Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Fri Sept 18 2020 19:39:05

Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism

By: Ina Steiner

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The government charged six people including a prominent Amazon expert and consultant with conspiracy and wire fraud as part of a scheme to bribe Amazon employees in order to get third-party sellers' accounts reinstated, among other things.

The intrigue allegedly included a suitcase full of cash sent from one defendant to another, through Uber.

The Feds say Amazon insiders involved in the scheme deleted negative product reviews from product listings and tried to trick Amazon's review-ranking algorithm into believing fraudulent product reviews had been posted by bona fide purchasers. 

It also charges the defendants with causing fictitious negative product reviews to appear "frequently and prominently" in victim 3P sellers' product listings. According to the indictment:

"It was part of the conspiracy that the Defendants, and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, used bribes, the promise of bribes, misappropriated information from Amazon's protected computer network, and materially false statements, representations, and omissions, to attack 3P seller accounts and their product listings, to gain a competitive advantage and to settle scores."

In one incident alleged by the government, Amazon insiders offered to provide a "Jeff B Final Word reinstatement" to the consultants' client for $5,500 with one of the defendants suggested tacking on an additional $1,000 for themselves. 

"Jeff B" stands for Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to whom some desperate sellers email with pleas for assistance, and who famously reads emails from customers. 

The government alleges that one client paid defendants $200,000 in exchange for a successful account reinstatement.

When one client failed to pay their bill, defendants allegedly defaced the client's seller page with vulgar images, "effectively incapacitating it on the Amazon Marketplace."

The government wrote that in the course of the conspiracy described in the Indictment, the defendants paid bribes to at least ten different Amazon employees and contractors, including one who had been a seller-support associate in Hyderabad, India, before becoming an outside consultant who recruited and paid bribes to his former colleagues.

Among those indicted was Ephraim Rosenberg, aka Ed Rosenberg, who "purports to provide fee-based consulting expertise to 3P sellers, including through a service named "Amazon Sellers Group TG." 

"In addition to providing individualized consulting to 3P sellers, Rosenberg hosts an annual 3P seller conference in Brooklyn, provides informational digital videos about 3P sales through an account on the video-sharing website www.youtube.com, and hosts interactive 3P consulting webinars."

Rosenberg, founder of the Amazon Sellers Group (ASGTG), whom EcommerceBytes has quoted and linked to in previous articles, posted the following on LinkedIn on Friday: 

"I am aware of this charge and I am dealing with this situation so cannot comment but totally will when I can. In the meantime please join the group https://lnkd.in/dzqRvgH Thank you for the many messages of support."

He also posted a similar message on the ASGTG Facebook page. He did not respond to our inquiry.

The charges go beyond reinstatement and review manipulation The prosecutors wrote of "corrupted employees and contractors" on the Department of Justice website: 

"In exchange for bribes, they increased 3P sellers' storage limits in Amazon's warehouses, facilitated 3P sellers' otherwise meritless requests to sell products in restricted categories, and provided 3P sellers with inside knowledge about the most successful advertising campaigns and most profitable product listings."

Readers should note that an indictment is only an allegation of criminal conduct, and all of the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt.

Cynthia Stine of eGrowth Partners welcomed the news, telling EcommerceBytes the actions of bad actors gave some sellers an unfair advantage.

Stine also helps merchants get their Amazon accounts reinstated but says she does it by helping sellers do what Amazon asks and helping them write a thorough appeal. She also focuses on suspension prevention, she said.

Patience is key - Amazon may take weeks to respond to sellers, and there is no accountability, she said. The desperation that results from Amazon's slow response is what drives some sellers to hire consultants who promise quick results. Stine said to be wary of any service that guarantees a reinstatement, especially those promising a 24-hour turnaround.

The indictment shows sellers are vulnerable when using a third-party service to act on their behalf, but Stine said she was not nervous that today's news would scare sellers from using her service. She said she's been speaking out against bad actors for the past 2 years - "not by name, but by tactic," she told EcommerceBytes.

"It's really good news for Amazon sellers and consumers," she said, claiming that counterfeiters and money launderers were among those employing consultants who use shady tactics.

Helping sellers is a cottage industry - a search for "Amazon plan of action" or "Amazon reinstatement" results in advertisements for numerous services promising to help suspended sellers.

The press release can be found on the DOJ justice.gov website where there is a link to the indictment.

Note: Not every defendant is being accused of every alleged act.

Amazon issued a press release reacting to the indictment.



Comments (10) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism   Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism

This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Fri Sep 18 20:52:19 2020

Etsy's turn......

Perminate Link for Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism   Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism

by: Actual Seller This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 19 01:15:03 2020

I feel like I was a victim of this.

Attacked, suspended, BS claim, and every single appeal was just auto denied with a generic message.

These employees have zero incentive to investigate a case or reinstate an account.

However, reject masses, people will crawl and pay, higher chance of them getting a payout.

All current rejected cases ever touched by this center should be reopened and looked at.
I know I would be reinstated if an honest person was behind the email in India.

Meanwhile, killing it on eBay as I have been for 21 years.
Amazon's loss.

Perminate Link for Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism   Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism

by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 19 07:18:57 2020

Why don't these suspended losers just open up another account like they do on Greedbay. There isn't an account on any of these greedy companies worth a dime. Go to greedbay and open a hundred of them. Amazon is no different. Either these 6 were just plain stupid or there is a whole lot more to the story.

Perminate Link for Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism   Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism

This user has validated their user name. by: Covid-20

Sat Sep 19 10:41:18 2020

I can't believe the sheep who shop on Amazon.
Looked for a new television yesterday actually out of curiosity . . . Prices are twice as much LITERALLY than a brick and mortar outlet.
LAUGHABLE.

Perminate Link for Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism   Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism

This user has validated their user name. by: thehosst
Web Site

Mon Sep 21 07:52:29 2020

Amazopoly is also a monopoly on fraud and scams. Out of curiosity, have you all been requested multiple times to submit your passport scanned pages to "validate your identity" even after being a seller/member for more than a decade and having absolutely no "real" issues? With zero names or ways to know if is a real amazon policy or just another BS scam cooked by the 1 dollar a day starving dogs who run amazon?

By the way, check this out from the Wall Street Journal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOj-tRTbFfY&t=13s

Perminate Link for Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism   Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism

by: Mark4 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 21 10:03:19 2020

Not sure why anyone messes with this scam of a marketplace anymore. Everything we find on Amazon, we can find for less than 1/2 the price on ebay, Walmart.com or any brick and mortar store. Also now that Walmart.com has partnered with Shopify one can very easily move their entire inventory out of Amazon and over to Walmart, real easy. Better sales on Walmart's site to boot.  

Perminate Link for Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism   Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism

by: Whatever This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 21 13:18:30 2020

Wow - Intrigue - Espionage - Covert Opps -  the internet shopping channels are just full of it aren't they? wonder how much longer it will be until their indicted
for some higher crime - like literally "knocking" off the competition? Pretty sure it's crossed some of their minds - what the heck is happening??
 

Perminate Link for Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism   Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism

by: bd greatbuys This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 21 13:59:13 2020

Cynthia Stine said
The desperation that results from Amazon's slow response is what drives some sellers to hire consultants who promise quick results

Amazon's slow response is a policy ?
so the response is know!!! and play !!! the system accordingly with amazon rule
but if  Amazon is doing it ware is Department of Justice anti trust division ?


Perminate Link for Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism   Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism

by: Vox29 This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Mon Sep 21 15:07:06 2020

I am not surprised about all of this. Amazon also censors books they deem to be ineligible for selling because they contain "information which is freely available on the internet". WTH does that mean? Their judgement is frequently faulty when it comes to allowing books and ebooks on their catalog. The print version of each ebook which has been rejected is available on their sites.

This new development means that no seller on Amazon is being treated the same way others are, and this selectiveness is what makes it useless as a viable marketplace. If Amazon can be bribed easily to change decisions in favor of those with huge wads of cash, then maybe it's time to strip Amazon back down to its roots. It is operating like a monopoly.

I certainly have managed to avoid buying anything on Amazon. I shop directly with the manufacturers or their go betweens, and for way less than Amazon charges. I strongly suggest you all do the same.

Perminate Link for Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism   Amazon Takedown: Bribes, a Suitcase of Cash, Cyber Vandalism

by: Picky Chicky This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 22 13:36:07 2020

It sounds like these companies need to get a handle on their executives and employees. It also sounds like there needs to be some sort of checks and balances system in place to prevent such things. It's not that difficult to track what an employee is doing on their computer.



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