I’m fairly new to selling things on Amazon. I’ve only sold a few items, but learned a harsh lesson already, so I thought I’d pass it on to those who are fortunate enough to read this first.
You need a UPC or EAN code for most items. Amazon won’t let you post anything without some kind of identifying code. You can search by UPC or EAN and use an existing product listing if posted, but if it’s not active on Amazon at the time, a basic search may not reveal the product. However, if the UPC ever existed, it’s likely that you can find it by creating a new product to sell and using the same UPC or EAN. Start a new product addition, and drop in your UPC at the bottom of the form. Finish the other required entries and submit the product to see if it ever existed. If so, just accept that product listing and you will save the hassle of having to create your own or worry so much about accuracy of the content.
However, you need to double check that your description matches to the one against which you are listing. If you are using a listing already present on Amazon (e.g., created by someone else), you need to make sure your product description matches exactly with the text seen on the product detail page. If not, you are subject to an A-to-Z Guarantee Claim (Amazon’s version of a BBB claim) and you should create your own separate listing. This happened to me not long after I started selling. I had ten of the same item for sale, priced for sale one at a time. I used someone else’s product description for the same itemd, but it said he only had five for sale. I successfully sold nine of my items, but the last buyer (a tech business) expected to be sent all ten for the price of one. When I said I didn’t have any more, they filed an A-to-Z claim. Being new to this game and not knowing the potential consequences, I accepted the claim out of good business etiquette, even though it was unreasonable to expect ten of these things for the price of one. The text of my description was slightly different than the product detail page against which I listed. Not a big deal. I was happy to refund their money and sell it to another buyer once the original was returned.
However, this is where the shocker happened. Amazon deemed this a policy violation, and because I accepted the A-to-Z claim, they would not require the buyer return the item. They left it up to me to work it out. I got rather irate with the customer service folks for not supporting their sellers and claimed they were taking money from me, but got nowhere with them. Amazon customer service went so far as to threaten to have their investigators look into my account because I was trying to scam someone with my bogus description, and then subsequently realizing the potential for further scamming by repeating this behavior on my own. No such luck Amazon. It was an honest mistake done by a newbie. Lesson learned! I don’t plan on using this knowledge for anything other than public dissemination and my own future behavior modification.
I did manage to eek out a small bit of satisfaction. I tried repeatedly to contact the buyer, but each fell on deaf ears. Because it was a business that bought the item, I filed a Better Business Bureau claim on them that hasn’t been resolved yet. I also called my bank and explained the situation. Because the buyer failed to return the item, I was able to dispute the charge successfully and have all my money refunded.
Next time I won’t be so quick to accept an A-to-Z Guarantee Claim. Hope this helps!
This is Part 1 of a thread documenting my attempts to become anonymous on the Internet. You would think it would start with which software or usage techniques to employ, but no. It starts way before that. We need to track backwards to get everything set up before we even think about moving forward and browsing the “clearnet”. We could do all of this on our own network, but that would defeat the purpose. We are going to use somebody else’s online services that make us anonymous, and set those up so they don’t know our real name or info.
First order of business. Setup and use TOR – The Onion Router. TOR, by itself, is anonymous as long as you stay within the TOR network (i.e., only go to sites with a .onion domain) and your exit node isn’t compromised. If you setup a VPN to an offsite, remote computer in Romania (for example) that’s using TOR, and you stay on .onion sites, you will have effectively blocked all but the most sophisticated methods of tracking you (see Wikipedia – Silk Road for a reality check on TOR). I set up a host-to-net IPSec VPN using IPCop and a passphrase (don’t use a certificate-based VPN unless you have a certificate that doesn’t trace back to you). The subreddit Onions is a useful source of info.
TOR isn’t always the preferred method. It’s slow, there’s no real directory of web sites, services are limited (and mostly illicit if not illegal) and if you want to leave the TOR network, you risk discovery. This thread is more of a discussion about how an every day user who doesn’t want to use TOR full time becomes anonymous, so TOR will only be one of a suite of useful tools. We are going to use TOR to setup our other online services and provide “cash” for our endeavor.
How do you pay for or setup services on the Internet without being traced? Online service providers will require an email address and some form of payment. So how do you pay for and setup that first email account anonymously? I use Bitcoins that I mine with my own equipment as part of the Eclipse Mining Consortium. I store my bitcoins in a wallet housed at Coinbase. The subreddit Bitcoin can also be a useful resource.
Most think that spending Bitcoins is untraceable. That’s not necessarily true. If I spend coins from my Coinbase wallet either within TOR or on the clearnet, someone with the right knowledge could trace them back to me by using the Blockchain. Thankfully, there is a solution. You can wash your bitcoins online just like cash at an offshore bank. You “swap” bitcoins with another entity (for a small fee), so that you are using those monies when you make a purchase, not yours. The blockchain won’t know it was you.
Ok, so how do you launder your bitcoins? There are clearnet solutions, but I use TOR (via remote VPN connection as per above). There are plenty of laundry services on there, you just have to search for them. Any providers I list here will probably be long gone by the time most people read this, so do some research on TOR and laundry services first because there are definitely some people out there who would rather just steal your coins than wash them.
Now it’s time to set up that first anonymous email address. This is one sticky point. How do you browse to the email provider’s site and pay for it anonymously. I decided to use TOR because my laundry service was there, and, while there is risk in leaving TOR to browse to the email provider’s clearnet site, it’s low. I went with Hushmail. They encrypt messages automatically (when sent to other Hushmail users), allow for GPG encryption, don’t have advertising and don’t track me. They are also based in Canada, so that waters down US subpoena authority. While still connected to TOR, I purchased a Premium subscription with laundered bitcoins because it gives me POP/IMAP access on my desktop and unlimited aliases (be sure to check online for a promo code, I found a 25% discount).
Hushmail only wants your “Name”, email address and password to complete the email account setup. Make up a fake name that you can remember (I use my “porn name”). Hushmail asks for a secondary email address for password retrieval and instant notification to another email box. Just leave those blank.
I wanted to turn on two-factor authentication (2FA) to make the Hushmail account secure, but ran into another sticky point. I could use a smartphone app like Google Authenticator for a pass code generator, but I also wanted an email backup because I may not always have my phone with me for 2FA. I needed to provide another email address. Fortunately, I already had another anonymous email address with my Earthlink Webmail service (*@mypacks.net), and I used that for the 2FA email verification. However, after further consideration, I should have set up another, new anonymous email address with another provider because Earthlink has my real, personal info. Hushmail won’t let me change it unless I delete and recreate the account. Lesson learned.
On second thought, don’t enable 2FA unless you can figure out a way to be anonymous. Google Authenticator and Earthlink both know my information.
The next step is to set up a global VPN connection so your IP address is anonymous and all transmissions are encrypted. I went with PIA – Private Internet Access. They use the OpenVPN software that’s familiar to VPN users. They also have OpenVPN solutions for your phones and tablets, and allow five simultaneous connections, so all of your communications can be anonymized. Yes, they are based in the US, but have connection nodes around the world. I don’t notice a speed difference when I connect to the nearest node. Again, we have to use TOR on a clearnet site to set it up, but this is the last time.
One bonus about PIA is that you can purchase your connection subscription with gift cards. This is where it gets real creative. While still connected to TOR remotely, I laundered bitcoins to purchase a $50 Home Depot gift card on eGifter and used my new, anonymous email address as the account to which to send the ecard. Using this as payment for the VPN service gets me one year of totally anonymous access because my name and info don’t show up anywhere.
Now you can disconnect from TOR, employ PIA and surf or email with confidence that (almost) nobody can track you or read your communications. To browse the Internet, I recommend SRWare Iron. It’s a Chrome-based browser that renders sites faster and is more secure than Google’s version (e.g., Google won’t track you). Firefox with NoScript plugin, etc. is also another good choice. For email, I use Claws Mail. It’s lightweight, allows for seamless use of GPG and OpenVPN, and will manipulate email files from virtually every other email program out there.
There are three potential pitfalls during this process where clearnet access is required. The first is mining bitcoins. Unless you are already doing that with a VPN connection, your communication with the other miners (or consortium) and wallet are readable. Once you get PIA set up, you can continue to mine bitcoins behind it safely. Another method would be to mine coins “solo”, but you won’t solve for any coins these days by going it alone unless you are mining at petahash speed. The second and third we discussed already. These are TOR connections to clearnet sites and using a secondary email that’s not totally anonymous. As long as you’re using a VPN connection to a remote TOR box, you should be fine. I happen to have access to a remote box that isn’t mine, so I didn’t have to purchase a subscription, but purchasing and setting up an OpenVPN certificate and remote connection anonymously will be left for another thread once I tackle it. To solve for the secondary email issue, establish another anonymous email account with a separate provider using the same methods as the first one.
If you have any suggestions on how to improve this process or have new ideas, please add on to this thread.
Locos Tacos have nothing on these bad boys!!