Zombie Gnomes of the Listings Fake!!
My partner Sadie and I, are a couple of Canadian self-employed freelance artists known as RevenantFX.
Beginning in April 2021, online scammers started listing fake advertisements on Facebook/social media using our photos we had taken of our artwork in a ‘Bait and Switch Scam’. Shocked and dismayed, we began reporting them as quick as we could and trying to put the word out, warning folks about their trap.
The internet came to our aid in trying to alert fellow social media users, especially the “Facebook Ad Scambusters group” (who tirelessly volunteer their own time to fight these crooks on a daily basis!) With help from them and others we took down hundreds of fake ads off Facebook, but unfortunately many of the scammer’s shops/accounts still remain. One of the admins for the group, Lee Hadland wrote a great article about the entire issue and included us in her story here: https://www.excelsiorcan.com/blog/facebook-scam-ads
Stu Mills @ CBC news also did a piece “Buyer Beware: Little Recourse For Online Shoppers Stuck With Counterfeit Goods” that included our story, you can check that out here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/online-shopping-paypal-ottawa-purchase-protection-1.6046831
Unfortunately though, this was only the tip of the iceberg 🙁
Since then these fake shops and sites have been multiplying like a cancer…
Thousands and thousands of listings across all the major marketplace sites you can think of; Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba, Wish, Etc. Along with plenty of stand alone fake sites, they have set up hoping to steal your info and send you trash!
As of the time of this writing Sadie has reported approximately 4,000 fake listings on Amazon.com / Amazon.ca alone.
Usually they come down, but they also come back. They almost always continue to multiply and the mere volume of them makes it near impossible to combat. Sometimes they will add new pictures they have stolen from our customer’s reviews or new photoshopped versions where they have cut out our statues/ornaments and put them on new backgrounds. They even use pictures of us that we have posted online in the past in their fake ads.
Reporting these scams and dealing with the fallout has become a near full time job, hindering both our business and personal lives. We are not the only ones in this situation either. Hundreds of other artists, makers and entrepreneurs are experiencing the same crisis. Christopher Beikmann of Fusion Idol Arts made a huge post that illustrates this entire issue on his site here: https://www.fusionidol.com/pages/artists-unite-against-amazon
Or here is the almost identical story being told just a few months ago by Barb of Madebybarb.com here: https://www.madebybarb.com/2021/09/12/my-work-is-famous-but-stolen/
Or here just a few weeks ago Jennifer Kraus of NewsChannel5 in Nashville did a story on a couple of fellow Etsy sellers called ButtonsAndPearl who are experiencing the same plight: https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/tempted-to-buy-art-you-see-on-social-media-watch-out-scammers-are-hijacking-photos-of-real-art-to-sell-fakes
We are being targeted by these shady overseas companies with offices and factories. They are using these platforms as a shield to flood the market with their knockoffs. Isn’t this illegal? It’s false advertising, it’s IP theft, it’s fraud and each of these companies hosting them are not only letting it happen, they’re getting a cut off of each sale!!
What if these sellers were selling and shipping other illegal items like guns, explosives or some kind of poison? Would they be shut down then? Or would they just be able to say that “they take those matters seriously’ and do nothing?
Sure, our Zombie Gnomes may not be quite as dangerous as firearms or as deadly as some other things out there, but the counterfeits still aren’t trivial. It’s our livelihood, as well as that of plenty of others like us, that is being poached and destroyed; along years worth of hard work, education and practise that is being siphoned off and stolen. They are feeding on us like vampires and bleeding each artist/maker they attack of every ounce of creativity/content they can get! Why are they above the law? Both the scammers and the marketplaces that harbor them?
If these marketplaces can’t verify what 3rd party sellers are selling/shipping to their customers, maybe there is an issue that needs to be resolved…
Brick and mortar stores aren’t allowed to make a profit by importing counterfeits and knockoffs to sell in their shops, so why is Walmart or Amazon different? If these company operate within our countries, should they not be held at least somewhat accountable to our laws? or at least accountable to their own customers?
These big commercial enterprises and tech companies are in business with these scammers, making a profit off each transaction while everyone else involved pays the price!
It’s not just the artists and creators being hurt by this either; it’s also the customers, their trust, and the reputation of the platforms that are condoning this behavior.
Each time one of these poor shoppers get lured into the Bait and Scam trap, they not only do not receive what they thought they ordered (if anything at all), they also give over their credentials/address to the scammers. That’s not fair for any customer anywhere!
How many of these losing transactions will it take before the customer loses faith in said platform? How long until the customer loses faith in online shopping as a whole?
And who loses in the end? Everyone but the Scammers!!
The artists, makers, entrepreneurs and real businesses lose their time and profit; the customer loses their money and their trust in both the platform and E-Commerce in general, and lastly the marketplace loses it’s good reputation and credibility because it knowingly allows the scams to continue!
This is a growing problem and its not new either, Nicole Nguyen of Buzzfeed wrote about this in 2019: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/nicolenguyen/amazon-counterfeit-art-sellers-fakes-copyright-infringement
Andrew R. Chow of Time posted an article about it in 2020 here: https://time.com/5921820/facebook-shopping-scams-holidays-covid-19/
and there are more appearing all the time..
This is bad for the internet, it’s bad for E-Commerce, it’s bad for our economy, it’s bad for everyone!
Please share our story with anyone you think may be able to help: friends, family, co-workers, news outlets, journalists, bloggers, podcasters etc.
Anyone with a voice can help and anyone who buys or sells anything online needs to know! Artists, makers, entrepreneurs etc. Thank you for reading all of this and thank you to everybody for all of the help and support we have received!!
Thanks for sharing an thanks for caring!!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
– Casper & Sadie Revenant