• Craig Gedey

FBI warning for Amazon cheats

The FBI has warned those carrying out criminal activities including bribery on Amazon that they will not be given a free ride after six people were indicted by a federal grand jury in Seattle.

The six suspects have been charged with conspiring to pay over $100,000 in bribes to Amazon employees and contractors in exchange for gaining an unfair competitive advantage worth more than $100million on Amazon Marketplace.

The full charge list for the six suspects are as follows: conspiracy to use a communication facility to commit commercial bribery, conspiracy to access a protected computer without authorisation, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud.

And Raymond Duda, FBI Seattle's special agent in charge, has warned others considering similar moves that they will be caught.

Duda said: “Not only did they attempt to increase sales of their own products, but sought to damage and discredit their competitors,. This indictment should send a message that the FBI will not sit on the sidelines while criminals try to cheat their way to the top.”

According to court documents, the defendants paid bribes to at least 10 different Amazon employees and contractors, who accepted bribes as seller-support associates before becoming an outside consultant who recruited and paid bribes to former colleagues.

The indictment alleges that the the corrupted employees and contractors took a number of illicit steps in exchange for the bribes, including:

Reinstating suspended merchant accounts and product listings on the Amazon Marketplace.

The fraudulently reinstated products included dietary supplements that had been suspended because of customer-safety complaints, household electronics that had been flagged as flammable and consumer goods that had been flagged for intellectual-property violations. To find out more about IP-violations see this recent post.

Facilitating attacks against competitors.

The corrupted employees and contractors facilitated attacks against competitors’ accounts and product listings, by sharing competitive intelligence, using their inside access to Amazon’s network to suspend competitors accounts and providing consultants with information about Amazon’s internal algorithms, which allowed the consultants to flood competitors’ product listings with fictitious negative product reviews.

Misappropriating Amazon’s highly confidential business information.

The corrupted employees and contractors also provided consultants and third-party sellers with unauthorized access to Amazon’s highly confidential standard operating procedures and algorithms. These materials provided an unfair competitive benefit to third-party sellers, by giving them coveted insight into the systems that power Amazon’s search engine.

Circumventing Amazon’s internal limits on third-party accounts.

The corrupted employees and contractors conveyed exclusive benefits that circumvented Amazon’s rules and regulations in exchange for bribes.

US Attorney Brian T Moran says it is Amazon consumers that have suffered most from the alleged offences. He said: “As the world moves increasingly to online commerce, we must ensure that the marketplace is not corrupted with unfair advantages obtained by bribes and kickbacks. The ultimate victim from this criminal conduct is the buying public who get inferior or even dangerous goods that should have been removed from the marketplace.”

Thompson and Holt managing partner Craig Gedey - who specialises in reinstating suspended Amazon accounts legitimately - says the inditement is a welcome one.

Gedey said: “As online commerce continues to grow at a huge rate, there will always be people looking to gain unfair, and in this case, illegal advantages. As such it’s great to see that this has been taken seriously at such a high level in America.

“These are huge amounts of money we are talking about when they reference a $100 million competitive advantage, and the face the FBI has pursued this should act as a deterrent to others considering similar moves.”

What to do if you need help with your Amazon account.

If you have found yourself suspended while selling on Amazon, contact Thompson and Holt for a free LiveChat to get your Seller business back online as quickly as possible.

Thompson and Holt are also offering a free months trial of their Monitor and Protect service to help sellers prevent a suspension of ASINs or an their account during the COVID pandemic, more information on how to protect your Amazon seller account from a suspension can be found here.

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