Can You Trust Amazon's Third-Party Sellers?

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KEY POINTS

  • Amazon third-party sellers list items of their own for sale on Amazon's website.
  • Most are legitimate, but there are always some scammers in the mix.
  • Knowing the signs of a scam and how to deal with them is critical when buying from third-party sellers.

Practically everyone has made a purchase -- or 100 -- on Amazon in their lifetimes. The retailer has an incredible variety of products, but even this corporate giant can't possibly stock everything a person could ever want. That's why it also serves as the middleman for a bunch of third-party sellers.

Most of these sellers are just trying to make an honest living, but there are always scammers out there. Here are a few things you need to know to avoid them.

How Amazon third-party sellers work

Amazon third-party sellers list the products they're selling on Amazon for people to find. When you find one you're interested in, you provide your payment information to Amazon and Amazon will make sure the seller gets the money. The third party never has access to your credit card number.

What happens next depends on the type of third-party seller you're dealing with. If an item is listed as Fulfilled by Amazon, that means the third party has already shipped its goods to an Amazon fulfillment center and Amazon will mail it to you just like it would any of its own products.

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Products not listed as Fulfilled by Amazon either come directly from the seller, if it has its own warehouse of products. Or if it's a dropshipper, they come from another retailer with whom the third-party seller places an order on your behalf.

Amazon third-party seller scams

Amazon does its best to remove scammers from its platform, but it's tough to get rid of all of them. Scammers may profess to have an item, possibly at a deep discount from its regular retail price. But they don't. They may go as far as creating a tracking number so Amazon thinks they're going to ship the product to you, but nothing happens after that.

Or they might sell you something that's not what you think it is. You might pay full price for what you think is a new item, but in reality, it's refurbished, damaged, or broken.

How to avoid problems with Amazon third-party sellers

You don't have to avoid Amazon third-party sellers altogether. Most of them are legitimate and deliver quality products. But it's important to do your research before you buy to make sure you're not falling into a trap.

First, know the common signs of a scam, including:

  • A seller who asks you to send money to them directly instead of through the Amazon platform
  • Prices or shipping times that seem too good to be true
  • Product descriptions or images that don't match up with information from the manufacturer
  • Reluctance to share return or refund policies
  • Suspicious, misspelled names or product descriptions

Next, be sure to check the seller's shop rating. This isn't the same as the item's rating. To find it, look for the "Sold by" company under the "Buy Now" link on Amazon's website. Click on that and you'll find reviews for the seller. If there aren't many or they're all bad, that's probably a good sign you don't want to work with it.

You should also do some digging into the product reviews themselves. Some clever scammers might steal glowing reviews from other sites or manufacturers and comment on their own listings to make them appear more legitimate. The Fakespot browser extension can look at product reviews and determine whether they're likely to have come from real customers or if they're fake.

When in doubt, stick to products that are Fulfilled by Amazon. This means Amazon already has the product in house and it'll handle the payment and the shipping for you.

What to do if you've been scammed

The first step if you think you've been scammed is always to reach out to the seller directly to see if there's been some sort of misunderstanding. It might be possible to resolve the issue this way without involving Amazon at all.

But if the seller doesn't respond or refuses to help, you can invoke Amazon's A-to-Z Guarantee. Make a claim with Amazon through your online account. It will investigate the situation and refund you if it determines you didn't receive what the seller promised. However, you only have 90 days from the delivery date to do this, so don't delay. The sooner you reach out, the sooner you can get your money back in your checking account.

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