Wednesday, 16 May 2007

My Amazon saga

About five weeks ago emailed me to confirm an order for £415, the bulk of which was a £382 Nokia phone, which would be dispatched soon to somewhere in Liverpool. Needless to say, the order was not mine.

I immediately phoned the bank to cancel my debit card, and got Amazon to call me so I could cancel the order. At this point I noticed that although the order was made using my Amazon account, it wasn't made with my debit card after all, but with one I didn't recognise. Oh well.

The Amazon rep went through account identification stuff with me, confirmed that the order hadn't been charged or dispatched, and cancelled it after checking I didn't recognise the delivery details or (stolen, presumably) credit card details, telling me it would be forwarded to Amazon's investigations department.

He then ensured that I had changed my account password, seemed happy that the account was secured, and thanked me for bringing the matter to their attention. The matter was all done and dusted; the only problem being that I couldn't use a debit card for the next half a week until a new one was sent to me, but that was a minor issue.

The next day, however, I received an email from Amazon:

We regularly perform reviews of customer orders and during one such review discovered activity on your account which we believe to be unauthorised.

Please understand that due to unauthorised access, your account at has been closed with immediate effect and for security reasons cannot be reopened.

Oh, Amazon, sneakily taking credit for discovering suspicious activity...

But I was rather put out at being informed that my account was gone forever given that the rep I had spoken to the day before seemed content that everything was secured and no further action would be taken. I like my Amazon account. It has my wishlist, my DVD rental list and rental history (and permanent 10% off all DVDs), and my ever-growing list of likes and dislikes which I hoped would, one day in the next few decades, allow them to provide me with vaguely accurate recommendations. I got their customer service to call me back again to ask why, why, why this had to happen.

The answer was as follows: a) It's routine, but b) should only be temporary while the investigation takes place, and c) they'll get the investigation team to call 'tomorrow' and tell me what was happening. I also mentioned that I use Amazon's DVD rental and currently had a DVD to return; once posted back would it go into limbo since the account was 'closed', and when the account was re-opened would they tell me that it showed as having one DVD out?

They said that DVD rentals would work completely normally even during the temporary closure of the account since it was really only my ability to log into my account that had been revoked. (This turned out to be true until they tried to charge my now-cancelled debit card and stopped sending me DVDs.) I sat back and waited for the investigation team's call.

A week passed.

I phoned again to ask what was happening regarding my closed account. The customer service rep stated that a) it's routine, but b) should only be temporary while the investigation takes place, and c) they'll get the investigation team to call and tell me what was happening.

A further week passed.

The next guy I phoned was rather more helpful, telling me that the investigation team doesn't ever call customers, and no one should ever have promised me they were going to. He told me instead to email them at to ask when my account might be reopened. I duly did so.

A week passed.

I emailed again. I received a useless form email the very next day! telling me that although they couldn't provide me with more details about the unauthorised activity, I shouldn't worry because none of my financial information was compromised. I responded, asking them to kindly please just answer the damn question that I asked in the first place.

The final email from them, which arrived on Monday, states:

We can assure you that your account can no longer be accessed through the website. I am sorry that the information that you received was incorrect. This account can no longer be opened and you will have to open a new account if you wish to purchase from Amazon again.

So. This has dragged out over five weeks and involved three different versions of the truth told to me by four different employees and finally it seems that my account with all its valuable (to me) data is forfeit because their right hand is incapable of talking to their left.

I'm glad I did mistakely cancel my debit card, otherwise it seems they would have kept billing me for my DVD rental on my completely closed account to which I had no access. Also on the plus side, I've now opened a new account and apparently I'm still eligible for a 14-day free trial of the DVD rental. Take that, Amazon.


Wow...I'd always viewed Amazon as a miraculous black-box source of goodies...I've never had to deal with their customer service before, and I hadn't read of anyone who has.

Sorry you had all that hassle - it sounds awful!

I've just been through a similar situation with amazon - but a bit easier because i didn't have the dvd rental thing.

but yes, my account was hacked in to. someone tried to buy a very expensive mobile phone (to be sent to somewhere in essex) i went through getting my account back, went through all the security, thought everything was back and then, this morning, got an e-mail saying that my account was lost and gone forever

ho hum

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