online paymentsShopping and selling online has become a fairly ubiquitous habit for many people, and there are plenty of websites that offer both buyers and sellers the opportunity to connect and get the deals and sales they want without a lot of hassle. Unfortunately, this process also attracts scammers, as we’ve seen from targeted fraud campaigns in the past against the denizens of eBay as well as payment processor Paypal. Recently, a growing number of Amazon third-party sellers are being targeted by fraudsters who log into their accounts using stolen credentials, in order to post fake deals and steal money. Whether you’re someone who sells stuff online or you simply take advantage of the convenience of online shopping, this type of fraud can impact you. We’ve got the lowdown on what’s happening to sellers on Amazon, and tips to help people on both sides of the transaction stay safe.

How are scammers taking advantage of Amazon sellers?

Using login credentials purchased from the dark web, which were leaked as part of long-ago data breaches like the massive LinkedIn or Yahoo hacks, hackers have been doing one of two things to target third-party sellers on Those who have logged into active accounts have changed the direct deposit information to siphon away money rightfully earned by the seller into their own accounts. Additionally, those logging into older, inactive seller accounts have been listing fake items at low prices in hopes of tricking buyers into paying for an item that doesn’t exist (and pocketing their money). Amazon does have some safeguards to protect buyers when it comes to fake items, such as not releasing money to the seller until the buyer has reported that they received it and all is well, but these same safeguards which protect buyers can also hurt sellers whose legitimate accounts have been taken over by hackers. Considering third-party sellers on Amazon make up more than half of its total sales, it’s a big deal for them to be targeted by scammers bent on taking over their accounts and disrupting their income.

How can sellers protect themselves?

Whether you sell the occasional item to make an extra buck or you’ve set up a small business selling wares on a site like Amazon, these types of scams could spell disaster for your reputation as well as your bottom line.

1. Watch out for phishing attempts. In the case of this particular scam, the fraudsters were able to gain access to sellers’ accounts using stolen credentials they obtained from elsewhere. However, there are multiple ways in which a cybercriminal can gain access to your account. Make sure you know the basics of how phishing works and what to look for so you can avoid these kinds of attempts to trick you into handing over your login details.

2. Take advantage of extra security methods. In addition to creating long, unique passwords for each one of your online accounts, from your email to your accounts on any website you use to sell, you should take advantage of features like two-factor authentication for extra security. We’ve talked about this several times before, and it can be especially useful for stopping would-be infiltrators in their tracks — or at least alerting you to someone attempting to breach your account.

3. Set up alerts to changes in your accounts. Amazon, like many other sites, allows its users to set up alerts so that they can be notified if changes are made to their account settings (such as their direct deposit information or account password) as well as when items they list are sold. The sooner you are aware that something fishy is happening with your account, the sooner you can contact the website and let them know. Hopefully, by letting the website know immediately, you will be able to avoid financial trouble by way of reimbursing customers for fake items that you didn’t actually list.

What can buyers do to ensure they’re making safe online payments?

Buyers are in an equally precarious situation as sellers when it comes to this type of fraud. It’s all too easy to get caught up in a good deal and wind up duped — and sometimes, you might run into a scammer whose scheme isn’t that apparent from the outset. Here are a few tips to ensure that you are paying safe when you shop online:

1. Take your time. The nature of sites like eBay, Amazon and Etsy make it so often customers are competing against one another to purchase an item before someone else can. It can be tempting to simply fire off a bid or click the “buy” button immediately when you see a price you like, but that’s what these scammers are counting on. Instead, take a little time to examine the profile of the seller, look at the feedback they’ve received and compare prices against other similar items listed on the same site as well as major retailers. A price that is too good to be true likely is — especially when it comes to something like the newest coveted electronic item. Likewise, be wary of seller accounts that have been inactive for a long period of time as well as those who have received suspiciously positive (or suspiciously negative) feedback. In the end, you might choose to forego using third-party sellers altogether and stick to only purchasing directly from Amazon or another reputable retailer.

2. Make sure you’re using a secure site. We’ve pushed this point often in recent months, but that’s because it’s one you can never repeat too much: using a secure website, especially when you’re conducting a transaction of financial data or personal information, is vital. When you visit a site, look for “HTTPS” in the URL, which indicates that you are visiting an encrypted website. Though that certainly won’t stop you from falling for every scam, it can definitely be key to steering clear of bad links that try to lead you away from a legitimate page to a fake one designed to steal your information.

3. Beware third-party search engines and links. You might occasionally see ads for cheap products as you browse the web, or come across search engines that claim to be able to seek out deals on items that you can’t find anywhere else. Once again, it’s wise to remember the old adage of, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” The last thing you want to do is get yourself caught in an endless spiral of advertisements or wind up on a fake site set up to look like a legitimate one with the intent of stealing your payment card information. Also, watch out for ads that promise free or seriously reduced price items in exchange for completing offers (such as surveys). These are all-too-often scams, hoping to capture your data while leaving you empty handed (and potentially out of some money).

Want to know more about protecting yourself online? Follow our scams blog for the latest in news and tips.