Amazon Sues Alleged Counterfeiters in ‘Hidden Links’ Scheme

counterfeit bags

Amazon has accused a pair of social media influencers of promoting counterfeit goods.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday (Sept. 6), the eCommerce giant accuses Kamryn Russell, Ashley Hawat and unnamed co-conspirators of intentionally trying to get around Amazon’s brand protection systems to sell fake versions of luxury handbags, jewelry and accessories.

“In this case, both Russell and Hawat attempted to use a ‘hidden links’ scheme in which they posted links on their social media pages that directed their followers to seemingly generic product listing pages in the Amazon store,” Amazon said in a news release.

According to the suit, Russell and Hawat’s co-conspirators masked the “infringing nature” of the products they were selling to avoid detection by Amazon and the brand, in many cases by blurring the brand’s logo.

“Russell and Hawat’s social media posts then made it clear to their followers that if they purchased these seemingly non-infringing and non-branded products, they would actually receive counterfeit luxury products,” Amazon said. “These bad actors also urged their followers to buy these products before Amazon could take down the listings.”

Russell and Hawat were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Amazon has stepped up its effort to crack down on fake products this year with the launch of its Anti-Counterfeiting Exchange.

As PYMNTS reported in April, this service lets stores share information about counterfeiters to help all industry participants identify and stop the production of bogus goods.

“We want our customers to have confidence in their shopping experience and for brands to know they are protected from counterfeits,” Amazon Vice President of Selling Partner Services Dharmesh Mehta said in a news release.

However, there’s some evidence that shoppers — younger ones especially — may not be that concerned about buying counterfeit goods.

A 2022 survey by the EU Intellectual Property Office found that 37% of respondents aged 15 to 24 had bought at least one fake product in the previous 12 months, with consumers saying they did not care whether a product was fake.

This lawsuit follows another suit by Amazon from last month in which it accused two companies of producing bogus product reviews.

“Fake reviews are primarily being driven by the emergence of an illicit ‘fake review broker’ industry,” the company said on its blog Monday (Aug. 14). “These fraudsters knowingly conduct illicit activity in an attempt to deceive Amazon customers and harm Amazon selling partners through the facilitation of fake reviews and other fake content.”