Dear Dr. Per Cap: 

Someone approached me online with an offer to buy my Amazon account.  It seemed kind of sketchy so I didn’t reply.  Why would someone want to buy an account when they can just open their own?

Signed, 

Pueblo Shopkin

Dear Pueblo Shopkin

People buying Amazon accounts is a shady practice linked to a fast growing scam called “return fraud.”  It’s especially targeted to online retailers for whom it’s often cheaper to let customers keep wrong or damaged items than to process a return.  But before I delve into details I need to add a warning label to this column – Don’t try this at home!

For anyone living on another planet we’re in the midst of a giant E-commerce boom.  This past holiday season the postal service and delivery companies handled a record three billion packages, a modern economic phenomenon being dubbed “Shipageddon.”  Well, now that Santa has set sail back to the North Pole a lot of that merchandise is being returned.  Like the size XXL sweatpants he left me under the tree.

Hey Santa – super baggie clothes haven’t been cool since the aughts when Obama wisecracked “Some people don’t want to see your underwear and I’m one of them.”

If you misuse the following information I’ll call the elf cops, for real.  Return fraud can be shockingly easy to get away with.  A person just orders something online then says it never arrived or was defective.  Not a huge stretch considering how much stuff delivery drivers leave on the porch these days.  The scammer pushes for a refund hoping the seller won’t want the goods sent back.  This can happen with merchandise that costs a lot to ship relative to its price or with bulky stuff that’s difficult to ship.

Naturally, businesses are on to this scam.  Moreover, the policy of letting customers keep refunded merchandise, known in the industry as field scrapping, is nothing new.  It’s just a lot more common now with so many more returns.  Amazon uses computer algorithms to detect return fraud which are more likely to flag recently opened accounts.  And there you have it.  There’s a whole secondary market for dishonest folks looking to buy older, well established accounts to run returned merchandise scams.  

You did the right thing by ignoring that solicitation.  Here’s wishing you a safe, happy, and honest New Year!