Free Amazon Packages – Part of New Scheme to Manipulate Reviews?

The Boston Globe reports that a Massachusetts couple is receiving Amazon packages they did not order and are not being charged to their account.

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Mike and Kelly Gallivan, of Acton, MA told newspaper this started back in October of 2017 and they have continued to receive a package about every one or two weeks since then.

Most of the items are cheap products like a USB powered fan and a combination phone charger and battery powered hand warmer.

At first, the couple thought this was fun receiving these items, a little like Christmas morning tearing into the packages to see what they received, but now they want it to stop.

The couple has contacted Amazon about the mysterious packages, and the company told them it was investigating the situation.

Amazon also told them the items are being purchased with gift cards.

Jeff Bezos owned Washington Post also picked up on the story from The Boston Globe, and reached out to the eCommerce giant for comment.

“An Amazon spokeswoman said the Seattle-based company is investigating inquiries from consumers who have received unsolicited packages and will ban vendors who abuse the reviews system.”

From Washington Post Article

A New Seller Scheme Behind These Free Packages?

At first read most people would think this might be a case of a friend or family member playing a game with the couple or possibly some sort of fraud situation.

In theory, a thief with stolen credit card information could purchase Amazon gift cards, and then have packages sent to an address hoping the recipient isn’t home and drive by the recipient’s house to pick up the box left on the doorstep.

But the low price nature of the products may point to something completely different, Five-Star review manipulation!

Seller Five-Star Review Manipulation

The couple might be receiving free packages because a seller wants to boost their products on Amazon. Basically, here is how this scheme works:

  • Seller sets up a free email account on Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.
  • Seller opens up Amazon account using the free email.
  • Seller purchases gift cards.*
  • Seller orders products from their Amazon store and has them send to any address as a gift.
  • Once the order arrives, the seller writes a five-star review for the product. Because the review is from a “verified buyer”, the review has more weight on the product ranking in search results.
  • Rinse-and-Repeat

And over a relative short period of time, the item moves up in the search rankings as it receives five-star reviews from “different” buyers.

DISCLAIMER: This practice is against Amazon policy. Do not try, you could lose your selling account forever.

* We omitted key steps here that would avoid detection by Amazon as we do not suggest or endorse this method to create fake positive reviews!

The Battle For Positive Reviews

Because of how reviews work on Amazon and many other marketplaces, the more positive feedback an item receives, the better the chance it shows up in searches on the first page.

There can be a tremendous impact on sales being on page one or even the top of the page. Therefore, the low cost of the items is peanuts in comparison to future sales.

Amazon has been cracking down on paid reviews for a few years now, and presumably, they are using more machine learning tools to catch violators.

The Amazon community guidelines have become increasingly stricter to make sure the information buyers receive is from authentic reviews.

Unfortunately, schemes like this just break the trust. But with improved detection technology, Amazon has cleaned up a lot of fake reviews.

If the product is good, it will sell. It may take a little time, but quality will always prevail.

And there are much better options such as Amazon ads to promote products vs. using schemes like this that will risk the seller’s account.

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