Amazon empty box scam sends you air or clay

Beware new third-party sellers

It's the latest scam to target Amazon customers: a box filled with air, old newspapers or even clay instead of your order.

Urmez Hozdar was shopping for a Netgear router on Amazon, when he found a great deal.

"I found even a lower price from a third-party seller on the site," he said,

The seller was listed on the site as "just launched," so it did not have a rating. But the price was too good to refuse.

"I just click, click, clicked and ordered it," Hozdar said.

He figured it would be fine, since the transaction was entirely through his Amazon Prime account.

"I ordered it because it had Amazon's 'A-to-Z Guarantee.' So I said, 'Amazon has my back.' Big mistake," he said.

Empty box shows up

When the package arrived, there was no router -- just an empty FedEx box. Why would someone send an empty box? Why not just take the money and disappear? 

This is what's known as the "empty box scam," where the seller, if he is questioned, can tell Amazon he sent you something and you signed for it.

When Hozdar emailed Amazon, that is exactly what happened. The company wrote in an email: "This is not eligible for the A-to-Z Guarantee because it arrived at your address."

They even had his wife's signature on file, since she received the order at the front door.

Forbes says scams like this one are on the rise, writing in a recent article that "fraudulent sellers run amok." Forbes says thousands of new sellers launch every day on Amazon, and some of them -- perhaps a handful, perhaps more -- are scammers.

What you can do

To protect yourself:

  • Be wary of "just launched" sellers with little feedback.
  • Be suspicious of new sellers offering hundreds of unrelated items, and not specializing in anything.
  • Take a second look if the price is too low compared with other sellers of the same item.

Amazon says it does not tolerate fraud and that the company takes swift action when it's detected.

But Forbes and Hozdar say these new scammers may be swifter than Amazon.

The seller Hozdar ordered from has since disappeared from the site. However, his credit card company has just told him it will remove the charge as credit card fraud.

If this happens to you, contact Amazon and your credit card company immediately. Do not assume it was an honest mistake.

Lesson here: Research those third-party sellers so you don't waste your money.

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