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The #internet has forever changed the way that people shop and browse for items. #Amazon has become the second largest employer in the United States (shadowed only by Walmart) and currently has more members belonging to their “PRIME” service than Costco has overall. Amazon is frequently used as both a shopping resource and a catalog where consumers can research items that they are planning to purchase in stores. Unfortunately, Amazon also has a dark side due to the illegal practices of scammers.

Shopping online, scams, and prevention

Virtual shopping has many benefits, however, there are also some downsides. One of the biggest problems facing most e-commerce sites, by far, is the seemingly endless barrage from the so-called “grey market” which sells used goods as new, offers stolen products which are not meant for sale in the USA, and even--at times--list counterfeit goods and services in the guise of legitimate businesses.

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Such practices subsequently sully the names of the authentic brand-name companies and hurt sales. In extreme cases (such as an incident where a major criminal element was uncovered laundering stolen headsets) these scams even endanger the health and well-being of consumers. Unfortunately, online marketplaces provide an outlet for some of the most unscrupulous behavior.

Counterfeiting is an especially serious problem online. While about seven percent of brick and mortar retail stores have to deal with the antics of copycats, approximately sixteen percent of online stores encounter such issues. Amazon is an especially tempting target for unsavory business practices since it is often difficult for Amazon staff--despite their best efforts--to determine which sellers are legitimate and which are not.

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Fred Dimyan, with a background in technology and financial markets, experienced the perils of counterfeiters first-hand when he owned and operated a store on Amazon that sold consumer electronics other goods. Realizing there was a massive need in the market to prevent scams and con artists from hurting sellers, Fred made it his mission to start a company that would protect brands and honest businesses who operated in an e-commerce space; namely, Amazon. Hence, in 2014, “Potoo” was established.

“The name comes from a bird which is native to the Amazon region and is vital to its eco-system,” Fred recently explained via an exclusive phone interview. “Since we started the company to help Amazon sellers after we saw a massive need for this kind of service, we thought the name fit perfectly.”

Fred described Potoo as a company that specializes in defense marketing and data. Specifically, they ensure that over 1,000 brands on Amazon are running smoothly. This includes assessing resellers and shutting down counterfeit operations via an online dashboard--which they designed--that helps them monitor, access, clean, and report on activities that are happening in the stores that they monitor.

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We help manufacturers sellers by identifying bad behavior behind the scenes,” Fred stated. “When we find questionable behavior, we sometimes call the seller out on their behavior. If they continue we with the manufacturer and Amazon and provide them enough data to shut them down.”

Clients, services, and opportunity

Potoo’s first client was a consumer electronics company whose sales on Amazon were being impacted by fraudulent sellers. As soon as the #Potoo technology was implemented, the store was able to gain control over the problem and ratings and profits subsequently rose steadily. Dozens of referrals came from that first client’s success.

“Our client list grew very quickly,” Fred proclaimed. “In the first two years alone, we grew 1,700 percent and most of our clients were recommended to us by other satisfied customers. That speaks for itself about the quality of our services.”

As of November 2017, Potoo has evolved to operate in eight different countries. In addition to Amazon, they also monitor the websites of Jetcom, eBay, and Walmart. They anticipate a 500 percent growth in 2018 and are actively planning to implement more additional services. These services will likely include review alerts and gauging how prices on Amazon compare and influence list prices on other platforms. Fred also stressed that Potoo strongly values constructive feedback and expands their services organically based on the needs of their clients.

“Probably the biggest challenge we face is when manufacturers say that they do not like Amazon because they feel they have no options and this is just the new reality of e-commerce,” Fred stated. “Some manufacturers feel like they simply have no control. We try to explain that sellers can gain control and we can help them do that. I like to say that Amazon is like a scalpel, it can cut hurt you, but it can also save your life in the right hands. The goal of Potoo is to make Amazon--and other online marketplaces--positive spaces for sellers. We aim to make clients understand that they can gain back control and start viewing Amazon as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.”