Exposing Scams in GPS Devices on Amazon
Why do some cheap GPS tracker companies only list their up-front prices? 2G and 3G devices? Throttling?
A detailed expose reveals the top scams and misleading products from some leading GPS Telematics companies now on Amazon. Here are some highlights:
1) Up-front cost in title, with confused messaging about monthly service costs.
Trak4 and hidden monthly costs.
A low up-front cost makes a device look like it is the low-cost leader, and if you sort by price, these popular devices show up on top. They may even claim that their GPS tracker has no monthly fees. However, the title is purposefully misleading. Read the fine print, and you find that there is an ADDITIONAL monthly cost, which can be substantial. Furthermore, to turn on the device, you have to pay that monthly cost, UP-FRONT for one year. That’s quite a trick!
2) Device connects to your phone, and uses its GPS/cellular
GPS tracking using phone
We’ve seen a number of Amazon products which are advertised as GPS tracking device without a monthly subscription, but in fact, simply send the vehicle’s data to your phone, via Bluetooth. While that’s great, it’s not suitable for business fleet management, for a wide variety of reasons. First, most businesses can’t get employees to install an app. Second, most employees are using their personal phones, and have the right to refuse. Third, these solutions are easy to defeat, even if installed. Finally, apps are often prevented from easily running in the background and sending location. This would force users to have the app open in order for location tracking to work.
3) Devices which use GSM, and then Wifi for location
Tracki uses GSM and Wifi for location
Certain low-cost GPS tracking devices on Amazon, like this one from Tracki, are using GSM for location, and Wifi for backup. The problem? GSM is the 2G network, which has already sunset in the U.S., while wifi is a patchwork which is not even close to reliable enough for most uses. Imagine if your GPS device had to get signals from the various Wifi networks encountered on any given trip, and try to use those to figure out where it is. Ludicrous. The best part, the GSM is touted as a feature, offering worldwide coverage. Sure, it works in many places, just not in the U.S.
4) Extensions cost extra, and you have to buy 2 cables
They make you buy extra cables for your GPS device, which are only 1-foot long
We saw one of the top cheap GPS tracker products on Amazon with a 1-FOOT cable which costs $7.99, and another 1-FOOT extension which costs $9.80! So that’s $17.79 in cable costs, to get a 2-foot cable, on top of the $67 up-front price. And of course, you also must pay $8 a month for service, and $4.99 for shipping. Have fun!
5) No reports for business uses, IFTA
A common challenge with products on Amazon is that they are designed for families. There are limited reports, for such things as IFTA, or disconnect, or a whole variety of business use cases.
6) No Idle monitors, no asset sharing
Advanced features for business fleets include Idle Monitors and Reports, Asset Sharing, and Instant Replay. We did not find these features in any of the top Amazon products we reviewed.
7) Throttling, and extra cost for more frequent pings
More than one GPS product on Amazon offered a baseline of pings every 5 minutes, and OPTIONAL (extra cost) upgrades to get additional frequency. The extra cost is not advertised, and will presumably be shown to you after you buy.
8) 3G devices with high up-front costs
2G GPS advertised in the U.S.
GPS products which are 3G are at risk of being discontinued when U.S. networks fully switch up to 4G and 5G. This will likely happen in the next 2 years. If you have a 3G GPS device, it will stop working when this happens. We even found a 2G GSM device! Advertised in the U.S., where 2G has already sunset.
9) Beacons advertised as GPS trackers
Another common scam on Amazon is that beacon devices are being advertised as GPS devices. These are simply able to communicate with your phone, and not suitable for vehicle tracking.