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Scammers Launch Attack on Etsy on July 4th Holiday Weekend

While many Etsy users were celebrating a long holiday weekend, scammers used the opportunity to perpetrate fraud on the marketplace in what one seller termed “invasion of the listing snatchers.”

Scammers opened hundreds of shops on Etsy containing listings copied from other sellers for apparently nefarious purposes. An Etsy moderator responding to one thread reassured users it was aware of the issue, but the post left sellers with many questions and uncertainty.

An Etsy moderator by the name of Linda posted a thread on Sunday afternoon thanking users for reporting the issue. “The reports you make play a really important part in keeping the Etsy community safe for all buyers and sellers and we always appreciate you taking the time to flag these issues,” she wrote.

She said Etsy’s Marketplace Integrity along with other teams were fully investigating all reports submitted by users “who will take appropriate action.”

Many sellers who witnessed the shops were uncertain how the scammers would benefit from listing items copied from others that they clearly could not fulfill. One seller said she had seen the same thing happen in the past, writing, “they would make a sale, take the money and… poof… gone. I saw it done with a very expensive antique ring. Very nasty indeed and I hope Etsy takes them down quickly; it shouldn’t have to wait until Monday.”

An EcommerceBytes reader reported the activity and said “pirate” shops from China were listing just two items each, one at 99 cents and one at $99, all using stolen photos and descriptions from other Etsy shops. She and her colleagues were reporting them, she said, but while Etsy was removing some of them, “others take their place with lightning speed….someone suggested it may be bots programmed to set up this scam?”

“Also,” she wrote, it “seems the “masterminds” behind it may be changing the price range now that so many are being reported.”

The incident is reminiscent of an occurrence in May involving sellers who copied Etsy items onto their Amazon stores.

In that case, the sellers were using Etsy shops as suppliers without their approval. They were marking up the Etsy items on Amazon and ordering them from the Etsy seller when they received an order from an Amazon buyer.

In the case of the “Fourth of July listing snatchers,” it appears the perpetrators have no intention of fulfilling any orders they receive.

Sellers were frantic for Etsy to do something about the faux shops that were reportedly multiplying exponentially. Some suggested that sellers who were victimized deactivate any listings that were copied into fraudsters shops, but we could find no evidence of Etsy recommending sellers do so.

Adding insult to injury, some of the scam listings were being favorite by Etsy shoppers.

Etsy recently reported that hacking incidents at other companies had resulted in an increase in account takeovers on its site, though it’s completely unknown whether the two incidents are related.

We asked Etsy via email on Sunday if it was possible for them to block the scammers, or whether they were accessing the site through the API. We’ll update this post if warranted. In the meantime, a seller who was reporting scam shops to Etsy provided an update late on Sunday evening: “looks like for now they are all shut down (hundreds of them).”

Should Etsy discourage users from discussing scams on the forums? Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.


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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.