Fake Reviews

I get email spam like the following – soliciting my purchase of an Amazon product, whose price will be refunded if I post a positive review. In other examples, I have bought a product on Amazon only to then receive direct emails from the vendor offering to send me another product in exchange for a favorable review.

There are many ways that cheap vendors fill Amazon’s reviews with fake positive reviews of their own products – and negative reviews of competitors. The effect is Amazon reviews are no longer useful to consumers.

Click on image to view full size to see this email sent to me this morning:

Fake Products

Other problems include fake products made to look identical to brand-name products – but using substandard manufacturing and materials.

Eventually, genuine reviews catch up to these products and give actual, legitimate negative reviews.

Recently I was looking at some items on Amazon that looked identical to brand name products – but could see from the recent reviews that these were imitation, imposter, fake products of poor quality.

One was a clone and claimed it was stainless steel – but a review from a professional welder pointed out this was a lie and the product had quickly rusted. Another was a food item – and recent reviews noted the units shipping were past expiration dates, and some said even contained mold. I once bought an aged hard cheese via Amazon – when it arrived, I saw that the expiration date was months ago! Fortunately, this was a hard change that was already aged a long time – this just made it age a bit longer and it was not a problem. But – this is a problem for many products.

Fake Books

Two items in this category.

Fake Used Books

I have self published books on Amazon, all as e-books, and one as an e-book and as a print-to-order paperback.

When I went live with the e-book that could also be ordered in print form, within days there were four”used” copies of this brand new book available in the Amazon listing. Before even a single copy of the printed book had been sold.

Fraudsters obtained the e-book, stripped it of Amazon’s weak copy protection and used that text to create imitation, fake printed copies they posted for sale as “used” books. All fakes.

The only solution for me, as a self publishing author was to delete the sale of the printed copy and sell only as an e-book. That way there was no printed form of the book.

The Second Fake Book Scam

I recently bought some e-book cookbooks. They look very nice when read in the Kindle app and are inexpensive.

The books, however, are not at all what they seem. I visited the web site of the “publisher” which featured information about their cookbook authors. A reverse image search of the author photos found that 100% were agency stock photos. All of their authors and author bios are fake.

A reverse image search of the food photos shown in the cookbooks found all were stock photos or free photos found online.

A search for some of the recipes found many were copied from web sites containing recipes. In some cases, metric measures were converted to English measures but were otherwise identical ingredient lists, even in the same order.

Recipe instructions were re-worded to avoid detection of plagiarism, but otherwise are in the same order as the web sites where they were stolen from.

For example, an instruction that said “Heat until lukewarm” was changed to “Heat until warm but not too hot”. This is still plagiarism .

This cookbook publisher has several hundred titles on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and at other book sellers and all of them are fake, based on stolen content.

We can guess that this publisher is a small group of staff that picks a cookbook theme (food of Italy, food of Spain, etc) and scours the Internet for recipes. They copy those, rewrite the text slightly to avoid detection, readily find stock photos (often available for free) and assemble these into short (less than 200 page) e-books for sale on Amazon. The editing is good – and is at the level of a native English speaker who knows how to write. It is likely that some recipes were stolen from printed cookbooks, making it more difficult to locate the original source and detect the theft of the content.

With hundreds of titles these books are a plagiarism mill of intellectual property theft. Amazon makes this possible.

Jeff Bezos

I have admired Jeff Bezos. But Bezos made his billions in part by creating and promoting intellectual property theft. The problems have gone on for long and continue to go on. While he is mostly disconnected from Amazon now, he has had a large incentive to look the other way -he makes a cut of every transaction, so stopping illicit sales is not in his interest.

If anything, based on surveying Amazon products this past week, I think the problems are worse than ever!

Can we, as consumers, have confidence in buying products on Amazon?