Amazon employee shared email addresses with third-party seller

Sellers are apparently paying for customers' email addresses in an effort to game the ratings system.

In September, Amazon started investigating reports that some of its employees in the US and China have been leaking data to third-party sellers in exchange for money. Now, the e-commerce giant has notified affected customers that an employee shared their email addresses with a third-party seller. Amazon told The Wall Street Journal that it already fired that particular employee and booted the seller who received the email addresses off the platform. More importantly, it said no other customer information other than those addresses were disclosed.

Amazon didn't clarify whether that former employee was the sole culprit or if they just happened to be the only one caught out of many. It also didn't specify where they're from and didn't reveal the real scope of the issue. Based on WSJ's previous report, though, sellers have paid Amazon personnel as much as $2,000 for customers' email addresses. By knowing customers' personal accounts, the sellers can directly (and maybe even repeatedly) ask them to change or pull negative reviews, since "Verified Purchase" reviews affect products' placement on search results pages. In some instances, they reportedly bribed the employees to pull negative reviews. Seeing as several third-party sellers can list the exact same items, placement is crucial in making a sale.

The company is now asking customers to give it a heads-up if they receive unsolicited emails from sellers, who could offer them free or discounted goods if they go back and change their reviews or give the listing a higher rating. By urging customers to do so, those sellers are also contributing to Amazon's fake review problem, which it has been grappling with for years.