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Amazon scammers used hacks and bribes to make millions off fake returns

Amazon scammers used hacks and bribes to make millions off fake returns

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A group called REKK allegedly logged fake returns in Amazon’s systems so buyers could keep products like MacBook Airs and iPads for free.

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Illustration of Amazon’s wordmark on an orange, black, and tan background made up of overlapping lines.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amazon is suing a naughty but enterprising group called REKK for offering a paid service to willing shoppers looking to get big-ticket items like laptops and game consoles for cheap by exploiting its return and refund system.

This isn’t like the times you try to return a small item purchased from Amazon, like a pair of socks, and the system refunds you without telling you to send it back. As reported by Bloomberg, Amazon’s lawsuit accuses REKK of using social engineering and phishing attacks on Amazon fulfillment employees or bribes to get millions of dollars in refunds without actually sending the items back.

text thread screenshots
A text exchange shows REKK recruiting an Amazon employee.
Image: US District Court

REKK advertised its services to shoppers in a Telegram channel with 30,000 followers, taking payment as a part of the item’s original price and then manipulating the system to log a return, which never happened. One example from the lawsuit shows how the scheme worked: one defendant, Andrew Ling, ordered five iPads and then worked with REKK to get a refund. In this case, REKK allegedly used a phishing attack against a fulfillment center employee to mark the iPad returns as received in Amazon’s systems.

Allegedly, one Amazon employee bribed by REKK approved 76 product returns worth over $100,000 in return for $3,500, while another was paid $5,000 to approve 56 fake returns worth over $75,000.

Filed Thursday in a US District Court in the state of Washington, it names more than two dozen people from the US, the UK, Canada, Greece, Lithuania, and the Netherlands.