For many collectors, eBay is a collectible wonderland, full of interesting items representing just about every collector’s favorite genre. But don’t be fooled, eBay is also a breeding ground for scammers preying on the unsuspecting collector. Even experienced collectors and well-seasoned eBayers are taken for a ride from time-to-time.
To circumvent eBay’s watchful eye, and many of its experienced buyers, scammers are becoming more sophisticated. If you want to stay a step ahead, you must evolve as well. After all, the best defense is a better offense. Based on my personal experiences, here are 7 tips that will help you avoid eBay scams:
It’s long been said (and proven true) that if something is in demand and has value, counterfeiters will reproduce it. It goes without saying (but I’m saying it anyway), the best protection is education. Understanding that an auction environment stimulates impulsive bidding and buying, pump your brakes, take a deep breath, and do your research!
Beyond researching a specific item; and closely inspecting a listing’s images, a buyer should also research similar items offered by different sellers, the category in which the item is listed, the seller, customer feedback, and the seller’s feedback. Ask the seller questions. Ask for more photos. And if you’re interested in an extremely valuable item, have an independent appraiser look at it.
No Feedback: Just because a seller does not have any customer feedback, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a scammer – but it should give you pause. If you believe that the item you’re interested in is legit, simply contact the seller with questions – any questions. If the seller is on the up-and-up, they’re going to engage in genuine dialogue, with thorough explanations. On the contrary, short responses without much depth or context can be a red flag that you’re speaking with a scammer. Proceed with caution.
Private Feedback. If a seller sets all of their customer feedback as “private” – be very cautious. Think about it, if your business is solid, treats people fairly, and sells quality products, why wouldn’t you want your happy customers to share their experiences with others?
Fake Feedback: Knowing that buyers will consider customer feedback as part of their purchase decision, scammers will create fake eBay accounts for the sole purpose of leaving themselves fake feedback – all positive of course. This will artificially boost the seller’s feedback rating – often enough to snooker unsuspecting buyers.
When evaluating feedback, consider the following: the type of comments posted to a seller’s account, the value of the items commented on, and when the comments were posted. It’s best to consider all three attributes when sizing-up a seller.
An abundance of short and generic comments like “Great”, “Fast Shipping” and “Thank You” will add up quickly, boosting a seller’s feedback rating – possibly fraudulently. Next, look at the monetary value of the items commented on – if the majority of the items are super cheap compared to the item you’re interested in, watch out. Lastly, look at when the feedback was posted. Feedback posted over several months or years is far superior to 50 reviews posted last week.
When reviewing customer feedback, pay close attention to the seller’s responses. If a purchase was disputed, how did the seller respond? While it’s certainly true that not everyone can pleased all of the time, the tone and words used by the seller can tell you a lot. Before bidding, ask yourself “if something were to go wrong with my purchase, is this someone I can work with to resolve the issue?”
One Day Auctions
A one-day auction defies logic – which should be enough to give you pause. Think about it, if you were selling your house, you would want to give people more than 24 hours to spot your listing, research the house, and make an offer… right?
When a seller posts a one-day auction, they’re either in a serious cash crunch or they’re trying to push a fraudulent transaction before eBay or suspicious buyers catch on. If the scammer doesn’t get caught, they can run the auction, collect payment, empty their PayPal account, and disappear. In my humble opinion, stay clear of one-day auctions.
Most of us love second chances or a great comeback story. With that said, you don’t want to find yourself in the starring role of an eBay Second Chance Offer story! So how do you know if you’re being cast for this role?
You just lost an auction. Bummer. Shortly thereafter you’re contacted by the seller. Even though you lost the auction, they’re willing to sell you the item at your highest bid price. Needless to say, if you send them payment for the item, you’ll be checking your mailbox for an item that will never arrive.
Speaking of mailboxes, I’ve been bitten by a “harmless” shipping scam once before. This type of scam is typically associated with shipping charges and/or Money Back Guarantees. I was foiled when I purchased a relatively inexpensive, small, lightweight item. Being that I purchased it along with several other items (from different sellers) during a single session, I didn’t pay too much attention to the shipping cost. When I looked at my receipt a few days later, I noticed the shipping price was about 3 times the cost of the item! In this scenario, the seller was padding their profit through excessive shipping charges.
The Money Back Guarantee is another way sellers will exploit shipping charges. When a buyer is unhappy with their purchase they can return the item to the seller for a refund minus the shipping costs. Like the example above, how much were the shipping costs (when compared to the item)? The lesson here is simple – pay attention to shipping costs!
Have you ever run across an auction that asks you to send the seller an email before bidding? I have. While not an immediate or definitive sign of a scammer, tread lightly. Scammers will often deploy this tactic in an attempt to circumvent eBay altogether and “sell” you an item for an unbelievable price. It’s unbelievable alright.
eBay Account Notice: This scam takes on several looks; but essentially, they’re all after the same thing. Emails will appear to be from eBay regarding your account. Sounding important, the unsuspecting recipient opens it. At this point, the scammer knows they have a real person using an active email account – dynamite! Now your email address is in the hands of a spammer/scammer who will either sell your information and/or add you to their email list that will be used for more devious purposes in the future.
If the recipient then clicks a link in the email, a virus or malware may attack their computer. Another tactic may take the user to a site that looks like an eBay property. It may prompt the user to login to their account, where they steal their login credentials.
If eBay has to communicate account sensitive messages, they will drop a notification inside your eBay account. If you were to receive an email claiming such information, do not open it. Instead, log in to your eBay account and check your messages. For help recognizing spoof emails, check out eBay’s email guide.
eBay is a tremendous online marketplace that connects millions of sellers and buyers – the vast majority of them good, honest people. That said, there are disingenuous people who will look for ways to exploit people and systems for their own financial gain.
Although eBay has buyer protection programs in place, those programs are designed for honest buyers and sellers, not scammers. So how prevalent are eBay scams? A quick search on FBI.gov illustrates just how big of a problem eBay continues to have with fraudsters.
The keys to enjoying your eBay experience: know the risks and learn how to minimize and prevent your exposure to them. Hopefully this article helps!
Do you have any tips that will help your fellow eBayer?
FYI, Ebay has buyer and seller protection as well as Paypal. It’s one of the best if not the best selling/buying market places on the internet. There have been many times that buyers used stolen credit cards to buy from me. Ebay and Paypal has never one time not protected me from fraud. I have over 14,000 100% FB and it’s a better place to buy versus Amazon. The seller has no control over what gets shipped from them, sometimes buyers get counterfeit items that come from some other bin that was not the sellers at all. – Tim Garton