Beware Amazon Replacement Goods Scam

Dennis Faas's picture

Amazon has been hit by a simple but sneaky scam involving bogus "lost item" claims that could lead to difficulty for legitimate Amazon shoppers.

The problem was highlighted by web development blogger Chris Cardinal, who received several mysterious emails from Amazon about an order for an expensive camera. (Source:

At first Cardinal assumed the messages were part of a phishing scam, which involves tricking people into providing personal information, including log-in data and passwords. However, upon logging into his Amazon account he discovered the emails were genuine.

After intensive digging, Cardinal found a transcript of a chat between himself and an Amazon customer service representative. The problem: Cardinal had not participated in that chat.

A person posing as Cardinal had supplied his correct mailing address and had then asked for copies of Cardinal's recent Amazon order numbers.

Amazon Order Number Key to Scam

Once a scammer has a valid order number, it's easy to bypass Amazon's security systems, quote the order number in a chat with an online Amazon representative, claim the item has gone missing, and ask for a replacement.

Amazon obligingly allows a customer to have the replacement item shipped to a new address. It appears numerous scammers are giving the address of shipping companies that redirect the replacement packages overseas. (Source:

Legitimate Customers Could Get Black Mark

The legitimate customer doesn't lose money to this scam. However, the replacement order is listed on their account.

Some experts suggest that, should they ever make a legitimate "lost item" claim in the future, Amazon will be more likely to suspect these legitimate customers of a scam.

The scam works because Amazon lets customers use its online customer service without secure identification, and because staff can often be talked into bending the company's anti-fraud rules.

For example, by claiming to be away from home, a scammer can sometimes bypass the rule that replacement items must be shipped to the same address as the original.

Scammers can also engage in multiple online chats with support staff, and elicit different information each time, because staff don't compare chats to spot such suspicious behavior.

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