It’s a well-known scam, but it’s not usually taken to such extremes.
Amazon’s liberal and customer-friendly return policies may endear many shoppers to the e-commerce juggernaut, but for all the patrons that use the practice as intended, there will always be a few who seek to exploit it to their advantage. Due to the sheer volume of transactions administered by the retailer, the company doesn’t often follow up on claims that items were defective or damaged upon receipt, finding it easier to simply refund a customer’s money on good faith.
Unfortunately, one couple, Erin and Leah Finan of Indiana, found a way to test the bounds of Amazon’s good faith to the tune of $1.2 million in electronics scammed from the retailer using its “no questions asked” return policy.
A Department of Justice press release made after the couple was charged in May lays out the nature of their operation:
“According to court documents, the Finans defrauded Amazon by falsely claiming that the electronics they ordered were damaged or not working, and then requesting and receiving replacements from Amazon at no charge. Amazon’s customer service policy allows, under certain circumstances, customers to receive a replacement before they return a broken item. Amazon closely monitors customers’ accounts and orders for possible fraudulent activity. The Finans allegedly went to great lengths to conceal their fraud, creating hundreds of false online identities to perpetrate the scheme.”
The couple appears to have run the scam using mostly high-dollar electronic goods, receiving replacements and never sending back the originals.
The news comes from a Department of Justice report stemming from the arrest of the couple and their fence, Danijel Glumac. The couple recently pled guilty to charges levied against them and each faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The Amazon return policy the couple exploited is hardly a secret, but the company fights back against systematic abuse by banning user accounts that too often file claims on their purchases. However, the Finans used hundreds of identities to keep the scam going without raising red flags within the company.
The couple is not only on the hook for pending jail time, but also restitution totaling $1,218,504, of which authorities believe the Finans netted only $725,000 after the cost of trafficking the “hundreds” of stolen goods and cutting a commission to middlemen. Further, the Finans are subject to fines of between $250,000 and $500,000 for their misdeeds.
Amazon has not commented on the case, but one can presume that the online shopping juggernaut isn’t holding its proverbial breath for repayment by the soon-to-be-sentenced couple. Also, should one think that the behemoth Amazon is the only victim in such scams, many independent sellers on Amazon’s platform have similar stories of being held liable for customers’ dishonest practices as well.
If the Finans’ grifting isn’t enough to draw your ire, then knowing that scams such as these turn return policies elsewhere into baffling ordeals might do the trick.