Imagine shelling out £600 for an unlocked, contract-free iPhone 6s and, instead of getting a brand new phone, you get a box of clay.
That’s what’s been happening to people buying iPhones on Amazon. But it’s not all what it seems.
If you take a look at these one-star reviews on Amazon for an unlocked 128GB iPhone 6s, you’ll see that there are a fair few people receiving clay in an iPhone box, instead of an actual phone.
Claiming that the clay they were sent compensated the weight of an actual iPhone, and that a fake barcode covered the real one on the packaging, you’d think these people have just been scammed and the seller has made off with their cash while they’re left with a lump of clay.
Wondering how Amazon could let this happen? They didn’t. It turns out the people being ‘scammed’ are actually the scammers.
While looking for an unlocked iPhone on the site, software engineer Cory Klein figured it all out.
He said that the ‘victims’ are creating new accounts to purchase iPhones from a legitimate seller, and then swapping the real phones for clay after they’ve been delivered.
They then post their ‘delivery pictures’ and complaints to Amazon, and because of the company’s buyer protection policy, they’ll likely refund their money or send them a new iPhone, the Express reports.
The scammers will then either sell the new, free iPhone or pocket the refund. They get their £600 back and there’s almost no risk involved.
Klein wrote on his website:
This works because Amazon heavily favors customers in their A-Z Guarantee claim process, and sellers don’t tend to record video evidence when shipping expensive merchandise (which they should).
The scammer incurs very little risk. If they win 1 in 10 claims, they pocket $1k. For the remaining 9 claims, they can just resell the phone themselves and the only costs they incur are shipping, which is more than covered by the free iPhones they get. Since they create a new account every time (which is evidenced by viewing the buyer profiles of the individuals posting the fraudulent reviews), it is difficult for Amazon to distinguish legitimate claims from fraudulent ones.
While this clever trick has probably got a fair few some free cash, now that it’s out there, it’s unlikely Amazon’s iPhone sellers (or Amazon themselves) will fall for it again.