Data Dive: Hacked Routers, Amazon Returns And Sports Gambling Gets A Thumbs Down

It’s Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, and Americans are celebrating by staying cool by the pool or shore.

And what better way to relax by one’s chosen body of water than with some cool, refreshing data on tap? Amazon is rethinking returns, routers have been overrun by Russians and credit card issuers may not yet be betting on sports gambling, regardless of what the Supreme Court says.

Amazon’s Returns Reset

Apparently some shoppers have pushed Amazon’s patience too far with too many returns.

And now we all have to suffer for it.

The summer of our infinite returns is coming to a close – too many returns made to Amazon could cause customers to be totally banned from the “club” that is responsible for nearly 50 percent of eCommerce volume in the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Amazon has been banning shoppers for what the financial publication noted are “infractions such as returning too many items.”

So, how many items are too many?

That seems to be a bit of an open question.

The problem is that “lax return policies” on Amazon have led consumers to expect similar return policies from retailing peers, whether they are physical (brick and mortar) or digital locations. That demand has become so strongly heard that many e-tailers have gone so far as to reform their own return policies.

It seems some people have taken their returning powers a little too far – and now Amazon is tightening up the return ship.

In one instance noted by The WSJ, a user received an email from Amazon stating that his account had been closed and he’d been forbidden from opening a new one, upon violating the site’s use and conditions terms. He had returned a total of five items over the course of 2017 into 2018.

At some point, his account was reinstated. And yet, per an Amazon spokesman, the practice remains intact (if perhaps less than well-defined).

And that is backed up by a group of consumers who claim that Amazon dropped their accounts without much in the way of explanation, other than it has “sole discretion” over who gets to buy and who doesn’t.

Said Chris McCabe, a former policy enforcement investigator with Amazon and now a consultant at, the bans come when “you’re creating a lot of headaches for Amazon.”

Amazon managers have said the company will shutter accounts based on what the company might deem making excessive refund requests or sending back the wrong items.

“We want everyone to be able to use Amazon, but there are rare occasions where someone abuses our service over an extended period of time,” the spokesman said. “We never take these decisions lightly, but with over 300 million customers around the world, we take action when appropriate to protect the experience for all our customers.”

The Russians in the Routers 

According to reports from Reuters early last week, Russian hackers have “compromised hundreds of thousands of home and office routers and could collect user information or shut down network traffic.” That information comes on the heels of earlier reports of a massive online attack coordinated to go off concurrently with a soccer match in the Ukraine.

To head off the emerging threat, FBI investigators are encouraging users to flip off their routers and then flip them back on to protect against hacking. Users are also encouraged to download manufacturer updates to protect their devices.

Additionally, the FBI has confirmed that it is dismantling a network of hacked routers and storage devices that was reportedly set to enable a cyberattack. The move came after Cisco Systems, along with U.S. and Ukrainian officials, warned about the infected gear.

The danger was said to be found in a software called VPNFilter, which has infected devices in 54 countries. The malware, which was discovered by a Cisco security expert, is capable of stealing data from infected devices and rendering them unusable after the attack.

Authorities were worried that hackers would attempt the launch of a cyberattack to coincide with the final match in the UEFA Champions League soccer competition. According to Reuters, the hackers belong to a group called Sofacy, which is backed by the Russian government.

“Sofacy, also known as APT28 and Fancy Bear, has been blamed for many of the most dramatic Russian hacks, including that of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign,” the report said. “Western experts say Russia has conducted a series of attacks against companies in Ukraine for more than a year amid armed hostilities between the two countries, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and at least one electricity blackout.”

Cyberattacks have become a “fundamental part” of Russian military activity, noted retired Admiral James G. Stavridis, the former supreme allied commander of NATO. “Ukraine had portions of their grid taken down in an attack by Russia. We will see more of this,” he said at Innovation Project 2017, a program backed by PYMNTS.

Issuers Take a Hard Pass on Sports Gambling

The Supreme Court may have given states the green light for betting on sports games, but actually placing those bets could be a whole different challenge.

According to reports in Bloomberg this week, the largest credit card issuers – including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and American Express – are taking a pass in allowing their cardholders to use their cards for sports betting.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention to the ruling.

Mary Jane Rogers, a spokeswoman for JPMorgan, noted that the bank plans to “closely watch developments from the ruling and will consider any implications to our policy as the states put their own processes in place.”

The estimated value of the illegal sports betting market in the U.S. is valued at an estimated $150 billion each year. It’s a tempting pile of revenue to go after – though perhaps a risky one, as gamblers who roll a bit too high on credit could easily leave their creditors footing the bill through defaults.

Backers of the state’s gambling initiatives want the credit card issuers to allow it. There is also the fact that payment processors – including Worldpay – and payment networks have been working to make it possible to gamble using a credit card. These days, according to Worldpay, they are educating banks on how they can change their policies in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

“We are working with the card schemes – meaning Visa and Mastercard – on putting together a SWAT team and really working with the issuing banks,” said Joe Pappano, a senior vice president at Worldpay. “Issuers have to modify their real-time decisioning tool, they have to update policies, they have to feel confident that the compliance and the framework and those consumer protections exist.”

It is Pappano’s belief that credit card issuers will rethink their stance when they see the size of the market.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, Pappano told PYMNTS in a recent conversation, the gaming industry will be able to focus on industry-specific challenges, such as velocity monitoring and other controls on what consumers can and can’t do with a specific financial instrument.

As for the payments industry, it would not have been prepared for such a rapid rollout just four years ago, but Pappano noted that a lot has happened in that time frame. Worldpay and others created a framework there, too, so the payments industry is ready to accept those online gaming transactions whenever they come (and it will be sooner rather than later).