What to Do If You Think Your Amazon Purchase Is a Fake (2023)

Sometimes things you buy online can seem fishy right out of the box: I’ve squinted my eyes at packaging with fuzzy printing, a toothbrush head that wouldn’t fit on the brush, and a water filter that drained suspiciously quickly. Even worse, I’ve had people tell me stories about buying a random charger from Amazon only to find it clicking, heating up, or even melting after malfunctioning.

Buying from Amazon can be trickier than it seems. More than half of what people can buy through Amazon isn’t directly sold by Amazon—even some things that ship via Prime come from third-party sellers. For the 53 percent of listings run by third-party sellers, Amazon has explicit rules against selling counterfeits, and harsh penalties that may result in account termination or even legal action. And some brands have praised Amazon for at least taking steps to prevent the sale of knockoffs. In February 2019, Amazon announced Project Zero, which preempts counterfeit listings using machine learning, an algorithm-based tool that relies on data to make predictions. The retailer supplements that with a tool that allows brands to shut down listings for counterfeits they find on Amazon, as well as the Transparency program, an individual product verification system.

But fakes and mislabeled products still slip through. While reporting on the world of fakes, I bought a counterfeit version of a patented oven mitt, fake cosmetics, a discontinued toothbrush head, and even a knockoff car booster seat without safety certification.


Here at Wirecutter, we care a lot about authenticity. Our mission is to make great product recommendations and offer expert product advice that makes your life better. We want to make sure that if you buy something, it’s what we actually recommend, not some hack-job knockoff.

If you think you’ve purchased a fake product, take these steps to protect yourself, get your money back, and warn others against repeating your mistake.

Stop using the thing

If there’s something suspect about the thing you’ve purchased and you’re unsure of its authenticity, stop using it immediately, says Aaron Aguilar, brand protection regional manager at UL, a global organization that provides safety certification for electronic goods. “Counterfeit goods by nature usually cut corners on quality and they present a real danger” to health and safety, Aguilar told us. “Even if it’s something that seems as harmless as a pair of sneakers, the way that it’s constructed can cause some health issues.” Fake pet diet supplements can sicken a dog; fake cables or chargers can brick phones and catch fire; fake makeup can cause allergic reactions and even chemical burns. If in doubt, stop using it.

Write to the seller

Contacting the seller is the starting point for getting a refund on a questionable purchase. Amazon makes it easy to leave feedback for recent purchases if you go to amazon.com/feedback while you are logged in to the site. You can also check your order from the upper-right corner of the screen if you’re on a desktop, or from the menu under the three lines on the upper-left corner of the mobile app.

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If you’re dissatisfied with the seller’s answer (or you don’t get one), and you’ve purchased your item recently, you can return or replace most items that are eligible for a certain period of time. You get 30 days from the shipment date if the item was sold by Amazon. If your item was sold by a third party, return policies vary, but they usually allow about the same length of time.

Tommy Noonan, the founder of customer review analysis site ReviewMeta.com, said, “If you buy something and it sucks, absolutely 100% return it because it sends a financial message to Amazon and the seller that, hey, I’m not going to put up with this inferior quality.”

Even if the return period has lapsed, you can still try to reach out to the seller by going to the seller’s storefront and leaving a message. Be specific about why you want to return the item, and the seller may initiate a return for you.

File an “A-to-z Guarantee” claim

If you’re not successful with the seller, reach out to Amazon customer service and activate the company’s A-to-z Guarantee, which allows you to request a refund if you received an order that is different from what you expected and you have already requested a return with the seller. “Customers are always protected by our A-to-z guarantee,” Amazon told us in a statement. “If a product doesn’t arrive or isn’t as advertised, customers can contact our customer support for a full refund of their order.” Amazon allows customers up to 90 days after the delivery date to activate the A-to-z Guarantee, though you can file a claim only if you have contacted the seller first.

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Amazon is fairly liberal with its A-to-z Guarantee return policy, so much so that the retailer highlighted the policy in its 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a possible liability: “Under our A2Z Guarantee, we reimburse buyers for payments up to certain limits in these situations, and as our third-party seller sales grow, the cost of this program will increase and could negatively affect our operating results,” Amazon writes in the filing, essentially warning investors that the company may be unable to stop sellers from unlawfully selling improper goods.

An A-to-z Guarantee claim can seriously damage a seller’s standing with Amazon, and there are many stories on Amazon’s Seller Forums from vendors who believe they’ve been taken advantage of, which is why this option is meant to be used only after you’ve tried to resolve the issue directly with the seller. If Amazon determines that the seller is at fault, the seller’s account will be debited, though the seller has the right to appeal within 30 days.

Contact your credit card company

In the unlikely event that you can’t get your money back from the seller or from Amazon, you can request a chargeback from your credit card company. The card company is likely to kick the request to the merchant first (in this case, Amazon Pay, Amazon’s payment service), which then contacts the seller. Only if the dispute isn’t resolved satisfactorily by the seller does the bank decide whether to refund you the amount you paid.

Write to the brand

It’s in a brand’s best interest to track down counterfeiters who may be dragging the brand’s reputation down with shoddy products, so consider playing the role of Good Samaritan by contacting the manufacturer and sharing the details of your inadvertent counterfeit purchase. “This will help the brand owner in their investigation,” Aguilar said, as it will possibly aid those legitimate business owners in successfully removing the fake product from the marketplace. For example, Jon Sumroy, CEO of Mifold, which makes travel booster seats, said that hearing from customers who contact Mifold about oddly low prices can help his company track down knockoffs it might not have known about.

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You can also go to Stopfakes.gov for information on how to report counterfeits to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center as well as the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Leave feedback for the seller

Sometimes Amazon blocks product reviews that are really about the seller rather than the product. That can be helpful for keeping the reviews on a product page specific to that product, but it can also mean that negative reviews of sellers aren’t readily visible.

Not all Amazon shoppers realize that just as every product has reviews, every seller also has a page with feedback that customers provide about their experience with the purchase. These reviews can be an important data point for the next person who is deciding whether to trust that seller, so if you’ve had a negative experience, leave feedback on the seller page—and check the seller page before making a purchase with a new merchant you’re not familiar with. Go to amazon.com/feedback to rate any of the sellers you’ve purchased from. Your rating may show up on the seller’s page, and it’s in the seller’s best interest to maintain high ratings in order to stay in good standing with Amazon.

Replace what you have by finding an authorized seller

Check the brand’s website for information on authorized sellers. For example, on Yeti’s website, the FAQ page lists YETI Authorized as the dealer on Amazon, while Birkenstock says none of the many sellers on Amazon are authorized to sell its sandals; Birkenstock encourages buyers to purchase through its website or from authorized dealers listed in its store locator instead.

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While all of this can be a hassle, “we can’t allow the threat of counterfeit products that may be present in the marketplace to insulate us from e-commerce,” said Aguilar, who told me that he shopped online regularly. “I’ve gotten a lot of great deals … but we do have to practice some due diligence in knowing who the sellers are.”


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