There's an underground market where secondhand Amazon merchant accounts are bought and sold for thousands of dollars
- There's a gray market for secondhand Amazon seller accounts, an Insider investigation found.
- Rogue merchants buy these accounts to evade Amazon security and sell dodgy products.
Amazon's online Marketplace is a cutthroat way to earn a living — and some sellers are turning to a new, underhand method to get ahead.
Merchants have used shady tactics like submitting false fraud reports targeting rivals, or bribing Amazon employees to scuttle competitors. Others peddle counterfeit or shoddily produced wares. Amazon bans fraudulent sellers, along with other accounts they're suspected of owning, and blacklists their business name, physical location, and IP address.
But for those in the know, there's a way around all that.
An Insider investigation revealed a thriving gray market for secondhand Amazon seller accounts. On Telegram and forums like Swapd and PlayerUp, thousands of brokers openly sell accounts, with prices ranging from a few hundred bucks for a new account to thousands of dollars apiece for years-old accounts with established histories.
Such sales typically break Amazon's rules, and allow rogue sellers to evade Amazon's security and verification checks. These checks on new merchants range from mandatory video calls to letters it sends to sellers' physical addresses to confirm where they're based. But buying an account that has already been verified lets sellers bypass these efforts.
"Fraudsters will buy an established account because it went through the verification checks years ago and has not been flagged in Amazon's system," Michael Jakubek, a former Amazon Marketplace fraud investigator, said.
Some brokers are so confident in their ability to evade Amazon's security they offer a two-week money-back guarantee that the accounts won't get banned. Others bundle virtual private networks that let buyers mimic their new account's location.
The accounts sometimes steal random people's identities to disguise themselves, and sellers are using these fake credentials to engage in questionable behaviour on Amazon, Insider found — including selling counterfeit textbooks. The people's whose names and addresses are being stolen are sometimes then sent hundreds of returns by unhappy customers.
In a statement, Nicole Pampe, and Amazon spokesperson, said that the company aggressively fights fraud on its platform. Last year, the company spent more than $900 million and employed more than 12,000 people "dedicated to protecting customers, brands, selling partners, and our store from counterfeit, fraud, and other forms of abuse," she wrote. Amazon uses "industry-leading tools to verify potential sellers' identities and ensure product listings are authentic," she added.
Read Insider's full investigation into the market for second-hand Amazon seller accounts, and Amazon's failures to police its users »
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Contact reporter Katherine Long via mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone or the encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 206-375-9280, or on Twitter at @_katya_long.
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