Check out these one-star reviews on Amazon for an unlocked 128GB iPhone 6s. Can you imagine how angry you would be if that happened to you? You shell out more than $900 for an unlocked, contract-free iPhone 6s and instead of receiving a shiny new phone in the mail, you get a box full of clay. How could Amazon let this happen? Well, it appears as though the weight of the clay is about the same as the iPhone that would have been in the box, and a fake bar code covered the real one on the packaging. Then the seller makes off with your cash and you’re left trying to shove your SIM card into a lump of clay.
This definitely sounds like one of the crazier scams we’ve seen on Amazon — but it’s even crazier than you think because nothing is what it seems.
Domo software engineer Cory Klein came across the review above while looking at unlocked iPhones on Amazon and it gave him pause. He found several one-star reviews on the iPhone’s product listing page and they came from customers who claimed to have been shipped a box of clay or some other object in place of the iPhone 6s they had actually ordered. Needless to say, they were all angry and they all seemingly wanted to warn other Amazon customers so they wouldn’t get duped.
Interestingly, this particular iPhone 6s listing has more than 570 reviews and 69% of them are 5 stars. Another 9% are 4-star reviews, but the reviews weren’t the strangest part. What seemed particularly odd was the idea that the same seller would try this so many times in light of Amazon’s strict pro-buyer policies.
“That’s when it clicked: there are no seller scammers here,” Klein wrote in a post on his blog. “It’s the buyers that are the scammers.”
Klein postulates that these buyer “victims” are creating new accounts to purchase iPhones from a legitimate seller, and then swapping the real phones for clay or other objects after they’re delivered. Then they’re posting these reviews and complaining to Amazon, because Amazon’s buyer protection policies will likely refund their money.
The scammers get their $935 back and keep the new iPhones, and there’s almost no risk involved. As Klein notes, even if their claim is rejected by Amazon they can just sell the new iPhone elsewhere and recoup their money.