Amazon.com, Inc. Steals Gift Card Balances; Callously Commits Fraud

Amazon.com Jolly Roger

The following is an email sent by me (Richard Thripp) on 9/22/2015 regarding the atrocious treatment I have recently received from Amazon.com, Inc., including the blacklisting/termination of my Amazon customer account and theft by Amazon.com, Inc., of my account’s legitimate gift card balance of $451.20. Following this email, I have included several prior emails and my original complaint to the Attorney General of Washington on 9/04/2015.

An introduction for the Attorney General of Washington, Consumer Protection Division; the Florida Attorney General’s Office, Office of Citizen Services; the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Consumer Services; the Federal Trade Commission; Jeffrey P. Bezos, Chairman of Amazon.com, Inc.; and Paul Dauber, Manager of Bystander Revolution, LLC:

At some point between 8/11/2015 and 8/25/2015, Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) terminated my Amazon customer account with username [email address], which has an Amazon Gift Card balance of $451.20 attached to it, as well as an outstanding textbook rental.

Amazon has repeatedly obfuscated the termination of my Amazon customer account in phone conversations on 8/26/2015, 8/27/2015, 8/31/2015, 9/01/2015, 9/04/2015, and 9/15/2015, has failed to return my emails or phone calls, and on 9/19/2015 and 9/22/2015, in response to my complaint with the Attorney General of Washington (state), has admitted:

1.) My Amazon customer account is permanently closed,
2.) No refund of my gift card balance will be offered,
3.) Amazon refuses to elucidate any reasons for the closure of my account,
4.) Amazon refuses to offer any recourse or consider any appeals, and
5.) Amazon will not reply to or acknowledge any further communications from me.

Amazon has not alleged that I have violated any terms from Amazon’s “Conditions of Use.” Mr. Suresh Potnuru, who appears to be an Amazon “Account Specialist,” has stated the following:

I’d like to confirm the information Mr. Thripp’s received from our Account Specialist team is correct. As noted in our Conditions of Use, in the section, “Your Account”: “Amazon reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders in its sole discretion.”

I maintain that this is manifestly illegal and is an example of corporate bullying.

To Mr. Suresh Potnuru of Amazon, Inc.,

Refusing to honor or issue a refund for my gift card balance of $451.20 is in violation of both Chapter 19.240 of the Revised Code of Washington and Florida Statute 501.95, which do not permit an expiration date for gift cards.

It is also in violation of Public Law 111-24 (the “CARD” act, 2009), a federal law.

Furthermore, Mr. Potnuru has alleged this theft is permitted under Amazon’s Conditions of Use, specifically: “Amazon reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders in its sole discretion.” However, using such a provision in this manner is illegal at both state and federal levels: for example, 7 U.S. Code § 6b.

I have read the accounts of hundreds of other customers who have been similarly defrauded or mistreated by Amazon, such as those at Slickdeals.net. It appears to me that this pattern of fraud has been systematically orchestrated by Amazon and constitutes racketeering activity.

Please know that this matter will not simply “go away” by being ignored, as you have so tactfully promised: “However, we’ll not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters, and any further inquiries on this matter won’t receive a response.”

Please be informed that I will be publicizing and reporting your actions, and that any attempts to silence me may be considered as retaliation against a whistleblower.

Please note that you are also in violation of Amazon’s Textbook Rental Terms & Conditions, which state: “After the first 30 days of the rental period, you may initiate a textbook return through the Your Textbook Rentals page in your Amazon.com account.” As you have admitted, I cannot use the “Your Textbook Rentals” page (since my Amazon account has been terminated), nor am I being afforded the free return shipping that was advertised when I initiated the textbook rental, despite having paid a $4.98 fee for shipping and handling.

Regarding the termination of my Amazon customer account, please issue a check for $451.20 to:

RICHARD THRIPP
[Address]

Please provide a postage-paid return shipping label for my textbook, Learning and Instruction (2nd Edition), in respect to Amazon order # 002-XXXXXXX-XXXXXXX. Please note that the textbook is not due to be returned until 12/19/2015.

To Mr. Jeffrey P. Bezos, Chariman and CEO of Amazon, Inc.,

I suggest you reevaluate your corporate priorities, because you cannot expect to bully and defraud a minority of your customers without them becoming agitated. The benefits you reap from stealing your customers’ gift card balances and other balances will not outweigh the outrage, in the long run.

I suggest that you should instruct your customers to avoid doing business with Amazon or use an abundance of caution, since it is clear that Amazon is willing to commit fraud, with fraudulent intent, unabashedly and without fear of being punished under the laws of the United States, the laws of the State of Washington, the laws of the states and territories where their customers reside, nor litigation in small claims court.

The fish rots from the head, so to speak.

Perhaps you should add the Jolly Roger to your logo?

Here is a suggestion for your new slogan: “Welcome to Amazon.com — the online retailer that steals your gift card balance and tells you to fuck off.”

Sincerely,
Richard Thripp

**********************************************************************

The 2nd (personal) reply from Amazon.com regarding my Washington AG complaint, on 9/22/2015, where they tell me, in purposefully patronizing terms, to fuck off:

Hello,

I’m sorry for any inconvenience caused by the closing of your Amazon.com account.

I’ve reviewed the account and our previous communications with you, and can confirm the decision was a valid one.

Please note this isn’t a decision we can reconsider, and we won’t be able to issue a refund for the gift card balance.

Regarding textbook rental: You can use the following address to return your Amazon.com Textbook Rental.

Amazon Textbook Rental Returns
1085 Aviation Blvd
Hebron, KY 41048

You must return your rental prior to the scheduled due date in order to avoid any additional charges. You can return the rental using the carrier of your choice. Since you’re not using a pre-paid mailing label provided by Amazon, you’ll be responsible for any return shipping fees.

I realize you’re upset, and I regret we’ve been unable to address your concerns to your satisfaction. However, we’ll not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters, and any further inquiries on this matter won’t receive a response.

We appreciate your understanding.

Best regards,
Suresh P.

**********************************************************************

An excerpt from the Washington AG’s reply on 9/21/2015, where they wash their hands of the matter:

The Consumer Resource Center of the Attorney General’s Office received the enclosed response from Amazon.com regarding the consumer complaint you filed with our office.

We realize you may not consider this response a satisfactory resolution to your complaint; however, the Consumer Resource Center cannot compel a business to respond or to make an adjustment in resolution of a dispute. Your complaint has been closed accordingly.

We regret that we are unable to provide further assistance to you regarding this complaint. If you would like to pursue the matter further, you may wish to contact the Small Claims Court in your county, or a private attorney for legal advice.

**********************************************************************

My reply to Amazon.com, on 9/19/2015:

Hello,

Can you provide a timeframe for when and how you will disburse the gift card balance of $451.20 from the account?

I do not believe you have provided a legal basis to seize the gift card funds.

Also, note that it is NOT correct that I received any information from Amazon’s Account Specialist team. In all cases, I was ignored by them. I only pieced together information from reading the accounts of other blacklisted customers online, and from the cryptic information provided by Amazon’s Customer Service department. Multiple times, I was told I would be contacted within 24 hours by an Account Specialist, which never happened.

This is in bad faith, given that Amazon has blacklisted me and BOTH refuses to discuss the matter AND refuses to even confirm nor deny that I was blacklisted, until now.

This matter is NOT resolved until I receive a full refund for my gift card balance, as required by law.

Also, please inform me how I am intended to return my textbook rental that is due back on 12/19/2015 if I am unable to log in and print a return shipping label? I will be using the textbook for one of my classes through mid-December, so I am unable to return it early. Am I to assume that Amazon intends me to shoulder the return-shipping cost, in contradiction to the textbook rental terms? Can I expect that Amazon will charge me the full buyout price of the textbook regardless of what action I take? It seems as such, given Amazon’s extra-legal activities to date.

Sincerely,
Richard Thripp

**********************************************************************

The 1st reply from Amazon.com regarding my Washington AG complaint, on 9/19/2015:

Dear Andrew,

I’m Suresh Potnuru of Amazon.com. I’m responding to Mr. Richard Thripp’s subject matter complaint, and copying him for his reference.

I’m sorry for the trouble Mr. Thripp’s had in accessing his account.

I’d like to confirm the information Mr. Thripp’s received from our Account Specialist team is correct. As noted in our Conditions of Use, in the section, “Your Account”: “Amazon reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders in its sole discretion.”

Mr. Thripp can review our Conditions of Use here:

www.amazon.com/conditionsofuse

Due to the proprietary nature of our business, we’re unable to discuss with Mr. Thripp, and the decision to close his account is a final one.

Regarding gift card balance: At this time we may not be able to issue a refund to Mr. Thripp for his gift card balance.

Please contact me directly by replying to this email if I can be of further assistance.

Best regards,
Suresh P.

Thank you.
Amazon.com

**********************************************************************

My original complaint to the Attorney General of Washington on 9/04/2015:

As of 8/25/2015, Amazon has suspended my account with email address [email address] and refuses to relinquish the existing Gift Card Balance of $451.20 that was present on my account, despite repeated attempts to contact them via phone and email on 8/26/2015, 8/27/2015, 8/31/2015, 9/01/2015, and 9/04/2015.

From speaking with multiple phone service representatives via calling in at 888-280-4331, I have repeatedly been told my account is “on hold,” possibly due to a discrepancy with my billing information or mailing address. I have repeatedly provided my correct name and billing address (which also matches the information on my Amazon account), and have been told I would receive a reply within 24 hours, but in no case has a reply ever been received.

Amazon has neglected to reply to multiple emails sent by me via their online form at www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/contact-us.

Amazon provides no legitimate reason for this suspension, nor any timeframe for it being investigated or resolved. I attest that the gift card balance on the account was acquired from legitimate sources and that no illegal activity nor activity that is knowingly in violation of Amazon’s terms has occurred on the account. Further, in none of the phone calls with Amazon has Amazon alleged that any of these factors are in question.

No notice of the suspension was given via phone, email, nor postal mail (to date). I am unable to log in to my Amazon account due to receiving the error message “There was an error with your E-Mail/ Password combination. Please try again,” which persists even after resetting my Amazon password. Only after my initial call to 888-280-4331 on 8/26/2015 was I informed by a customer service agent that my account is “on hold.”

**********************************************************************

In conclusion, I am angry because Amazon has stolen $451.20 from me and is basically laughing in my face about it. Amazon has acted unethically and illegally, and should be the subject of scorn and derision for gift-card related crimes and other crimes, including mistreating their employees and warehouse staff, about which many stories can be found online.

Amazon.com Jolly Roger

22 thoughts on “Amazon.com, Inc. Steals Gift Card Balances; Callously Commits Fraud

  1. I received a mail from amazon on the 27th of June 2018 that my account was closed due to the fact that its related to a past closed account which is not true because this is actually my first time using amazon .
    Before the account closure occur I redeem five $300 gift card into my account which I bought from two different stores,two of them from walgreen and three of it from kroger the gift card was actually bought on the 26th of june 2018.
    I place an order on the 26th of june 2018 and it was cancelled , I received a mail to call the customer care so as to gain access to my account because my password has been disabled and pending others have been cancelled.
    I called the customer care and I was able to regain access to my account and I was told by the customer service rep that I can place the order again which I did and same thing occurred.
    I called the customer care again and I was able to gain access to my account but was told an account specialist will be contacted on my behalf and I will get a response from them notifying me I can now place the order but I got a mail saying I wont have access to my account until I provide further details about my payment method, I was asked to send the receipt of the gift card to their fax number which I did but got another mail that after reviewing the information I sent they have determined to close my account.
    I’ve lodge so many complaints to the customer care but I’ve always get the same response more of an automated mail that my account was closed because its related to past closed account.
    I’m having $1503 gift card balance on my account before it was closed.

  2. I have, as of three days ago, had this experience with Amazon. I have also dealt with this with iTunes in the past few months as well. I spent a lot of money buying products and playing games and had my account suspended for an identity check. After being told it was due to the excessive use of my credit card and they wanted to ensure it was me using it, a representative suggested I use gift cards instead. So I began purchasing gift cards through various stores and vendors. When I lost my iTunes accounts with similar responses to your Amazon email, I was crushed. The best information I had gotten was “something was wrong with a gift card you tried to redeem. You can open another account and use it but anything purchased on your current account will remain inaccessible.” (this included my gift card balance) That was some 5 or 6 iTunes accounts ago and a few hundred dollars on each. I eventually stopped using iTunes due to this practice. Now, almost 4 months later, the same has happened with Amazon. With no information and no responses, even though they have said multiple times an account specialist will respond in 24hrs, they are closing my account holding a 390$ purchase of amazon coins and 653$ in my gift card balance. This is some of the worst fraud and deception ever and it needs to be ended! Can you help advise me how to proceed? I am pretty sure I need to, and know I am ready to, lawyer up. Thank you!

    1. You might be able to find a pro bono lawyer but otherwise the cost is too high for them to represent you in small claims court or prepare a lawsuit; however, it could be helpful if you can find a lawyer who will write a letter of demand on their letterhead (or apply their letterhead to a letter you have written) and send to Amazon.

      Don’t contact http://www.elliott.org (which is what led to me getting Amazon’s attention). After my story, they had many commentators accusing me of fraud and many other complaints from customers that eventually led them to no longer accept complaints about Amazon. On their forums, members accuse everyone of fraud and according to them, there is no reason anyone should have multiple iTunes or multiple Amazon accounts, nor more than a few dollars in gift card balance, unless one is committing fraud or tax evasion. Ridiculous.

  3. They just got me for $510. They didn’t send an email and just said my account was “on hold” and that a specialist would get back to me within 24hours, which never happens.

    I ended up converting a large chunk of my amex points into amazon gift cards since I regularly shop on amazon. not sure why this would cause an account closure or even if thats why it was closed. Going to see if I can dispute reward point redemption with amex

    I can’t believe they’re getting away with this for this many years. No way is this legal. Very pissed.

    1. I know—the law is not on their side at all. If it was American Express revoking your Membership Reward points, that would be different because agreements for reward programs say they can be revoked at any time, but EVEN THEN Amex would settle out-of-court if you took them to small claims or binding arbitration, generally.

      Amazon.com, on the other hand, stonewalls and fights customers to redeem gift cards that they are legally entitled to.

      Recently, I was deposed as an expert witness (in writing) for a small claims case against Amazon regarding them stealing a customer’s gift card balance. I need to figure out if I am allowed to publish the deposition on here.

      – Richard Thripp

  4. They got me too. Thankfully it was just for $35. However, I am a single mom, make minimum wage and $35 is a lot to me. Will not consider doing business with them ever again! I accumulated these gift cards through Ibotta and Fetch couponing apps. I worked hard to save money and as a result had this stolen from me. Paper coupons are much better.

  5. A few years later and Amazon is still at it, I opened an account and put in 1050.00 gift card from H&R block. I placed two orders. Got an email that my account was associated with a closed account that they could not discuss with me. Then emailed and asked for verification of the gift card. Which I did two times. Then sent me emails of orders that would be shipped. Then canceled orders. And now I have pending orders and my gift card balance is re climbing.. they don’t answer my emails. I have never shopped with them, used any bank cards. Etc. I thought I would try their company. And now out approximately 980.00$ This is insane! Has anyone found any answers?

    This is the most crooked buisness practice I have ever seen!

    1. I did get Amazon to refund my money, but was unsuccessful at getting them to stop their thievery and did not come out with an easy way for others to get their money back when Amazon steals it.

      I would keep all receipts and documentation, which even includes saving webpages as PDFs if you can. When Amazon bans you, they remove access to all order and gift card history including your current balance, so it’s helpful to save a PDF of your gift card history on your account whenever you add a gift card so you have the most recent information available to you in case of a banning. This could also be admissible in court or submitted to consumer advocates, the BBB, attorneys general, et cetera.

      I would recommend writing a letter to Amazon’s legal department (just by regular mail—they’ll probably reject a certified letter) saying you will take it to small claims if you have to. In addition, open complaints with the BBB, your state’s attorney general or AG’s division of consumer affairs, and Washington state too (although they won’t do anything—they are one of Amazon’s sock puppets).

  6. They just got me for over $1300 dollars because I used my aunts debit card after she filed a dispute with her bank about a purchase from Amazon on her account. They will not answer my emails won’t call us back won’t acknowledge anything. I think we should all get together and file a class action lawsuit against these thieving bastards. Who’s in it to win it? Any body down? Call me 318-541-2795

    1. Apologies for my delay in approving your comment. That is ridiculous! Although there have been other class action suits against Amazon, for issues with withholding marketplace sellers’ payments, I think countering Amazon’s theft of gift cards through public criticism, AGO complaints, and small claims court is more effective.

      1. Me too, $100. Needed the help of a Chat C.S. rep to apply funds of two cards, the funds were diverted to someone named “Greg” and now Amazon will not nullify and reissue new G.C. cards to me. No christmas presents were purchased for family this year…

        1. I would recommend contacting Elliott.org as they have done many follow-up stories with other people who have been defrauded by Target (their gift card system is completely insecure and people are stealing gift cards constantly). They would probably write more follow-up articles about Amazon as well (they have done my story and at least one other).

          However, I am saddened and annoyed that Elliott.org volunteers and commentators usually side with Amazon, airlines, et cetera over the customer and wish I had the time to provide consumer advocacy services myself for those defrauded by Amazon. I am more focused on my Ph.D. program which I will complete in August 2019.

  7. Please i need your help, i hava a similar case like yours, im from Venezuela a very screw country sorr for my english, and amazon stole my money like they did to you, but i my case i think was worst, they only close my account without previous advice. heres a copy of the last mail i recived from them:

    Amazon:

    Hello,

    Thanks for writing back.

    I have checked and see that you have not been charged for the cancelled orders.

    We closed your account because you reported an unusual number of problems with your orders. As a result, your unused gift card balance is no longer available.

    We may not reply to further emails about this refund request.

    Best regards,

    Account Specialist
    Amazon.com

    —- Original message: —-

    How can this be possible? how is that im going to lose my 300$ dollars?
    Also you charged me 9.89$ dollars from my debit card with the last order
    you cancelled, i have my account movement, i can see you charged me. You
    must explain to me why you closed my account, you said due to another
    account with my name, i have only one account with the mail
    jessicaserranopinto@gmail.com, the one you closed, i have all the proof
    that account is mine, the billing address, the shipping address, the debit
    card i used, everything is legit. I need a precise explanation why you
    suggested that i didnt meet your user agreement, i think Amazon.com must
    give all my money back, remember you cant keep with my money, the one in my
    account, and the one in gift card balance that i purchased.

    1. Carlos and I are in contact by email. He has also posted an Elliott.org discussion thread at:
      http://forum.elliott.org/threads/amazon-com-closed-my-account-deny-refund-of-gift-card-balance.4521/

      More of my comments on this:

      Carlos contacted me by email from finding my Amazon story via web search. I literally get complaints every week from customers who have had their gift cards stolen by Amazon. While some are trading in BitCoin, I don’t think this is the case here.

      Amazon continues to make ridiculous, self-incriminating statements in cases like these. To Carlos, above, we see they said: “As a result, your unused gift card balance is no longer available.”

      Here, they have admitted there is a gift card balance, it has not been used, and it is “no longer available.”

      Then, they say there is no appeal and no explanation will be given.

      This is not a legally tenable position. Sure, if they were Ebates cashback or Fuel Rewards, the company could take them away for any reason at all. But gift cards are not quite the same, and it’s surprising Amazon still believes they can be treated so capriciously.

  8. Absolutely the case with me, just not as much money. My gift card balance straight up disappeared. It was not auto-applied to my last purchase, nor to my next, and was nowhere to be found, making it impossible to buy a gift for my little cousin. What’s worse: there is literally no recourse. I’ve wasted hours trying to get to any human being who even can hear my problem. Fuck this company to death. I will never, ever. Ever.

    1. That is strange! Did you check your balance history? Maybe they marked it as a stolen gift card or a gift card purchased with a stolen credit card or something like that. I agree that you will likely not be able to get any recourse. The only thing that seems to work is getting consumer advocates to contact Amazon executives on LinkedIn. LOL. That’s what did it for me.

  9. I had $400 in gift card balance and lost it all because they closed my account due to ONE return. Suffice to say they closed it and would not refund me my gift card balance.

    I am absolutely appalled and I have no idea how this company is able to get away with this.

    1. That is ridiculous! Amazon basically acts like they are above the law. I encourage you to seek redress as I have. They ended up settling with me but it took a huge amount of complaining.

      1. How did you get them to settle . I have the same issue going on right now. They told me they won’t pay me the remaining funds on my account.

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