Amazon has recently taken legal action against an international group of cyber criminals for allegedly exploiting the company’s return and refund system to steal millions of dollars. The group, known as REKK, reportedly manipulated Amazon’s system by logging fake returns, ultimately stealing high-value items such as laptops and gaming consoles.
According to Bloomberg, REKK initiated the scam on social media platforms such as Reddit and Discord, where it created a refund service process that offered expensive items at discounted prices. The group then engaged with potential buyers via Telegram, where it had amassed a following of 30,000 users. Once a customer ordered, REKK would hack into Amazon’s systems or bribe employees to approve false return requests, essentially stealing the items and keeping them for themselves. The report reveals that for the entire service, REKK even charged customers a commission based on the value of the purchase, allowing people to get expensive items without paying full price.
Amazon lost millions of dollars due to a fraudulent scheme that ran for almost a year from June 2022 to May 2023. The scheme involved buying expensive items like gaming consoles, smartphones, laptops, and even a 24-karat gold coin, which were then returned or claimed as damaged through fraud. Amazon has filed a lawsuit against REKK and nearly 30 other individuals from the US, Canada, the UK, Greece, Lithuania, and the Netherlands for their involvement in this scheme.
The complaint filed by Amazon also alleges that REKK paid off several Amazon employees, including at least seven former workers, to sanction false product returns. One employee allegedly authorized returns for 76 products valued above $100,000 for a payment of $3,500, while another was paid $5,000 to approve 56 fake returns worth over $75,000.
According to the lawsuit, one of the accused, Andrew Ling, ordered five iPads and worked with REKK to obtain a refund. The lawsuit claims that REKK used a phishing attack to manipulate an Amazon employee at a fulfillment center into marking the iPad returns as received in the company’s systems.
Amazon is seeking damages for the millions of dollars it lost to the scheme, as well as an injunction to prevent REKK from continuing to conduct similar operations. The lawsuit was filed in a US District Court in Washington state.
Amazon is a popular e-commerce website, and it is estimated that consumers will spend around $678 billion on its platforms this year. However, its popularity also makes it a prime target for scams, which can involve hacking or even the involvement of insiders, such as employees. For example, in 2020, an Amazon employee in India was charged with accepting $100,000 in bribes to give certain merchants an unfair advantage over their competitors on the platform.
To address this issue, Amazon has invested heavily in security measures. In 2022, they reportedly spent $1.2 billion and employed 15,000 people to fight theft, fraud, and abuse on their site. According to Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s vice president in charge of seller services, the company takes a variety of measures to stop fraudulent activity. These include issuing warnings, closing accounts, and preventing individuals who engaged in refund fraud from opening new accounts.