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During Cyber Monday I was searching for a specific camera as a gift for a family member. I found it available at a merchant I had not heard of before for around $100, which is $25 cheaper than Amazon. Said merchant uses Paypal for payment processing, so I felt comfortable making the purchase. Said merchant is unaffiliated (as far as I could tell) with Amazon.

My card was charged the listed price, and a week later the camera I ordered arrived, but in an Amazon box sealed with Amazon tape. Several days after that I received a second camera (the same exact item) also in an Amazon box. It's been almost a week but the seller never contacted me to ask anything about the extra item.

My first instinct was to contact the seller about the erroneously sent item and return it, but the fact both items arrived in Amazon boxes gave me pause. Had they contacted me to return the second item I could think of a few ways that could be a scam, but since they haven't I'm uncertain. What is the best way to proceed?

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  • Have you been charged more than the agreed upon amount? Is the actual camera exactly what you ordered? This doesn't sound like a scam so much as someone who may have found the product on amazon for less than theyre charging you or has access to amazon tape and boxes.
    – jros
    Dec 14, 2021 at 19:36
  • I was charged only once, the correct amount. It is exactly the item ordered. I wondered if it was a brushing situation, but that's a really expensive item to do that for.
    – Nicholas
    Dec 14, 2021 at 20:10
  • Since you provided them with your address, and your account info should be protected through PayPal, if there is any sort of brushing going on, it would be that they are boosting their own sales numbers and creating fake reviews. If you don't see any reviews made under your name, I would say you've received a free camera in exchange for a company saying they sold one more camera than they really did. I'm no legal expert, but it doesn't seem to me that any of your personal info (other than address) has been provided to the vender and you shouldn't be in danger of any legal issues
    – jros
    Dec 14, 2021 at 20:25
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    @RiverNet Amazon itself probably doesn't even know what ties the website's orders to fulfillment. 🤣 “We lack visibility into the data we are charged with protecting,” he wrote. “We do not systemically know the data flows and storage locations of sensitive data.”
    – Mentalist
    Dec 15, 2021 at 5:45
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    I think this may be the first "is this a scam" question I've read where the answer is likely "no" :)
    – Pelle
    Dec 15, 2021 at 9:20

6 Answers 6

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This could be a scam, but if it is, they are probably not scamming you.

I've seen a description of a scam that looks similar to the buyer (you receive more than you asked for, and the source of delivered packages does not match your expectations)

There was a talk about such a scam on DEF CON 27, involving ebay and Nespresso pods:

DEF CON talk

Mashable writeup

The short version is:

  • Scammer has some victim's credit card info
  • Scammer lists something for sale
  • You buy this item from scammer
  • Scammer uses the stolen credit card to pay for this item on a third-party website, specifies your address
  • You get delivered your item (or even more than you asked for)

Now you are happy with you purchase, and the scammer has successfully recieved the money, without a direct connection to them. They don't care that they had to "pay" twice the price - it wasn't their money. They didn't have to hire a mule to receive a package and then sell the goods.

This is called Triangulation Fraud

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    I agree with others that the double-item is likely a mistake, but I think this is the best answer to my question. I planned to try to return the second camera, but I wanted to be perfectly aware of my risk profile before doing so by understanding what possible scam could be in play. This answer best addresses that. Thank you!
    – Nicholas
    Dec 16, 2021 at 13:48
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    Is there any billing information in any of the boxes, @Nicholas? That should have PayPal as the payment method (if any); if it shows a credit card, it is very likely triangulation fraud. Also good answer, @Vovcheg!
    – SQB
    Dec 17, 2021 at 15:07
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    Note that if it is this kind of scam, you do not want to get involved in trying to return the second item. It might turn out that one was "legitimate" and the other not, and after returning the legitimate one, you end up on the hook for the fraudulently-ordered one, requiring a huge headache (at best; worst case would be treated as having some involvement in the fraudulent card use) to clear everything up. Just leave well alone and enjoy the duplicate item. If someone's stolen card was used, the bank is on the hook for fixing it anyway. Dec 17, 2021 at 16:10
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This doesn't sound like a scam to me since there is no "hook" being set to separate you from your money. Many companies use Amazon as their fulfillment operation so what you have described about the item arriving in an Amazon box is not surprising. But another possibility is that the vendor has a supply of Amazon boxes and is simply reusing them.

Anyway, it sounds like a mistake was made and you have received two items but were only charged for one. The right thing to do, all legalities aside, is to contact the vendor and explain what has happened and arrange to return the extra item at their expense.

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  • I agree with the possibility of mistake. Among millions of parcels, mistakes can happen. Once I ordered a used Go-Pro on Amazon and ended up with a shiny new Huawei 10 inches tablet in a sealed box worth more than double price than the Go-Pro. Dec 17, 2021 at 14:25
  • Do not contact and explain. You will just make more work for everyone involved, and it's likely nobody but Amazon (if even them) will see any financial benefit from the work. Just leave it be. Dec 17, 2021 at 16:06
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I had Amazon themselves do something similar last month, when an order somehow disappeared in transit (at one of Amazon's warehouses no less!). They created a new order and shipped it to me, and a week after that shipment arrived, the "lost" package showed up on my door, with no explanation. I contacted Amazon and let them know what happened, and they gladly emailed a UPS label to me to send it back to them.

Even if it's at your expense, UPS Ground is not all that expensive, and the feeling of having done the right thing is worth the few dollars it costs you to put it in a box and send it back. I understand others' opinions that the vendor should pay too, but I would send it back regardless if it were me.

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    I had a similar situation from Amazon a couple of years ago. I ordered an item and watched the shipment tracking. Two days after it was supposed to have arrived (but hadn't), I had a message on my Amazon account with an apology, a refund of my purchase and a request to purchase again or order something else, and specific instructions that if the item ever did show up, I was free to keep the item and didn't have to return it. I ordered a similar replacement item and both the original and replacement showed up the next day. Surprisingly good customer service, if you ask me...
    – FreeMan
    Dec 15, 2021 at 14:05
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    Depending on the item, dealing with the logistics of having you send back the item might end up costing more than telling you to keep it (the actual delivery is only part of the cost). So they do the latter, you're happy and they are too :-)
    – spectras
    Dec 15, 2021 at 17:03
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    And the returned item doesn't go back into stock, because it is "post consumer". It goes onto a pallet, which is sold to junk hounds for pennies on the dollar. You see videos on Youtube of the junk hounds opening up their pallets and seeing what they got... Dec 15, 2021 at 17:07
  • There is no moral obligation to do free labor for a company of Amazon's size to make up for whatever mistake they (or their affiliate?) made that they aren't even aware of. They almost certainly would prefer you just keep the extra item than take on the customer service, restocking, accounting-error-fixing, etc. workload of handling the return of an item that wasn't even accurately in their system as having been sold, and you certainly are better off not spending your time (which they won't compensate you for, even if they pay for the shipping) to return it. Dec 17, 2021 at 16:04
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If you receive "unrequested" packages on your doorstep addressed to you, they are yours.

This is to prevent companies from sending extra stuff/unrequested stuff and then asking for payment.

You can decide to notify the seller of the mistake and ask them to pay for the return of the unwanted goods.  If you decide to keep it, they have no recourse.

Source: What To Do If You’re Billed for Things You Never Got, or You Get Unordered Products by the FTC (Consumer Information):

By law, companies can’t send unordered merchandise to you, then demand payment. That means you never have to pay for things you get but didn’t order. You also don’t have to return unordered merchandise. You’re legally entitled to keep it as a free gift.

  [Emphasis added]

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    Your assumption that this the FTC is relevant and that the $ in the question are US$ should probably be stated explicitly. Jurisdictions vary
    – Chris H
    Dec 15, 2021 at 14:31
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    -1; this probably does not apply here. This isn't the case that the law impacts - where a company is drop shipping stuff hoping you pay for it - it's a mistake shipment.
    – Joe
    Dec 15, 2021 at 18:47
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    @Joe "You also don’t have to return unordered merchandise." sounds to me like the FTC doesn't care what the intent is. Dec 16, 2021 at 6:58
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    @QuoraFeans no, that argument would not succeed (and only a shonky, not-at-all decent (in any sense of the word) lawyer would even try it) because part of the purpose of these laws is to prevent companies from ripping off their existing customers by sending them stuff they didn't order and then billing them for it. Unsolicited goods and services do not have to be paid for, or returned. Absent a legitimate, verifiable order by the recipient (or their authorised agent), the reason why they were sent is irrelevant. Laws to this effect exist almost everywhere in the world.
    – cas
    Dec 16, 2021 at 7:09
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    The seller may not have the right to demand payment, but in the UK keeping the extra item is actually theft, because all five tests in Sections 2–6 of the Theft Act 1968 are satisfied. However, if the company is asked to recover the item and fails to do so, then Section 6 and 2(1)(b) apply and it's not theft to keep it. [Broadly: not legal advice] Dec 16, 2021 at 17:53
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Leaving the Amazon boxes aside, a somewhat different view: could it be that somebody else has ordered the camera (from Amazon or elsewhere) to be sent to you? I quite often order stuff on Amazon for delivery to my sister - and the package would have her name and address. Similarly, if she wants to get something for me, she would order it on Amazon with my name/address for delivery.

It could be that one of the packages is what you ordered, and the other is what somebody else ordered for you.

Not saying it's the case - but it's a possibility.

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Seems like an honest error on the seller's or Amazon's part.

I've ordered stuff from websites directly and it arrived in an Amazon package plenty of times. Many companies let Amazon handle their fulfillments regardless of where you ordered the product. It's probably cheaper to let Amazon handle fulfillment compared to contriving your own company solution with multiple employees.

Contact the seller and let them know you received two items but only ordered and paid for one. They will advise how to move forward.

If they request additional money or expect you to pay for shipping in any way whatsoever then that will be a huge red flag.

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    Ask for UPS's shipping rate pamphlet for small shippers, and you'll soon see why Fulfillment by Amazon is so popular. Also, see Amazon commingling- you load your Items of one SKU into your local Amazon warehouse, and when a faraway customer orders, they ship another seller's item of the same SKU from a warehouse closer to the customer. spoiler alert: the other seller's items are counterfeit... Dec 15, 2021 at 17:03
  • Comingling is news to me! Do you think it's relevant to OP's situation?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Dec 15, 2021 at 17:08

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