Amazon has filed a lawsuit against dozens of affiliate marketers who allegedly generate fraudulent traffic by falsely promising consumers Amazon gift cards.
“Defendants are engaged in a widespread, fraudulent marketing scheme that bombards victims with unauthorized emails and abuses Amazon’s brand to generate traffic,” Amazon alleges in a complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
“Defendants then profit from fees for this fraudulently generated traffic paid to them by affiliate marketing networks and advertisers.”
For the scheme, companies allegedly send emails to consumers that either promise an Amazon gift card or another reward.
Those emails -- which allegedly display Amazon's name or images of Amazon gift cards -- often include copy thanking recipients for recent purchases, according to the lawsuit.
“The purpose of defendants’ emails is to entice victims to click a link contained within the message,” Amazon alleges.
Consumers who click that link are redirected through several domains, eventually landing on a page that appears to contain an Amazon survey, according to the lawsuit.
That page allegedly uses Amazon's name and imagery associated with its brand to dupe people into believing the survey is connected to the company. According to the complaint, visitors to the page are asked questions such as “Would you recommend Amazon to a friend?” and “When is the last time you bought a product from Amazon?”
Amazon says the page has a disclaimer in small font stating that the site isn't affiliated with the company.
After people complete the survey, they are taken to a page where they can purchase supposedly discounted products. A screenshot of one of those pages shows offers for products including “100% pure CBD oil,” which had a price of $37, and “2019 luxury watches,” which were free but came with $4.95 in shipping fees.
Amazon's claims include false advertising and trademark infringement.
The company says it doesn't yet know the names of the defendants, but has identified web hosting companies and domain registrars used by the alleged scammers --including NameSilo, Namecheap, Interweb Advertising and GoDaddy.com, among others. The retailer is seeking a court order requiring those companies to disclose information that would identify the defendants.
Amazon is also seeking monetary damages and an order prohibiting the affiliate marketers from using Amazon's trademarks in connection with commercial emails, marketing campaigns or websites.