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While most people turn to Amazon for fast delivery and a mind-boggling selection of pretty much everything, that doesn't mean Amazon always delivers. A recent unpleasant trend has emerged in the U.K. in which people have ordered expensive products like phones and cameras and gotten... something else entirely. Like cat food. Or cheap shoes. Or bad perfume. 

One Amazon customer reported ordering a Sony Alpha 6-400 camera, priced at £900 (about $1,336), and a Tamron telephoto lens priced at £520 ($656) last September. The package looked normal, so the customer accepted it — only to learn that there wasn't a camera or a lens inside, but cat food. And definitely not almost $2,000 worth.

At first, Amazon refused to give a refund, since the customer had signed for the package, but eventually relented. He received a replacement lens, though the camera was no longer in stock — and he had to wait more than three weeks to get his money back.

This wasn't a strange-but-isolated occurrence, either. One 15-year-old saved his money to buy a discounted graphics card on Black Friday, only for the delivery to be delayed until mid-January. When he finally received the package, it contained not a graphics card, but pink surgical masks. The boy's mother spent hours on the phone with Amazon trying to get a refund, which she only received after sending back the masks at her own expense. Other customers received not phones or cameras but dog food and cheap shoes — with a slow response from Amazon or flat refusals of refunds.

When the BBC reported on these scams and asked Amazon for a comment, an Amazon spokesperson had a pretty unsatisfying reply: "We work hard to create a trustworthy shopping experience by protecting customers, selling partners, and Amazon from abuse and we have systems in place to detect suspicious behavior. We are investigating these specific cases and are in contact with the customers affected."

    The best path to avoid a similar scam is to avoid the con in the first place. Read on for tips ...

    Gallery: The Biggest and Boldest Scams of the Past Decade

    How to Avoid Getting Scammed on Amazon 

    • Be sure you have a trustworthy vendor, even if the price is slightly higher. You can see reviews for a vendor by clicking on the name listed under "sold by" in the right column of an Amazon listing.
    • Use apps like Fakespot to see if vendors (and reviews) are legit.
    • Check the questions and answers part of the listing page to see if those offer any insight into delivery practices (If you see the question, "Where is it?" you have a clue). 
    • If the item isn't Prime delivery, check the delivery date. If that date isn't within a few days, that could be a red flag. 
    • Be willing to record yourself opening the package to prove the contents are incorrect. 
    • If you search for an item and several come up, look for products marked "Amazon's Choice" and "Best Seller," as they've been popular with Amazon and are less likely to be peddled by scam artists.
    • Make sure the package, when you receive it, does not appear to be altered in any way or is taped or glued in a way that's unusual. If it seems strange, contact Amazon before opening.

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