UBC prof's new book about health scams falls victim to scam on Amazon

·3 min read
A search for Bernie Garrett's book on Amazon also brings up counterfeit versions. (Submitted by Bernie Garrett/amazon.ca - image credit)
A search for Bernie Garrett's book on Amazon also brings up counterfeit versions. (Submitted by Bernie Garrett/amazon.ca - image credit)

UPDATE — Sept. 3, 2021: In a statement sent to CBC News on Sept. 3, an Amazon spokesperson said the situation had been investigated and the fake version of the book had been removed. "Amazon respects the intellectual property rights of others and requires that all books comply with its content guidelines," the statement said.

EARLIER STORY:

A University of British Columbia nursing professor who just published a book about health scams has found himself and his book at the centre of an online scam.

Bernie Garrett's The New Alchemists: The Rise of Deceptive Health Care started selling on Amazon on July 23.

But last week, a person looking to buy the book through the e-commerce giant alerted Garrett there was a second, fake version of the book also for sale on the website.

Some versions of the imposter book are distinguishable from the original because the fake author name "Uchenna Kingsley" has been poorly photoshopped over Garrett's on the cover image.

"The irony is not lost on me. It's very bizarre," said Garrett.

"Amazon is a reputable business and well known — I use it myself, as most of us do. And finding the product on there, which is blatantly fraudulent ... is something very worrying."

A second clue is that the fake also has a different international standard book number (ISBN) than the original.

CBC
CBC

Garrett and his publisher are in contact with Amazon, but as of Tuesday, the spoofed book — both English and French versions — remained for sale on the website.

That means all profits from the sale of the fakes continue to enrich whoever is behind the scheme, not to mention Amazon itself, which takes a cut of everything it sells, regardless of authenticity.

"It is quite a hard process to get some traction with Amazon to take action against these folks," Garrett said.

"I was just on a phone call ... and [Amazon] said they're not sure what to do about it, that they'll get back to me, which still leaves me with the problem that it's out there."

Amazon is easily the largest book retailer in the world, responsible for 64 per cent of all print books sold online.

The problem of counterfeit books selling on the platform is not new.

A quick online search reveals countless stories of fakes and the accompanying plight of legitimate authors and publishers as they try to get Amazon to remove them.

On that front, it seems Garrett is just another victim, possibly targeted because his book cracked the top 10 on Amazon's health/law bestsellers list.

But he also wonders if his subject matter might be motivating whoever it is behind the fraud.

"I take aim at quite a few health scams and people using duplicitous practices to sell health products, which are fake. And it's interesting to note whether this is just a reaction to that, or it's just another scam," he said.

Amazon hasn't revealed how many of Garrett's spoofed books have sold.

"What surprised me the most is how easy it is to do this, to basically sell someone else's product as your own," said Garrett.

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