Online scams are running rampant lately, so it’s no surprise that we seem to have been caught up in a very strange Amazon reseller scam.
This story may sound a little bit incongruous with what you’d expect when it comes to online scams, but we want to make you aware of it as it could very easily happen to you. And like us, might leave you scratching your head a little bit in an attempt to determine if you were victim of a scam, or if someone might have somehow ended up thinking you’re scamming them.
There’s been a story lately about a practice called “Brushing” where random people are getting Amazon products they didn’t order shipped to their home. The purpose of the scam is for the Amazon seller to garner fraudulent highly rated product reviews from overseas people that didn’t actually order the products, instead just shipping the actual product to a random address. But the scam we seem to be wrapped up in is entirely different.
Back in early December Wendy and I arrived home to find a soft Amazon package sitting in our vestibule. Being a modern pair of Xennials (it’s a thing), we have fully embraced the luxury of clicking a virtual button and having something magically arrive in our home days or even hours later, while simultaneously possessing vivid memories of a dark and horrible time where mail order meant you picked items from a catalog and called a human that would take your order, which you then expected to receive at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future. Therefore, the sight of a package in an Amazon branded container was not a surprise for us, though it did garner some excitement as to what it might contain.
Upon opening this item my excitement turned to puzzlement. It was a Pittsburgh Steelers Antonio Brown XXL NFL football jersey. As a native Clevelander and diehard fan of the Browns, the Steelers are an arch rival due primarily to geography (though decidedly not competitive ability…because, since 1999, the Browns are quite shit), so the receipt of this particular jersey struck us as strange.
Of all of the teams to mistakenly get a jersey for…
We chalked this up to a random shipping mistake and didn’t think much of it. I contacted Amazon in an attempt to right this very wrong and then awaited a response, otherwise going on about our lives.
Lulu showing her die hard Browns pride…as misguided as it may be.
After the Steelers jersey, one that I assumed was a random cosmic joke in the midst of the Cleveland Browns successful attempt at completing a perfect winless season, was delivered, a few more days went by and another unexpected package showed up at our door. Would you believe it, it was another Antonio Brown Steelers jersey, just a youth version this time! What? Yes. We really didn’t get it and were beyond confused.
Even more perplexed by this second odd delivery, it quickly turned out to be only the tip of the officially licensed sports uniform iceberg. The next day we received yet another package, but this time it contained a Lionel Messi Barcelona FC jersey. So another football jersey, but not like the first football, the football from across the pond style of football.
After this third jersey we started to put two and two together, but we felt like it didn’t seem add up to four. Why would we keep getting these jerseys, sent to our address, with Wendy’s name, but they also had a random phone number from the 312 area code referenced in packing slip? Then it dawned on me…these weren’t packing slips, they were return slips that you get when you initiate a return via Amazon!
These packages weren’t being shipped from Amazon to us, they were being shipped from original recipients to our home address and Wendy’s name. These weren’t Amazon orders being incorrectly delivered at all, these were Amazon reseller returns! People had ordered the jerseys, determined they didn’t fit or weren’t what they expected, and they had started their return process…but why were they coming to our home? Each came with a packing slip and RMA information, and each was addressed to us, or at least Wendy, and each had that same 312 phone number.
Knowing that Wendy hadn’t started moonlighting as an sports merchandiser, unless she was Tyler Durdening the whole thing while asleep, we contacted Amazon to alert them to this strange situation and spoke to someone in their fraud department. They seemed unsure of what was happening as well, but I provided all of the order numbers and return information. At one point the helpful Amazon employee asked me a very good question. “Well, are you at least a fan of any of the teams or players?” I responded, “Hrm, though I hate the Steelers, I guess I like the Tottenham Hot Spurs well enough.”
Over the next several weeks, stretching over Christmas and into the New Year, we began receiving package after package, sometimes two per day. Each time they contained one of a couple different jerseys. US National Team, Messi, Eagles, Steelers, Neymar, Seahawks, Spain, etc, and each was a return from an Amazon customer destined for the reseller returns department, but inexplicably ending up at our home instead. Before we knew it our house was starting to look like a regular Dick’s.
We started a spreadsheet to track all of these jerseys, the return info, order number, and any other info we could gather. We also opened several fraud tickets with Amazon to let them know of the continued issues. Then we found a seemingly defunct Amazon storefront with dodgy reviews that had been selling these jerseys. Finally it was starting to click into place.
It seemed from the storefront that oddly partially lifted Wendy’s name, similar storefronts, and the fact that one of the returns included the original shipping packaging that clearly showed the order originated in China, that these were possibly knockoffs or seconds quality sports jerseys. They appear to be sold from temporary storefronts setup for short periods of time on Amazon, shipped from China, and with no good way to tender shipping returns to China, they just randomly put our address in as the returns address.
Who knew they’d even win the Super Bowl?!
So the main issue here is that now there were a whole bunch of people who’d ordered jerseys in the $50-$60 range, not liked what they received, and then started their returns process. But since they shipped the return out to us, we have no way to actually process the return and refund their money. We also have no good way to contact them, and no way to ensure they weren’t just pissed off at the fact we couldn’t give their money back. We wanted to make sure these people weren’t just out their hard earned money!
I spoke with Amazon again and they noted that they’d flagged this storefront and were handling it in their fraud department, but they can’t actually tell me what they’re doing to handle the issue as it’s an ongoing fraud investigation.
Email we received from Amazon Fraud Dept.
One of the more recent jerseys we received came with a hand written note and an email address asking for a different size. So at least we were able to email that person to let them know the situation. Otherwise, I can only hope that Amazon has refunded everyone their money so they can all go get the proper sized jersey of their favorite footballer or team.
What a lovely hand written note. Nobody seems to do cursive anymore!
Our onslaught of packages stopped about a week or so ago, but from a search of Amazon for similar items, it would seem there are many other storefronts that are possibly using this same “scam.” I redacted the name of this one as it’s not proven, bit it fits the bill. The name of the store is a weird concatenation of someone’s first name and partial last name, and they are just selling a handful of the same jerseys. They were just established, no ratings or reviews, and the prices are a little too good to be true. The problem is, the items are listed in normal searches, not exclusively via a storefront, so most customers would have no idea it was possibly a scam.
Example storefront, not a proven scammer.
I have to imagine in most cases the buyers are blissfully unaware that there’s not an actual way to return their purchases, preferring to simply keep and wear their shirts emblazoned with their preferred team and player. But what about the people that do expect returns, and what if the person at the other end of the returns address doesn’t contact Amazon to begin the fraud investigation process?
We sometimes received multiple jerseys per day!
I know this is a departure from our typical blog posts, but I wanted to pass along this odd, slightly amusing, and very confusing situation in the event you’re unwittingly wrapped up in something similar in the future. I know it seems unlikely, but you may end up like us, with enough jerseys to field your own Team USA squad for the World Cup. Since the USA men didn’t qualify this year, we’ll have to find something else to do with over almost two dozen jerseys.
Unfortunately, we just sort of feel bad about this whole situation. There’s really not a ton we can do. According to Amazon the jerseys are ours to do with as we please. I’m glad they didn’t tell us to destroy them or anything as we’ll end up donating most to a clothing charity so they will end up benefiting some people in need..even if I feel strongly about what should happen to the Steelers jerseys.
Have you ever been wrapped up in an Amazon scam of any sort? I know our story doesn’t much lend itself to be called a scam from our side of the fence, but it’s a scam nonetheless. Thankfully we weren’t out any cash, just a bunch of time spent cataloging everything so that Amazon could handle refunds to the people making returns (I assume). I’ll certainly update this if I get any more information in the future.