When Black Hats Attack - Teaching Sellers to Defend Their Amazon Accounts and Brand

January 29th, 2020

Amazon is home to thousands of third-party resellers. In fact, 53% of paid units sold on the channel are attributed to third parties. Many are reputable businesses, but there are a strong number as well with hidden agendas, trying at some level to game the system.  

Brands of all sizes and levels of notoriety are vulnerable to ‘black hat’ attacks. But it's important to note, particularly well-known brand names and high-performing SKUs are most susceptible because their high-velocity listings are attractive to resellers.  

These attacks are designed to sabotage the performance of legitimate brands. Here we share some of the most common ‘black hat’ tactics and how you can protect your brand. 

 4 of the Most Common Recent ‘Black Hat’ Tactics  

1. Fake Positive Reviews

Amazon closely monitors the legitimacy of product reviews. Having knowledge of this, illicit third-party resellers have been known to flood a brand’s products with fake positive reviews. The influx of reviews alerts Amazon and can result in a product's suspension.  

To ensure your brand becomes aware of this type of attack, we recommend creating a system to keep track of reviews. There are a number of tools available that alert brands of negative reviews and unusually high volumes of reviews on an ASIN. When you suspect your brand is the target of an attack, reach out to Amazon support right away. When submitting a ticket, be sure to have all the details of the issue documented and be able to provide evidence, including screenshots. 

2. Unsubstantiated Infringement Claims

Similar to leaving fraudulent reviews, another example of a ‘black hat’ attack is the submission of bogus copyright infringement claims. These claims could be made by sellers with a similar product or a third-party reseller that deliberately wants to shut down your listing. When this happens it can take several days to resolve and ultimately leaves brands without the ability to sell their products.  

If your brand has fallen victim to this kind of scam, Amazon will likely send a formal notice to the account owner. Notices will inform your brand that an ASIN is being shut down due to copyright infringement claims.  

Unfortunately, it’s difficult for brands to be proactive and prevent attacks like this. However, we recommend keeping close tabs on the status of your product's Buy Box ownership. Doing so will allow your brand to take swift action if a listing is affected. This is especially important because Amazon doesn't always alert brands immediately infringement claims.  

Your brand can also prepare by having backup documentation readily available. Keep this information in a central location for all products in your catalog. This will make a difference in how fast your brand can prove the legitimacy of the product to Amazon. 

3. Incorrect Variation Creation

Another common tactic third parties employ is ‘piggybacking’ on a brand’s listing. This method involves the creation of a new variation representing a new pack size or product type. For example, if a brand offers a ‘Pack of 1’ a third-party can piggyback and offer an appealing ‘Pack of 2’. Third-parties do this to avoid competing for the Buy Box and take advantage of existing traffic and reviews. Amazon doesn’t have any rules that prohibit offering a unique pack size or a variety pack of a product, but it still may be possible through brand support to remove the variation from the brand’s parent listing, if desired.  

Similarly, third parties often create a duplicate variation of the same product, altering the wording or format. For example, if a brand sells a ‘French Vanilla' candle, a third-party might create a 'Vanilla, French' candle. In this case, your brand will need to work with Amazon support or Brand Registry to have the duplicate ASINs merged.  

It’s crucial for brands to monitor their catalog and use a tool or software to be notified when a new variation is added to products. Otherwise, these kinds of attacks can go under the radar and result in lost sales. 

4. Hijacking Listing Content

‘Black hat’ third-parties have also been known to upload incorrect imagery to a product’s library. Examples include images of an unrelated product or false claims about the product. This tactic is used to sabotage a brand's product and catch the attention of Amazon, which can cause a snowball of repercussions. For example, these images can create confusion, product suspension, loss of brand control, and lost sales.  

This is a reminder of the importance of using a tool to monitor your brand’s catalog. We recommend enrolling in Brand Registry to create an added level of protection to prevent these attacks. However third parties have become more sophisticated and have executed attacks on brands enrolled in Brand Registry despite its power. At Marketplace Strategy (MPS), we use a suite of tools including proprietary software for our clients. When a client’s product content is hijacked, we work with Amazon support or Brand Registry to correct the issue. 

Third-party resellers are a major contributor to Amazon's ecosystem. In fact, Jeff Bezos said, "Third-party resellers are kicking our first-party butt," in his 2019 Letter to Shareholders. With this in mind, brands can compete and maintain control of their catalogs with the right knowledge and support. Protect your brand by enrolling in Brand Registry and enlisting the support of a strategic partner.   


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