Since 2015, Amazon has been actively trying to stomp out scammers exploiting authors. Foremost among these are fake reviews, but a couple of months ago it stepped up its anti-fraud efforts by filing arbitration complaints against five individuals. According to the company, these offered services to KDP author and publishers aimed at helping them manipulate the reading platform for financial gain. Amazon is demanding a combination of injunctive relief, account termination and, in some cases, triple damages.
As Publishers Weekly reports, Amazon alleges that five people used a number of prohibited strategies to manipulate customers reviews and worked to inflate sales and royalties. Amazon essentially charges that a handful of individuals worked to create fake reviews for their books and others’. Additionally, they attempted to manipulate Amazon systems that count book sales and the royalties paid to authors via its subscription reading service (KENP).
For Whom The Anti-Fraud Bell Tolls
Named in the complaint is Nilmer Rubio, a Philippino who Amazon says attempted to manipulate Kindle Unlimited pages read. Amazon alleges Rubio approached KDP authors with a scheme to “use a multitude of Amazon accounts to artificially inflate the author’s numbers,” in exchange for 40% of the revenue.
In two other filings, Terrance Li of Ontario, Canada, and Alexis Pablo Marrocco of Argentina were accused of trafficking in fake book reviews. In Li’s case, Amazon said it found 75 percent — 1,471 of the 1,957 reviews — associated with Li’s how-to and learning books were “abusive” and were removed.
The last two filings, involving Thomas Glenn of Miami, Florida, and Jake Dryan of London, England, involved alleged scams to push books higher on best-seller lists. Dryan was also accused of “hyperlink abuse,” a practice now blocked by Amazon in which an author includes in the first few pages of a book a hyperlink that will send readers to the end of a book. The scam helps artificially increase the number of pages read and therefore royalty payments.
Another respondent named in the complaint is Thomas Glenn (aka Thomas Castillo or Thomas Glenn Castillo), who runs the Free Book Service. Amazon alleges this company “offers KDP publishers the ability to artificially inflate their ranking within Amazon Best Sellers.”
Part Of A Pattern
As CNet reports, Amazon has been using these kinds of legal actions since 2015 to fight against scams and has over 1,000 entities involved in allegedly creating fake product reviews on its sites. The company last year also . Amazon pursued these arbitration filings. This is an alternative system to resolve disputes without having to go to court because the Kindle Direct Publishing terms and conditions require any disagreement must go through the arbitration association.
It is astonishing to note that four out of five alleged scammers are not even in the US. The international nature of these scams and the company’s need to take legal steps point to how hard it can be to stamp out online scams. They also show how difficult it is for Amazon to police its enormous list of hundreds of millions of product pages. By taking legal action, Amazon may be hoping it can dissuade would-be scammers from coming to its site in the first place, making its job a little easier.
Azure Fire Publishing considers Amazon to be a force for good in the publishing world, helping bring millions of works to the public; works that might otherwise go unpublished. Thanks to the company, we can distribute the works of our authors (find out here how you can support our writing challenges and youth literacy). As such, we welcome the efforts to weed out anyone looking for a quick profit at the expense of hard-working writers and publishers.