Season 1, Episode 38

Black Hat

Attacks in Q4

Sabotage is running wild on Amazon, especially during Q4. In this episode Chris McCabe & Leah McHugh discuss different types of black hat attacks and how to prepare yourself before it’s too late.

Show Notes


[00:00:07] Chris: Hey everybody. This is Chris McCabe. Welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions. I’m a former Amazonian and current Amazon seller consultant alongside Leah McHugh, who is with me today. Leah, how are you?

[00:00:23] Leah: Good. Thanks, How are you, Chris?

[00:00:25] Chris: Good. Wanted to talk about something of a crisis that’s going on. I know it’s kind of peak holiday right now. You start seeing crazy black hat tactics every year. And this is something we’re seeing now, a rash of black hat sellers slash consultants slash illicit services are putting together their own version of your listings, your branded listings, your brand, hopefully your brand is copyrighted, your photos and the content that you’ve put on Amazon. But they’re copying your page elsewhere and then reporting you for having violated their copyrighted content. I know that sounds kind of crazy.

For some reason amazon is still taking those as legitimate copyright complaints. We’ve mentioned this on previous podcasts, of course. Lots of rubber stamped enforcement actions by these teams that are in charge of IP enforcement. They’re not really taking any time to figure out which came first, your content or theirs.

They’re just looking at the content they’re shown by this other party, which is the same images might even have your brand on that image, but they’re claiming that you’ve stolen their content. And Leah, this isn’t something we haven’t seen before this isn’t even news necessarily. It’s just worse now.

[00:01:40] Leah: Well, it’s just that they’re taking the extra step now of actually registering somebody else’s content under their own copyright, which is new for me. I don’t know maybe they were doing that before, but I believe that that extra step, this is kind of, what’s taking this to the next level.

[00:01:57] Chris: Yeah. And I’ve seen something similar with reviews abuse people were creating a Facebook page. For the brand that they’re attacking, making it look like the brand created it for themselves with lots of free free gifts offered, leave us a five star review. Of course the competitor was the one creating that page.

And that created a lot of headaches when brands that we were working with were reported for reviews abuse. And of course they didn’t create any of those pages. This is kind of similar to that because somebody is creating parallel, copied content about a brand, but they’re making it look like the brand stole from them. And Amazon doesn’t have enough information or enough wherewithal to research it. So this has to be reported to abuse teams immediately. If your ASINs are already suspended, if you’re not just looking at a policy violation warning, then you need to appeal for reinstatement and report it to abuse teams. I would get on that early and often. Because of what time of year it is. I mean, response times are just lengthening at this time of year.

[00:02:56] Leah: Yeah. If you can avoid dealing with anything this time of year, you’re better off. Everything slows down on the Amazon side of things unfortunately as we get further and further into peak holiday.

[00:03:06] Chris: And we had a spike of bogus copyright complaints over the summer. Then it kind of ebbed and fell away a little bit. Amazon even created a new DMCA counter notice template for this so that people could report DMCA counter notices quicker, more easily.

Without necessarily hiring an IP attorney to draft a letter for them. The problem with DMCA counter notices is the other party has 10 days to respond to it with additional information. Of course, if it’s a completely fake copyright claim, they’re not responding at all. They’re just milking those 10 days of sales that your listing is down. That’s the sad thing. The other sad thing of course is that Amazon doesn’t necessarily contact that other party right away and get that 10 day clock started. Sometimes it takes them, what have we seen? 10, 20 days for them even to reach out. And then the 10 day clock starts?

[00:03:54] Leah: Right, exactly.

[00:03:55] Chris: Which is particularly deplorable on the Amazon side because they know this is a major form of abuse. They know they’re not prepared for it. They know they have no real ability to help a brand protect themselves from this kind of abuse. And it’s just a trendy attack method now there’s the copyright claims. , the pushing your product into the adult category..

[00:04:16] Leah: Yeah, that one’s been around for a while now.

[00:04:18] Chris: That’s been around for awhile, but and that’s not as trendy as the copyright stuff because black hat sellers or consultants or services are afraid that you can fix the category switch too quickly. That’s how insidious this is.

And then the elicit backend keyword stuff. That’s still happening where somebody tries to tuck in to your ASIN contributions terms like pesticide or cannabis or all these crazy words that get your listings flagged right away.

[00:04:42] Leah: Dagga weed, a bunch of others I’ve never heard of.

[00:04:45] Chris: Dagga weed, things we’re not sure what they mean exactly. We have an idea, but the bottom line is they’re trying to attract negative attention from Amazon’s spots to get your listing suspended. Another big piece of advice here is keep an eye on this stuff. Don’t expect there to be a quiet holiday. They’re hitting you deliberately the same as they would midnight on a Friday night. We’ve seen that throughout the year where they’re waiting to hit you at a time where they know you’re not paying attention to things. You might not be reading notifications right away. Same thing applies now, but instead of over a weekend, it’s over a holiday. Pay attention to this stuff because you might be hit and you might have to write something quickly, be prepared now for submitting something that will report abuse and help get your listings reinstated quicker.

And you might even be dealing with other kinds of technical issues with Amazon, you might be done with Amazon created madness. It wouldn’t even necessarily be a black-hat attack. It might be something that you’re already dealing with, that’s like a glitch, a technical issue, an Amazon team doing something stupid.

[00:05:48] Leah: Yeah I mean unrelated to the copyright thing we have been seeing a lot more glitches in seller central lately. My theory is that they have a whole bunch of new employees who aren’t very well-trained who are flipping the wrong switches in the backend.

[00:06:02] Chris: Oh, there’s tons of evidence that they’ve got new people. If history is any indication they’re borrowing investigators or employees and staff from other teams that aren’t trained on their stuff. And they’ve just got to throw bodies at the problem. They’re throwing them in there and they don’t know what to do, hitting the wrong button, sending the wrong messages. We’re seeing message responses that aren’t congruous with what the issue is, that’s been a problem forever

[00:06:25] Leah: Also just like loops in seller central where you click something, click something, click something, and it just takes you back to where you started rather than taking you to the process that it’s supposed to be taking you to, getting a lot more of that lately.

[00:06:37] Chris: For your compliance appeals, yeah. You’re seeing that a bit more than some other people are for other kinds of suspensions, but a lot of sellers are getting copy and paste responses that just have nothing to do with why, what was going on, why the listing was flagged, why the account was suspended. So it’s tough. I know everyone’s busy. It’s tough for me to tell you. Pre-written appeals are good to have at the ready. But honestly expect a design patent or a utility patent allegation or fake claim to come at you from out of nowhere, it’s not just copyright, copyright’s the current hot one right now, but we’re seeing people getting bogus design patent claims.

They don’t have an attorney that can go to for a patent assessment. And especially the copyright stuff. If you need a good IP attorney we usually recommend Casey Hewitt. She’s really good at this. She understands the Amazon dynamic as well as the legal part, she understands that these are cat attacks. Just like we do. So if you need an attorney to assess, we can help you get in touch with Casey and her team. But beyond that, sometimes these are just obviously fake complaints where the email address just bounces. I mean, you could even write back to the email address Amazon gives you, and it’s not a real email, right? There’s no one there.

[00:07:50] Leah: That’s also been happening for a long time.

[00:07:52] Chris:
 Right. That’s been happening for a while. I’m just saying it spikes around this time so it’s already kind of an established trend. Any questions on that. Of course, you know where to find at ecommerceChris and we understand this is an unnerving type of podcast to listen to on the cusp of probably your highest sales of the year. But be ready for this stuff because Blackhat types and fraudsters are definitely ready to do it. So thanks again for listening in and I’ll talk to you soon.

Hosts & Guests

Chris McCabe

Leah McHugh



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