Amazon Keeps Stealing: Social Media Influencer Loses $11,000 in Gift Card Balance; Commentary on the Parasitic Gift Card Industry

Here’s a story from mid-January 2020 from another customer that Amazon stole money from (purportedly a social media influencer and/or YouTuber with a large following). Amazon encourages customers to load gift cards onto their account, unlike most corporations that have you input or swipe the gift card at checkout. Their recent profitable quarter was undoubtedly partly funded by straight-up theft from individual customers who build up a large Amazon gift card balance on their Amazon account. This is on top of getting massive subsidies and corporate giveaways at all levels including incentives for their new distribution coming to Deltona, Florida, relief from state and federal income taxes, and highly favorable laws that allow them to treat employees and vendors badly (non-compete and non-disclosure agreements), compete directly with third-party sellers on their marketplace who are already paying Amazon an arm and a leg to be on the platform, and so forth. In Congress, I will not be on Amazon’s side… I will be going after them for their consistent patterns of grand theft and other unlawful, manipulative, and abusive behavior.

Ron on January 15, 2020

Subject: Amazon closed my account , won’t refund 7k gift balance

I found you on google search.

My case is very simple

I have been using amazon as a prime member for many years, I am a social media influencer and have many people sending me amazon gift cards. I have never had an issue and have always had a balance over 3k. I usually buy all my computers and music equipment on amazon as well as photography/ videographer gear. I was recently saving up for the new Mac Pro which is over 12k as the monitor alone is 6k

I didn’t think much of it I was at 7k maybe a few bunch more and woke up to an email saying my account has been closed

I call every day and they say it’s on hold, they make me give my name and billing address and say a specialist will contact me in 24 hours. I have never, not once spoke with a specialist not have a even got a reason for my account to be on hold. They don’t mention anything about gift cards, or fraud or anything like that. They always just say it’s on hold and it’s most likely because of unusual activity. They also shut down my wife’s account which uses the same address and shares the family prime plan. She also had a gift card balance of a little over $4000. So together this is over 11k . This is extremely frustrating, and has to be illegal. We do not break any terms of service, we don’t buy gift cards randomly or at all, anyone who sends us a gift card is intended as a gift only, we have 100’s k followers on all forms of social media and have a large support system with our fans. No one gets anything in return from sending us a gift card ever. Nothing more than a thank you email if that.

My questions are what do I do to get my account opened so I can spend my gift card balance, as I will never keep a balance ever again. This is a horrible mess and left me out a lot of money that I saved for a while to get to the 7k balance that I was planning to use on my new Mac Pro. Now I am lost, and can’t even sign in to amazon to get normal stuff for around the house.

Please respond if you can.

Ron [alias]

This e-mail was sent from a contact form on

Richard Thripp on January 16, 2020

Hi Ron,

I agree 100% that this is illegal and have heard so many stories like yours, including ones for sums as large as $80,000.

The laws at both the federal and state levels are clear… but there is magically no enforcement against Amazon I presume because of their size and influence. Also, most other companies (Walmart, Target, etc.) don’t pull stuff quite like this. Target sometimes refuses to restore a gift card balance but their app is prone to fraud so in that case another person hacks someone and steals their gift card to spend at Target. With Amazon, no one is getting to spend your gift card. Amazon is just pocketing the money they stole from you and from the people who gave you those gift cards.

In this case, I think your best weapon will be your social media presence. You will have to take to social media to get attention about this issue. It is very helpful that you did not have anything else going on such as drop-shipping items, trading gift cards for BitCoin, or receiving gift cards to evade income taxes.

You can also file complaints, typically online, with your state attorney general’s office and your regional Better Business Bureau. It is also possible to sue in small claims court as a last resort.

I would be happy to also write about your case on my website, although I am fairly unknown and don’t get much traffic. Let me know.

Presently, I am running for Congress, and Amazon definitely has something to fear if I get elected, as I will be taking action on their pattern of theft that could even be classified as racketeering and has been ongoing since October 2008.

Best regards,
Richard Thripp, Ph.D.
Democratic Candidate for U.S. Congress (FL-06)
Adjunct Faculty, University of Central Florida

Ron on January 16, 2020

Feel free to write about it
Thanks for your help

Sent from my iPhone

Richard Thripp on January 17, 2020

Can I include your original email in the post? I will remove your name. Sorry. Should have asked this in prior email. It might be a few days as I have a few campaign-related things going on. I think you’ll get your money back. Just have to keep fighting and be patient.

– Richard

Ron on January 17, 2020

Yes that’s fine
Thanks for the help
So far nothing from amazon support
Just the same run around

Sent from my iPhone

Conclusion by Richard Thripp on January 31, 2020
Including Commentary on the Parasitic Gift Card Industry

Amazon particularly enjoys going after customers who are doing something shady such as receiving gift cards as payment to evade income taxes, trading BitCoin for gift cards, or perhaps committing straight-up credit card fraud. However, when Amazon bans customers they give no notice and actually have a fake script with call center employees to pretend an “account specialist” will call them back in 24 hours, which does not occur. Amazon has been following this same unlawful pattern since the 2008 financial crisis. When banned, you can’t even log in to view your Amazon order history, gift card balance, or gift card activity history. They also won’t share any information with you, typically even if you complain to the BBB or attorneys general, citing a blanket boilerplate response about the proprietary nature of their business and their privacy. It’s easy to go after customers on shaky ground because they can’t fight back, and Amazon makes no effort to refund the legitimate portion of gift card balances nor to escheat such funds to customers’ states of residence.

Amazon’s gift card company is a subsidiary, ACI Gift Cards Inc., set up in Washington state to avoid escheatment due to a lack of such laws there, whereas Amazon itself was initially incorporated in Washington state in 1994 but then Bezos had to reincorporate in Delaware in 1996 in order to go public. I have no evidence that Amazon escheats gift card balances to the states based on customers’ state of residence for states that do have escheatment laws, even though they are lawfully obliged to do so. It is funny that Amazon is a public company when it comes to taking advantage of American capital markets and massive corporate welfare, but private, proprietary, and incredibly secretive whenever it benefits them. It’s all part of corporate America’s playbook of privatizing profits while socializing financial burdens and losses, although Amazon takes it to a new extreme.

Another example of the extreme behavior of Amazon is that on their Amazon Mechanical Turk platform (MTurk) on which people complete repetitive tasks or surveys for micropayments, workers in other countries can participate but can only be paid in Amazon gift cards. Is this even legal? Many of these workers then have to arrange with Americans to order goods on their behalf at a 10–15% discount in order to be paid back in U.S. dollars or their preferred currency. A couple months ago a man in Vietnam contacted me about Amazon stealing $3,400 from him, as he had saved up his gift card balance over an entire year from working on the MTurk platform and then got banned when placing drop-shipped orders to U.S. addresses in order to attempt to get actual spendable money for his labors. He did get his accounts restored, but he had to fight with Amazon for quite some time, and for him this was a huge sum—an entire year’s work.

Donald Trump doesn’t like Amazon either, but not for the same reasons as I. He hates that Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post which is harder on him than other journalistic outfits, although in fact still gives him free media coverage that actually benefits him and normalizes his behavior. Just, less so than other newspapers. Even NPR has to clean up Donald Trump’s wild, incoherent rally speeches and convey his message for him, because what Trump actually says does not make a whole lot of sense. I also think there is some jealousy going on here as despite Amazon’s crimes and heavy-handed practices, there is no denying that Bezos is a business mastermind who has been far more successful than Trump and doesn’t have a string of bankruptcies behind him.

When it comes to Amazon, don’t think of them as your friend. Don’t carry a gift card balance unless you are prepared to lose it. The whole gift card industry is like a parasite on our economy and the American people. You are enculturated to believe you can’t give cash because it’s taboo. Says who? Why do we buy into this narrative? I do use gift cards frequently but they are for me and only when I can buy them at a discount. For example, I like to do my Target shopping using gift cards I buy on one day a year in December when Target sells them for 10% off. Another good source is Sam’s Club which offers hefty discounts on many gift cards. With a gift card you are lending a corporation money, and they might try to steal it from you despite that being illegal, or they may go bankrupt such as Circuit City, Borders, Toys ‘R’ Us, and so many others. You should be paid to do so, in the form of a hefty discount compared with the face value of the gift card.

Please donate to my progressive Democratic campaign for Congress in Florida’s 6th district if you can, or contact me to become a volunteer. I will never stop fighting for you.

2 thoughts on “Amazon Keeps Stealing: Social Media Influencer Loses $11,000 in Gift Card Balance; Commentary on the Parasitic Gift Card Industry

  1. I have same issue, Amazon stole my gift card about $5,000 on August 2020. Two days after called them and they restored $290. I don’t know how they came up from $5,000 to $290. I keep contact them, and verify all the information and the last email I received from Amazon. They said “We may not reply to further emails about this issue.” Can’t access my amazon account any more.

    I submitted complaint to FTC.

    Are you able to get back your gift card yet?

    1. Hi JT,

      Ouch, Amazon just doesn’t stop their criminality. I don’t think they’ve slowed down at all. $5,000 is quite a lot to have stolen. Could you write up a story about it and I’ll publish it on the home page here? I’ve been busy lately having recently become a high school social studies teacher but I’ll help by getting your story out. I’ll email you.

      Yes, I did get my gift card back for myself, which was only $500, in 2016, and then went on to help others as best I could. Regarding this posting on the $11,000 stolen from the social media influencer, I did not hear back if it was resolved.

      Best regards,
      Richard Thripp

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