Amazon’s Prime Day is finally here. While the annual online sale event is an absolute feast for merchants and shoppers, the untamable excitement also presents a rare opportunity for scammers to bombard consumers with “too-good-to-be-true” deals and false advertising.
However, there are a few quick ways to spot scams on Amazon, according to Rachel Johnson Greer, a former manager on Amazon’s safety and compliance team from 2007 to 2014.
Here are five warning signs you should take note of before rushing to add items to your Amazon shopping cart.
Product Description With Basic Grammar Errors
“I know this sounds silly, but the number one red flag that I look for is, do they have a writing that has a comma with no space after it?” Johnson said in an interview with Business Insider. “The advice that I would have for people when they’re trying to decide what to buy is: avoid the comma and no space.”
The reason is that a grammatically or punctually incorrect product description indicates that the product is manufactured or fulfilled outside the U.S., thus making it immune to U.S. counterfeit laws.
‘FDA-Approved’ Products That Are Not Food or a Drug
As the agency’s name suggests, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can only certify food and medical products. And yet, it’s likely you’ll see things that fall under neither categories advertised as approved or recommended by the FDA on Amazon. In those cases, the “FDA-approved” claims essentially say nothing about the product’s actual safety.
“[What the FDA can approve is] a really limited list. And yet you will see things like a silicon chewing thing for kids, and it says FDA approved,” Johnson said.
Similar to “FDA-approved” advertisements, “CPSIA-approved” and “CPSIA-certified” are also common claims made by Amazon sellers.
CPSIA, or the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, is a law passed in 2008 to increase the budget and expand the regulating scope of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). CPSIA itself, though, is not an agency and therefore can’t approve or certify anything.
Products With Fake Reviews
Fake reviews are a problem Amazon has been tackling for quite a while. In order to push sales, some third-party sellers will hire people (or robots) to write positive reviews for their products. And the number of these fake reviews tend to skyrocket around Prime Day, noticed Fakespot, a service that analyzes customer review integrity.
For example, about 40 percent of reviews under cell phone accessories were fake as of last month, which was twice as common as a two years ago, a Fakespot report found.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell real reviews from fake ones with the naked eye. Amazon said it’s employing a combination of machine learning technology and human screeners to combat fake reviews on the site.
“Our team investigates suspect reviews, works with social media sites to stop inauthentic reviews at the source, pursues legal action to stop offenders from planning reviews abuse, and feeds new information into our automated systems so it continues to improve and become more effective in catching abuse,” said an Amazon spokesperson.
Anything That Walmart Doesn’t Carry
A key difference between Amazon and other retail giants is that Amazon carries products by tens of thousands of third-party sellers, meaning that not everything on the platform is subject to the same quality rules.
But a useful reference point is Walmart, which Johnson said “has one of the best, most stellar compliance programs in the country.”
So, if a product you are eyeing on Amazon is also for sale at Walmart, you should have peace of mind.