In October of 2017, Mike and Kelly Gallivan of Acton, Mass started receiving free mystery packages from Amazon. What started as a fun surprise has turned into something of an annoyance for the couple as these packages have continued to arrive at a rate of one or two a week ever since.
My initial reaction, like many, was BRING ON THE FREE THINGS! The couple was receiving items like phone chargers, USB fans and other cheap items.
Turns out that the two may be unwitting accomplices in a scam in an effort to manipulate buyer reviews on the Amazon web site.
The two have contacted Amazon and learned that all of the orders were paid for by gift card. This method doesn’t require a sender’s name, address or other information.
Here’s how the scam works: A seller trying to prop up a product would set up a phony e-mail account that would be used to establish an Amazon account. Then the seller would purchase merchandise with a gift card – no identifying information there – and send it to a random person, in this case the Gallivans. Then, the phantom seller, who controls the “buyer’s” e-mail account, writes glowing reviews of the product, thus boosting the Amazon ranking of the product.
The sending of the actual items boosts the review’s validity as it earns the marking of “verified review” meaning that Amazon can vouch that this person actually ordered the item in question. Amazon then highlights verified reviews on the product page and gives better ranking to items with more verified reviews.
Sadly, there is no way of knowing how the Gallivans, both retired nurses, fell victim to this scam. The likelihood is that at one point or another they ordered from the perpetrating company and their address was then used to perpetuate this scam.
I encourage online shoppers to make sure they are shopping Amazon to choose items that are fulfilled by Amazon rather than a third-party. You can see if this is the case by taking a look at the page either in the “add to cart” area or under the price in the item description.
This will limit the exposure of your information to third parties.
Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy Central and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com
You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.