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We’ve talked before about how Amazon can be a great place to look for trade-ins or potential discounts, but also how you need to be wary of any potentially dangerous knockoff brands when purchasing new chargers, etc. But now, a new development has put another spin entirely on Amazon sellers with Apple products: It looks like a lot of them were paying for fake reviews – and even previously dependable brands have seemingly been taken down from the online platform.
The report, first made by SafetyDetectives, began with a large data breach on an ElasticSearch server. This server was apparently left, by accident, without any password protection or encryption, allowing massive data leaks that included many personal messages from Amazon vendors and buyers.
Based on those messages, here’s what appeared to have been happening:
- First, vendors selling Apple products would contact buyers on a third-party app like WhatsApp with what appeared to be a legitimate claim: An offer to join a “reviewer reward program” designed with specific language like “free product trials” so that buyers would believe everything was appropriate. They would be given a URL for a specific product on Amazon.
- People would then purchase Apple accessories from the Amazon vendors and pay for them the traditional way using Amazon’s payment system.
- The “program” would encourage its reviewers to leave highly positive, 5-star reviews on Amazon as part of the review process.
- Once a 5-star review had been left, the vendor would then refund the product’s cost to the buyer, but via a third-party platform like PayPal so that none of this could be traced by Amazon.
Efforts to manufacture 5-star reviews on Amazon have a long and infamous history, but this is certainly a very direct option that leaves little to the imagination. The data leak did not contain any information about specific brands that may have been responsible for the scheme. However, we’ve got a pretty good clue.
Sharp eyes noticed that after the data leak and fake review scandal broke, some vendors on Amazon have been almost entirely removed, their stores wiped or now impossible to find. Interestingly, this includes some of the major (and well-regarded) Amazon sellers of Apple-related products, including Tomtop, Aukey, and Mpow. Their wide array of accessories are no longer available, and the timing may indicate a connection to the fiasco.
However, since neither Amazon nor major vendors like Aukey have made an official comment on the matter, any involvement is still an assumption.
If you decide to purchase Apple products on Amazon, try browsing Apple’s official Amazon Apple Store page first.