Underhanded Tactics Evil Amazon Sellers Are Using To Cheat And Get Ahead

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Amazon is a cutthroat marketplace which is why most sellers rarely give specifics about their products or talk about their winners in public.

In fact Amazon is so competitive that if you have a product that is even mildly successful, you will eventually get piggybacked by multiple sellers if you haven’t been already.

Underhanded Tactics That Evil Amazon Sellers Are Using To Cheat And Get Ahead

Anyway up until this point, I thought that getting piggybacked or hijacked on Amazon was the worst that could happen. But a recent conversation with a fellow Amazon seller opened up my eyes to other insidious activities that are happening on the platform right now.

The tactics that I’m going to talk about in today’s post are evil and highly unethical. And the fact that people are using these strategies really makes me angry.

But you should be aware of what’s happening out there in case it happens to you.

Evil Strategy #1: Tying Up All Of Your Inventory


It’s quite possible that I was a victim of this first strategy during the holiday season last year. In November, a customer purchased a large quantity of product which put us out of stock of this one particular SKU.

While my wife and I were thrilled at receiving such a large order, we knew that we would not be able to replenish the stock in time to meet the rest of the holiday demand.

No big deal, we thought to ourselves. It was only 1 product. But guess what happened? A seller who was piggybacking our product got the buy box because we were out of stock.

And then about 4 weeks later, a substantial portion of that large order was returned.

So not only did we miss out on a lot of holiday sales for that particular product because we were out of stock, but we didn’t make much money either because the large order was returned!

Looking back, we can’t really prove whether the buyer was in cahoots with the piggybacker to purposely put us out of stock, but I learned from my friend that there are groups out there who do this on purpose!!!

Here’s the strategy that the evil sellers are employing.

First off, they buy all of your inventory to steal the buy box. Then they sell your exact same goods on the same Amazon listing and on EBay.

Finally at the end of the season, they return the excess inventory!

I wish that there was a good way to combat this but there’s nothing you can really do except to be wary of any large order that you receive and to contest any large return complaints.

Evil Strategy #2: Changing Your Product Photos

If you are an Amazon seller who has not registered your brand, you need to be very careful about other sellers changing out the photos on your listing.

Here’s what sucks. When someone changes the photo on your listing, you don’t even get a notification! So the only way to know that this has happened is to constantly watch your listings like a hawk.

If your picture gets switched out from under you, there are many bad things that could happen. For example in the worst case, an evil seller could change your photo to a completely different product or bundle.

So when a customer buys from you and notices that the product doesn’t match the photo, they could complain and ding your account.

The best way to combat this is to register your brand. A lot of new sellers skip this step in the beginning because it requires a website but if your product ends up taking off, you need to take care of this ASAP.

For us, we’ve had cases where our primary photo was swapped despite being brand registered. So today, we consistently monitor our account health for anomalies.

For example, if we see a lot of returns marked as “does not match description” or “not as advertised”, we take a closer look to make sure that there’s no foul play involved.

Evil Strategy #3: Leaving False Claims On Your Products

Amazon A to Z
Did you know that there are people out there who will leave negative feedback on a product for a fee? While Amazon has tried to crack down on this practice, there are still groups out there doing this.

Basically, a competitor will have someone buy your product and then leave you negative feedback claiming that your product is counterfeit or fake.

Amazon’s bots will then take notice of these “trigger keywords” and immediately ding your account.

Here’s the thing. Most real buyers don’t use language like “bootleg” or “counterfeit”. In our experience, genuine buyers who want their money back for a return just express their anger or disappointment at the product for a specific reason.

If you find that someone is using words like “counterfeit, bootleg, or fake”, then chances are the feedback is malicious.

The best way to combat this practice is to pay attention and address the negative feedback immediately. Be super courteous and show that you are willing to do ANYTHING to make the problem right.

Amazon will keep a record of all of the conversations and take note of your responsiveness and great customer service should you ever get suspended.

In other cases, Amazon may force you to show documentation that your products are indeed “genuine”. Sometimes this involves suspending your product until the proof is provided. Either way, it sucks because you are guilty until proven innocent.

Hopefully, Amazon is hard at work creating algorithms to detect fake negative feedback because getting targeted by malicious claims really sucks.

Evil Strategy #4: Orchestrating Multiple Returns And Simultaneous Negative Feedback

Amazon performance
As an Amazon seller, you are required to maintain certain metrics on your account to stay in good standing in the eyes of Amazon.

If you have too many returns or too many bad feedbacks on your products in a short period of time, you risk getting your product or account suspended.

For example, here are some of Amazon’s guidelines for a high quality account.

  • Order defect rate of less than 1%
  • Negative feedback less than 6%
  • Customer response time less than 24 hours
  • A return rate of less than 3%

What evil Amazon sellers will sometimes do is have people make multiple purchases of your products and then coordinate their returns and negative feedback all at once.

Multiple returns and multiple negative feedbacks in a short time frame can be disastrous to your account standing.

Unfortunately, there’s not much that you can do about this practice other than to respond to each complaint as soon as possible. And hopefully, your products already have enough positive feedback to counteract the bad.

In the event that you suspect foul play, report it to Amazon. The good thing is that you have 90 days to contest bad feedback and if it is removed during that time then nothing bad happens to your account.


I continue to be amazed at the lengths that some sellers will take to stay competitive. All of the tactics mentioned in this post are reprehensible and make me want to only sell on my own online store and avoid Amazon altogether.

In fact, Amazon has caused my wife and I more stress in the past few years than in all of the years selling on our own branded website:)

In my opinion, the best way to stay sane is to keep clear from ultra competitive categories like electronics where evil Amazon sellers are at their worst. Also, you should take measures to own your own brand immediately.

Start your own website as soon as you can and build your own audience!

photo credit: a little old-fashioned banking

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25 thoughts on “Underhanded Tactics Evil Amazon Sellers Are Using To Cheat And Get Ahead”

  1. My wife and I used to sell on amazon. It was awesome making money on that platform but shortly after, it became a bloodbath price war with other sellers trying to sell similar products. Have your own online store is the way to go for selling!

    1. It really annoys me to read this: people who have worked HARD to earn their income and now are having so many problems. It’s a pity to put time, money and effort to become a great seller on Amazon only to be ‘played’ like this by competition.

      The reason why I always thought it’s better to create your own separate store and use Amazon to do some selling and establish your brand as much as possible. When things will start to go south on Amazon (which seems to happen for so many people), at least you have your own store with FULL control.

      Really sad to hear about what you’ve been going through, keeping fingers crossed for you in the future.

    2. I can imagine how hard it is to compete when don’t have a proprietary product and anyone can enter the market so easily!

  2. That’s incredible, I had no idea how crazy Amazon was. For point number 2 especially, how does someone change your own product photos?

    I would have thought that you’re the only one who could do that but you’re saying anyone can change the photos in your listing? That sounds like a pretty huge problem.

    1. You need to register your brand. But strangely enough, we’ve still seen a few isolated cases where our listing/image was altered despite owning the brand.

      1. So if you just create a listing on Amazon but don’t register your brand anyone can just go in and edit your listing?

        Why would this feature exist and how is it not horribly abused?

      2. mike says:

        U-can easiily drop a grand on trademark registration and it takes YEARS to get. Amazon FORCES that upon you – otherwise, no brand protection from Amazon.

        So, blow a grand if you want and watch the piggybackers eat you alive for the next 2-years while you have NO TRADEMARK and no BRAND REGISTRY with Amazon.

    2. I just fixed a listing after reading this. The pictures were all turned sideways… I have two buy box competitors for the listing: one of them can’t be making more than a dollar per sale and may even be taking a loss, so I’m pretty sure that’s who did it.

  3. I never knew this stuff about Amazon, I’ll certainly be more vigilant in future. We use Amazon as part of our sales strategy but the fees are brutal. We try to work as hard as we can to get people to our site.

  4. Karen Nelson says:

    I have the same question…how can someone change a photo on MY listing? How would they get in??

    1. If you don’t have your brand registered, then other sellers can change/alter your listing.

  5. Michelle says:

    For Point #1, how does someone buy all your inventory at cost, then turn around an sell it on Amazon and make any money? Do they increase the price?

    1. They are not buying at cost. They are buying your inventory at full price so they become the only sellers. Then they get all of the real sales and make a return at the end of the season.

  6. Lisa says:

    No one has perfect control over Amazon images, but if it is a larger volume seller, that seller’s images will probably trump yours — even if you were the first one to sell the product on Amazon. There is another seller who has put her own company’s name on about 1/3 of my products (she sells them yes, but you are never supposed to have anything but the product in the photo). I brought this to Amazon’s attention and they said they would fix it (I am unable to override her photos that is something their system does) and they have not done it.

    One thing I haven’t noticed on your list is piggybacking — where the secondary seller is not actually selling the product but a cheaper version of it. There is a very popular jewelry making bead mix that is effectively proprietary to one seller, unique name and all — but there are a dozen other sellers claiming to sell that unique product as well. Customers often get another seller’s “version” and claim it is junk, but the seller’s original product gets the blame and bad reviews.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for your comment. This post was written in respect to selling your own branded products as opposed to selling someone else’s. But yes! I agree with you on all accounts. Piggybacking with fake products is definitely a problem too which I covered in a previous post. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  7. Yes Steve, it’s a bloodbath out there. This has really kicked up over the last 6 months. And it’s not just the sellers. We also have the buyers contributing to this by filing false claims of damage, didn’t receive or a host of other excuses to get free return shipping or a full refund ( free stuff). I even had a customer take a bolt cutter to cut through a brass chain shoulder strap on a handbag & say it came that way ! Note: amazon is banning BUYER accounts for this. Even Fed Ex & UPS are complaining about all of the Amazon claims.

    Yes, it’s getting crazy out there . I dont see how Amazon can sustain this for long. Better reason to start your OWN website….

  8. I am pretty familiar with most of these tactics.

    Especially changing the photo one as I am the one who did it to another seller.
    This particular seller was hijacking my listings and using my high quality photos and brand name. After warning him multiple times, I changed the pictures on multiple listings and very soon he left my listings alone.

  9. Sandy says:

    Thanks for this article. I usually don’t comment, but this article brought me out. I heard some of the same thing about buyers on Ebay.

    I was told that if you’re a newbie, someone could make a negative comment and then you could be dismissed. Who would want to buy from a newbie whose first comment is bad. I also heard that people will buy your item and even if in good shape, give a bad review and that starts a dispute process.

    Quite frankly, I know there are risks to starting business. But I don’t want those type of calculated risks that can undermine my personal credibility. Anyone should know, even if you use an avatar, your personal information isn’t really private on most websites. Read the Terms of Service and Privacy and you’ll see that under some circumstances, with proper litigation, one could push to learn your real identity.

    I really want a business where I don’t need to be a victim of scamming just because I did things “right.”

    So thank you for this. I will take this information under advisement in making future business decisions. And besides, I buy things from Amazon and Ebay myself and have never been cheated and left only positive and constructive comments. So why would I want to start a business on such platforms and end up with someone maligning my character.

    Do you have any posts about how to keep your website secure? I’ve met so many people who have had their websites hijacked. That has been a major obstacle to me in using sites like word press. What are the secrets to keeping your account safe, at least 90 % of the time. ( Is that a reasonable expectation?)

  10. Failed Marketer says:


    “All of the tactics mentioned in this post are reprehensible and make me want to only sell on my own online store and avoid Amazon altogether.

    In fact, Amazon has caused my wife and I more stress in the past few years than in all of the years selling on our own branded website:)”

    So what is it in the end? Do you recommend selling on Amazon or not? Your articles are full of contradictory advice on this regard and it´s time for your readers to get THE official stance. After all, you just gave 2 webinars to your email subscribers on the myriad of benefits of selling private label products on Amazon.

    1. To sell or not to sell on Amazon is not black and white. There are pros and cons and I’m just trying to paint an accurate picture for my readers.

      Bottom line. The money is good so you should be selling on there. However, it can also be a pain in the butt…

  11. Many thanks for this extremely honest post. We have our own website here in Australia & even though Amazon.com.au is not here yet we have had thoughts of becoming an Amazon seller. I am extremely grateful for this information – there is nothing like being informed. Perhaps we may just stick with our own little website for the time being :)
    Ps always read your posts as your honesty is refreshing

  12. Ryry says:

    2. – absolutely no clue how this happens but has happened to me a few times where my main image was completely removed. How did this happen? I really don’t know

    Another one – a MASSIVE upvote / downvote abuse where they upvoted all my negative reviews and downvoted all my positive reviews which leaves a list of featured negative reviews when you load up the page. This all happened within the span of 1 week.

  13. I have had several folks try these sorts of things with me on eBay as well. The most famous one that’s been done to me several times is #1. They will buy an item, let theirs then win, then cancel the bid they put on my product. I be sure to report these kinds of users every chance I get!!! So frustrating!

  14. Shaphan Hawks says:

    I’d like to add another predatory tactic to the list that I have been victim of. A seller of a competing product on a different ANSI will leave an over glowing false review on your product page exaggerating benefits in order to set you up with disappointed buyers. I had a competitor state in a product review that I was so nice because I would provide a *free* extra unit for a family member if the buyer simply asked. It took me a whole to figure out why I was inundated with requests for a second free item and follow up negative feedback when I did not deliver the second free item. Amazon refused to remove the false review so I was forced to stop selling that specific ANSI.

  15. annie says:

    UGH the worst I get so far is the stupid likelyhood of bots that notice your price is like $1 lower, and lower THEIR price $20 lower! wha?! does that mean the item isn’t even “worth” the price after all, and most of all, normal people don’t waste time sitting around to watch for this….we have lives to live and other things to do with it. Even if I sold online as my main gig, I’d prob be spending most of that time looking for new product or enjoying self employment benefits…like going outside for a walk whenever I want.

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