‘This feels like a scam’: A third party admits to stealing $1.3 million from Amazon in an elaborate fake sale and refund scam

It was a solid scam with an iron end.

A third-party seller on Amazon.com has pleaded guilty to an elaborate refund scam that ripped off the $1.3 million online retail platform, which he then used to purchase gold and silver bars.

Ting Hong Yeung, 41, of Hacienda Heights, California, admitted that he had created multiple seller accounts on Amazon AMZN,
and had carried out the scam in which he offered high-priced items but never shipped them, dating back to 2013.

Prosecutors said Yeung found a way to tamper with Amazon’s third-party payment system to ensure money from fake sales reaches his accounts before a disgruntled shopper demands a refund.

Yeung faces up to 20 years in prison at his conviction in April. Prosecutors say he agreed to pay compensation, in part from the stacks of gold and silver bars seized at his home when he was arrested.

A message to Yeung’s lawyer was not immediately answered.

The old bait and switch

According to court documents, Yeung would set up the seller accounts and run them normally for a time, eventually allowing them to sell more expensive products. He would then offer expensive furniture and home accessories at prices lower than other sellers on the site.

When a buyer ordered the item, the money was held in Yeung’s Amazon seller account for up to two weeks. He would then enter a fake tracking number, which allowed the payment to ultimately be processed, prosecutors said.

Eventually, when the buyer complained that the item had not been delivered, Yeung would respond with messages that the shipment was delayed or some other explanation that would result in the buyer not being able to immediately request a refund through the Amazon system requested.

That would give Amazon ample time to deposit the money into Yeung’s bank account, prosecutors said. Eventually, when the buyer requested a refund, Amazon would find that there weren’t enough funds in Yeung’s seller account to make the refund, so the company would pay the buyer back themselves the terms of their A-to-Z Guarantee program.

In some cases, Yeung admitted sending buyers cheap crystal ornaments both to generate a tracking number and as part of an effort to delay filing a refund request.

“This feels like a scam.”

— Message from a buyer in 2020, according to court records.

“Hello. I have received a crystal ornament and a message that my couch will arrive between March 6th and 18th. Please advise why the product I ordered was marked as delivered even though I can’t find the item I purchased Haven’t received it yet. This feels like a scam. Thank you,” a buyer wrote to Yeung in 2020, according to court records.

“Hello. How are we scam? The shipping day of your order is Mon 2 Mar 2020 to Fri 6 Mar 2020. Delivery by: Fri/ 6 Mar 2020 to Wed 18 Mar 2020. May I know, would like you a full refund?” Yeung replied.

In some other cases, prosecutors said Yeung used stolen credit card information to purchase the actual items he had promised buyers from other vendors. He sends them to the buyer and collects the purchase price. But he then demanded a refund for the item he bought, saying it wasn’t what he ordered or it was damaged. He would then send back another, cheaper item and collect the refund as well.

In all, investigators say Yeung stole $1.3 million from Amazon over seven years.

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