Patrick Reames, an author who sells his books online through Amazon, is the latest victim of criminals who impersonate authors on Amazon in order to launder money. Reames recently discovered that he was being impersonated when his 1099 form falsely reported that he had earned a $24,000 income selling books that he did not write. Reames stated that “Based on what I could see from the ‘sneak peek’ function, the book was nothing more than a computer generated ‘story’ with no structure, chapters or paragraphs- only lines of text with a carriage return after each sentence” and was being sold for $555 each. A quick search for the author Vyacheslav Grzhibovskiy comes up with similar fake works sold for as little as a few dollars to $200 and $300. According to Reames “Its not hard to imagine how these books could be used to launder money using stolen credit cards or facilitating transactions for illicit materials or funding of illegal activities” and he also added that he believes Amazon is not properly checking new accounts in order to “limit tax fraud via stolen identities.”
Amazon may be an easier tool for money launderers to take advantage of compared to using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin because Amazon accounts are directly connected to a credit card or bank account. Bitcoin users utilize several exchanges and tumbling services in order to hide the trail and source of their funds, whereas criminals looking to launder money through Amazon would only need access to a bank account and a compromised Amazon account.
In response, Amazon has since removed the fake listings and their support forum overall. However, the company has yet to release a new 1099 form leaving Reames still responsible for the “income” that the impersonators made and, when asked, Amazon representatives were not immediately available for comment.
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