Skip to main content

Amazon’s Createspace Now Home to Money Laundering Operation

The Kindle Store is rife with scammers who publish spam ebooks and cheat their way to the top of the best-seller lists, and apparently Createspace has its own problems.

Brian Krebs brings our attention to what was most likely some type of money laundering scam being run in Amazon’s print-on-demand service:

Patrick Reames had no idea why sent him a 1099 form saying he’d made almost $24,000 selling books via Createspace, the company’s on-demand publishing arm. That is, until he searched the site for his name and discovered someone has been using it to peddle a $555 book that’s full of nothing but gibberish.

Reames is a credited author on Amazon by way of several commodity industry books, although none of them made anywhere near the amount Amazon is reporting to the Internal Revenue Service. Nor does he have a personal account with Createspace.

But that didn’t stop someone from publishing a “novel” under his name. That word is in quotations because the publication appears to be little more than computer-generated text, almost like the gibberish one might find in a spam email.

The impersonator priced the book at $555 and it was posted to multiple Amazon sites in different countries. The book — which as been removed from most Amazon country pages as of a few days ago — is titled “Lower Days Ahead,” and was published on Oct 7, 2017.

Reames said he suspects someone has been buying the book using stolen credit and/or debit cards, and pocketing the 60 percent that Amazon gives to authors. At $555 a pop, it would only take approximately 70 sales over three months to rack up the earnings that Amazon said he made.

That is a tidy little scam; if not for the fact that Amazon sent the 1099 to the wrong person, we would never have even heard about it.

And clearly Amazon had no idea it was going on.

Reames told Krebs on Security that after learning of the scam, he got curious enough to start looking for other examples. “I have reviewed numerous Createspace titles and its clear to me that there may be hundreds if not thousands of similar fraudulent books on their site,” Reames said. “These books contain no real content, only dozens of pages of gibberish or computer generated text.”

When I reported on a massive piracy scam going on in Createspace back in 2015, Amazon refused to say whether they were going to take any steps to prevent the scam from happening again.

In 2015 I found hundreds of titles which combined pirated content with sound-alike titles in a fraud intended to trick students into buying the wrong textbook.

It is now 2018, and Createspace is still rife with obviously scammy titles (and as we know from David Gaughran’s work, the Kindle Store is almost as bad).

And apparently the best Amazon can do is clean up the mess after someone else points it out.

Similar Articles


DaveMich February 20, 2018 um 9:53 pm

It could certainly be a problem for other authors as well, since Reames might have been targeted because he has books listed on the site (through a publisher) – the post doesn’t make it clear what recourse he has to having received a 1099 for over $24,000 of income he did not receive. Amazon won’t fix it (see below) so now he has to wrestle with the IRS?!?

What if the scam used the name of a more established author – do they have to check their 1099 the same way you would comb through a credit card statement, looking for bogus income?

"Reames said Amazon refuses to send him a corrected 1099, or to discuss anything about the identity thief.

They say all they can do at this point is send me a letter acknowledging than I’m disputing ever having received the funds, because they said they couldn’t prove I didn’t receive the funds. So I told them, ‘If you’re saying you can’t say whether I did receive the funds, tell me where they went?’ And they said, “Oh, no, we can’t do that.’ So I can’t clear myself and they won’t clear me.”"

Allen F February 21, 2018 um 2:28 pm

Should be easy enough to clear up as Amazon wasn’t paying 'his' account.

And it wasn’t Amazon’s fault that there was an identity thief, any more than any other company one might deal with (and he’ll have to go through the same steps any of us would have to to prove it was identity thief and not us actually doing it.) As far as Amazon giving out account information, they have to wait for the court orders – once again they can’t tell if the request/demand is coming from the one wronged – or from the scammer.

Bree Sordanotme February 21, 2018 um 3:57 pm

I call BULL. Shame on Createspace, Amazon and Kindle. I believe they have known about these scams from the beginning! As long as they continue to make their money, they don’t care. Bad business. Really bad business decisions are being made here! And their lack of investigation is pathetic. I would suggest this guy contact the FBI. Tax Fraud is involved here and he is on the hook for the money owed the IRS.

Kimmy November 17, 2019 um 8:08 pm

Same thing has happened to me. I’m dealing with it now. Please tell me how in the world to prove my to the IRS this is NOT me.

Nate Hoffelder November 17, 2019 um 10:10 pm

Kimmy, can I send you an email and ask you a few questions?

Kimmy November 19, 2019 um 3:44 pm

Please! Maybe you can help me.

What To Do If Your Identity is Stolen via Createspace or Amazon, and Used for Money Laundering | The Digital Reader November 22, 2019 um 4:25 pm

[…] February of last year I reported on a money laundering operation that was discovered in Amazon's print-on-demand service Createspace after an author learned that […]

Grant November 7, 2020 um 11:00 pm

There’s someone currently spamming Amazon with 1000s of fake wall calendars using images that are clearly stolen off the web under multiple seller names, like "365 Days Calendars," "Golden Print," "Funny Calendar 2021 Publishing," etc. They’re actually small print-on-demand booklets, not calendars, with no holes to hang them, really poor print quality, Arizona images in Colorado calendars, etc. I’m pretty sure they were done with Createspace using a bot. They’ve done this for years but this year seems to be on a whole different level. There are so many that they’re taking over search result pages in place of legitimate calendars. I tried reporting through Amazon Seller Central, but there seems to be no good way to report this. Amazon seems to use computer algorithms to autorespond to everything nowadays. Any idea how you can report this and have it read by a human? I don’t provide my primary email online, so the one I’ve provided is mine but not one I check too often. I will check for replies to this post, though. Thanks

Write a Comment