If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Even on Amazon.

In today’s electronic age, where a scammer in Nigeria can take advantage of a little old lady in Broken Clavicle, Wyoming, it’s important to be very careful checking out your sources before you send money to anyone for an online purchase.

I’m in the market for a riding mower, and I was checking out what Amazon had to offer.

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I found this one that looked interesting, and noticed that there was a used one for sale at a ridiculously low price: $499.00, with free shipping.

Before I did anything, I checked around to see if it’s possible for scammers to set themselves up as sellers on Amazon… Most of the Articles indicated that Amazon has a rather strict vetting process and money back protection.

Edit: After doing some more research, it turns out that Amazon shuts down fake or scam accounts, but only after being notified – and that this is a huge problem, with phony sellers popping up by the hundreds each day.

I did notice that the seller’s storefront indicated that it had just been created, which is always a red flag, but I thought it would be worth at least sending an email to the seller to ask a question. The listing said, “Contact me before you buy!” and provided a contact email, JHONSONY86@gmail.com, so I sent off this inquiry:

How can you sell this item for so little with free shipping? What condition is it in? I know it says “like new” but still…

Here is the response I received:

Hello there,
The product is BRAND NEW, never used, ( US model, not grey market or refurbished).
The product is Sealed in its original box and comes with full Warranty, receipt, all manufacturer supplied accessories.
The total price is $499.00 including all shipping taxes, if you are in US, and for international shipping you have to pay extra 29,99 $ (outside US) .
If you want to buy, send me your phone number, full name, shipping address and I will contact Amazon asap to process your order. Dispatch is by normal UPS Services, which takes 1-3 days depending on where in the US you are.
My return policy is full money back in 30 days.
For more information don’t hesitate to contact me!
Best Regards,
Anthony Johnson

Well, there are so many red flags here that I can’t count them. The way the name was misspelled in the email address, the fact that the email address was in all caps, the bad grammar, and the absolutely ridiculous information in the response – selling a brand new riding mower for 1/4 of the list price, offering free shipping by UPS for a large item like a riding mower, indicating that international shipping would only cost $30 more, all combine to scream “run away fast, this is a scam!”

I wrote the seller back and included a few choice Nigerian insults for him; it was interesting to note today that the offer had been removed from Amazon.

Be ever so careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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Amazon and the Dark Side of DRM

DRM: Digital Restrictions Management. Some people use the word “Rights,” but as the following incident shows, it has nothing at all to do with consumers’ rights, as it appears they have none.

Martin Bekkelund, a Norwegian IT director, planner and commentator, shares the story of Linn, whose Amazon account was blocked and her Kindle wiped with no warning and no explanation. When she inquired what was going on, she generated the following mail exchange:

Dear Linn [last name],

My name is Michael Murphy and I represent Executive Customer Relations within Amazon.co.uk. One of our mandates is to address the most acute account and order problems, and in this capacity your account and orders have been brought to my attention.

We have found your account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies. As such, your Amazon.co.uk account has been closed and any open orders have been cancelled.

Per our Conditions of Use which state in part: Amazon.co.uk and its affiliates reserve the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at their sole discretion.

Please know that any attempt to open a new account will meet with the same action.

You may direct any questions to me at resolution-uk@amazon.co.uk.

Thank you for your attention to this email.

Regards

Michael Murphy
Executive Customer Relations
Amazon.co.uk

Linn responded thusly:

Dear Michael Murphy,

I am very surprised to read your email. What do you mean by “directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies”. I can only remember ever having this one account, and I use it quite regularly to buy books for my Kindle, as you probably can see by my purchase history. How can there suddenly be a problem now? I use amazon.com and not co.uk for my Kindle, does that make any difference?

I sincerely hope you can help me solve this matter, because I would very much like to have my account reopened. And please let me know if there is any action I can take to help.

Best regards,
Linn [last name]
[Linn’s phone number]

All Linn got back was more corporate weasel-words:

Dear Linn [last name],

As previously advised, your Amazon.co.uk account has been closed, as it has come to our attention that this account is related to a previously blocked account. While we are unable to provide detailed information on how we link related accounts, please know that we have reviewed your account on the basis of the information provided and regret to inform you that it will not be reopened.

Please understand that the closure of an account is a permanent action. Any subsequent accounts that are opened will be closed as well. Thank you for your understanding with our decision.

I appreciate this is not the outcome you hoped for and apologise for any disappointment this may cause.

Regards,

Michael Murphy
Executive Customer Relations
Amazon.co.uk

Hoping for some clearer guidelines as to why her account was closed, Linn responded:

Dear Michael Murphy,

Is it correct that you cannot give me any information about
1. How my account is linked to the blocked account
2. The name/id of the related blocked account
3. What policy that was violated

I have no knowledge about any other account that could be related to mine, and cannot understand how I could have violated your policies in any way.

Br,
Linn [last name]

Murphy spouts the company line:

Dear Linn [last name],

We regret that we have not been able to address your concerns to your satisfaction. Unfortunately, we will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters.

We wish you luck in locating a retailer better able to meet your needs and will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters.

Thank you for your attention to this email.

Regards

Michael Murphy
Executive Customer Relations
Amazon.co.uk

So in the end, Amazon’s reasoned answer to a consumer who has bought their products and paid for them, and who now has had those products forcibly repossessed and her Kindle effectively bricked, is:

because, that’s why.

Nice, Amazon. I’ve had an account with your company for a long time. I’m thinking about whether I need to “locate another retailer better able to meet my needs,” and recommending to all my friends that they do the same. In the best-case scenario, Amazon will recognize that they cannot afford the firestorm of negative publicity they have unleashed with this  example of corporate douchebaggery and will either rectify the situation or give Linn a compelling reason for why her account was terminated.

Oh, and by the way – take note of that email address (resolution-uk@amazon.co.uk) and tell Michael what you think about all of this. I did.

The Old Wolf has spoken.