Amazon has removed a popular Apple accessories retailer, Aukey due to the company’s involvement in a large-scale fake review scam. The SafetyDecetvies breached an open ElasticSearch database to uncover a massive organized online retail scam of buying fake reviews on Amazon.
The obtained data revealed direct messages between various vendors on Amazon and customers who agreed to leave fake 5-star reviews in exchange for free products. As per the report, “in total, 13,124,962 of these records (or 7 GB of data) have been exposed in the breach, potentially implicating more than 200,000 people in unethical activities.” And now Amazon is quietly taking against such vendors by removing them.
Amazon removes Aukey accessories after discovering its involvement in fake reviews scam
Aukey is a Chinese electronics maker which offers a range of mobile chargers, adaptors, wires, audio products, and car, smart home, and mobile accessories. And via Amazon, the company distributed its products in 20 countries. Now those Aukey accessories are complete removed from the digital marketplace.
Apple products are sold on Amazon and the platform uses a brandgating policy to prevent vendors from selling counterfeit Apple products. Under the policy, registered third-party sellers full fill the set criteria before selling branded products. But the company does not have a check on registered vendors boosting their products with help of fake reviews like Aukey. Like other vendors, Aukey was able to avoid suspicion for soo long because of paying fake reviews via PayPal and not Amazon.
The cybersecurity team detailed that:
These Amazon vendors send to reviewers a list of items/products for which they would like a 5-star review. The people providing the ‘fake reviews’ will then buy the products, leaving a 5-star review on Amazon a few days after receiving their merchandise.
Upon completion, the provider of the fake review will send a message to the vendor containing a link to their Amazon profile, along with their PayPal details.
Once the Amazon vendor confirms all reviews have been completed, the reviewer will receive a refund through PayPal, keeping the items they bought for free as a form of payment.
The refund for any purchased goods is actioned through PayPal and not directly through Amazon’s platform. This makes the five-star review look legitimate, so as not to arouse suspicion from Amazon moderators.
The data breach will help Amazon track down the perpetrators because “more than 13 million records, equating to 7GB of data, were exposed when the unclaimed ElasticSearch server was left open without any password protection or encryption. The personal data of people providing fake reviews, as well as Amazon vendors, could be found in leaked messages on the database.” As mentioned by 9to5Mac, products of Tomtop, and Mpow are also completely removed from the popular marketplace.
The issue of fake reviews is widespread across the entire online retail industry. Apple’s App Store is criticized and being sued for allowing fake apps with fake reviews to rob users of millions of dollars. In today’s digital world, tech giants should pay attention to these red flags and work to make their platforms safe.