: Just like most items on the Internet, seller reviews on Amazon are easy to fake. illegitimate sellers will try to cheat the system by purchasing dozens of items from themselves and then leaving fake reviews from multiple accounts on their seller profiles. Beware of suspicious-looking reviews and watch out for large groups of 5-star reviews left during the same time period.
Red Flags to Look For
- Bad or fake product reviews: This may seem obvious, but one of the first places to start your investigation into seller legitimacy is the product reviews. Too few reviews might indicate a recently launched product or a seller who hasn’t had time to build a reputation on Amazon. Multiple bad reviews are a surefire sign to stay away. Look for reviews marked as a “verified purchase” or reviews from “vine voices” to ensure it is an authentic review. Make sure to also watch out for fake reviews. If almost all the positive reviews for an item are within a few days or weeks of each other, that’s a red flag. This often indicates that fake reviews were purchased and published in bulk. To check for this, sort through user reviews by date, and look for a large chunk of positive reviews published around the same time.
- Suspiciously low prices: If the price of an item seems too good to be true, it might be. If something is listed for sale by a third-party seller for half off the regular price or more, be extra careful. If it’s combined with other red it’s not worth the risk of purchasing.
- Recent create date: Amazon makes a strong effort to police its marketplace. If a seller gets a flood of bad reports, Amazon will quickly remove a seller’s privileges. To avoid getting caught, fake sellers will sometimes try to game the system by running multiple accounts at a time. These scammers don’t keep a single account active for too long, so they can avoid being flagged and removed. If you notice a seller has a “just launched” badge on item listings and on their seller profile, or a very recent create date- this is a sign to investigate further. Just because a seller is new doesn’t mean it’s illegitimate…but combined with other red flags is a sign to avoid purchasing.
- Suspicious seller name: check to see if the seller’s name is the actual brand name. Even if the name is different, they still could be a legitimate authorized reseller. However, if the seller’s name is misspelled, has odd syntax or punctuation, or has other grammatical errors, this is a sign they are trying to avoid being caught by Amazon’s algorithm. A nonsense brand name is a typical feature of large Chinese trading companies. Using an anonymous name benefits scam sellers and counterfeit sellers – honest sellers have no motive to not be transparent.
- Check the image quality: A legitimate seller will have high-quality images of the product they are selling. Hover your mouse over the picture and try to zoom. High-resolution photos will allow you to zoom in closely to examine the product details. Amazon sellers that use a single, low-quality image on their listing is a red flag.
- Beware of longer than usual shipping times. Oftentimes third-party sellers will list shipping times that range from 3 to 4 weeks. A shipping time this long may indicate that the seller is shipping the product directly from a warehouse in China. This is a sign to be wary of poor-quality products or counterfeits.
- Other warning signs: If the seller tries to direct you offsite to purchase an item, or if the seller wants you to contact them before purchase, these are clear warning signs to avoid the seller.
In conclusion, when purchasing products from Amazon always take the time to look deeper into the seller. Make sure to check for red flags to avoid purchasing from an illegitimate seller.
More From Envision Horizons
For more e-commerce tips and industry insight, sign up for our monthly newsletter at the bottom of the page where we provide a recap of our content, update you on industry trends, and link the most important Amazon news articles we read throughout the month.