15 Ways to Avoid eBay Fraud inc email, Phishing etc

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Fraud is a growing problem on eBay.  The golden rule here is to apply common sense.  However, some of the tactics used can be pretty convincing, especially to the novice user.


1. Shill Bidding

Shill bidding is widespread on eBay and means bidding on items you are trying to sell in order to artificially inflate their price and desirability. Sometimes, sellers shill bid using second eBay identities, sometimes they get friends to do it on their behalf. Either way, shill bidding is illegal in Britain, and there are some tell-tale clues that indicate a buyer is a shill bidder:
  • Look at the eBay history of each bidder on the item you are interested in. Shill bidders may bid exclusively on items offered by one seller. If the same person has bid for a used handbag, a secondhand fridge, a fondue set and a man’s scarf from the same seller – and has shown no interest in any other seller on eBay – then they’re either some kind of weird internet stalker, or a shill bidder.
  • Every buyer and seller on eBay has feedback, left by people they have dealt with. If someone has no feedback, then be suspicious. Also be alert if their feedback was left by a satisfied buyer within hours of an auction ending – the Royal Mail rarely delivers goods that fast. Lots of feedback from users who are no longer registered on eBay is also a suspicious sign.
  • See if the other prospective buyers have a large number of bids that they have then retracted. This may be a sign that they are not making serious bids. If you are suspicious about a bidder, you can report them, using the form on eBay’s contact page. Alternatively, eBay’s Safety Centre, offering tips and advice, can be accessed at the bottom of every eBay page.

2 Bogus emails

If you get an email from eBay or PayPal, the online payment system recommended by eBay, informing you that a bid you know nothing about has been successful, ignore it. Likewise, delete any requests from eBay or PayPal for your password, account details, or personal information. These are examples of spoof or "phishing" emails – the use of bogus emails to extract confidential information about you. Spoof emails usually have some of the following characteristics:

  • They start with a generic "Dear eBay member".
  • They have an urgent tone, eg "Ignoring this message will result in a suspension of your account within 24 hours".
  • They have links to web pages that look like eBay pages but are not the real thing (see below).
  • They ask for confidential information. eBay will never ask people to provide account numbers, passwords or confidential information via email. Any genuine emails from eBay will be in the My Messages box in My eBay.

3 Bogus eBay webpages

Fake websites are easy to create and usually look like the real thing. If you clicked a link in an email to reach the website, check that the web address in the box at the top of your browser is the same as the one shown in the mail. Never trust a website that doesn’t have ebay.com or ebay.co.uk immediately before the first single forward slash. If it has additional characters before the forward slash, such as "@" or a "-" then it’s not an eBay page. A legitimate eBay address is http://pages.ebay.co.uk/ and a bogus site would be http://signin.ebay.co.uk@

The easiest way to detect fraudulent websites is to download the eBay Toolbar with Account Guard. The Account Guard feature turns green when you are on a genuine eBay or PayPal site, and turns red if you are on a suspect site.

4 Stay inside eBay

Sometimes sellers will approach bidders directly, and suggest a private deal away from eBay’s commission fees. Just say no because there’s a strong risk they are up to no good. If the goods fail to turn up, you will have no way of tracking them. If you are tempted to buy off-eBay, ensure you still use PayPal where you will still get some protection.

5 Never Use Instant Money Transfer services

eBay banned people from using Western Union and other instant money transfer services a year ago. While the company is reputable, its service is designed for people who trust each other to wire money from one place to another, not to carry out transactions between strangers.

Sellers who suggest wiring money usually claim it’s because they are on holiday, need to get money to a sick relative or need to pay off a debt quickly. The real reason is that they will be untraceable when they vanish with your cash.

6 Counterfeiting

Counterfeiting is the world’s fastest growing industry. Seven per cent of the global GDP is generated in counterfeit goods and eBay, with its 60 million items on sale at any one time, is seen by fraudsters as a good place to trade.

Unless you want a fake Louis Vuitton handbag for £100, then common sense applies. If something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

Fraudsters favour high-end branded goods – particularly fashion – and pirate DVDs and CDs.

To reduce the risks, buy using PayPal. If you can prove your purchase is a fake – a letter from a high street store or manufacturer will do – you can get a refund from PayPal.

7 Goods don’t exist

There are often tell-tale signs that your desired Star Wars action figure or pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes doesn’t actually exist. Often there will be no photograph or just a stock photo, while requests to the seller to email a photograph will either be ignored or you will be fobbed off with a implausible excuse.

Checking feedback is crucial. It can tell you whether you are dealing with a genuine trader, a business or someone with a track record. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller questions. You can quickly build up a sense of whether you can trust them.

8 Rip-off postage

Some sellers use inflated postage and packaging costs as a money spinner. If the postage is hidden away in the listing details be suspicious. Compare the cost of postage with similar items. Some sellers charge £1 to mail out a VHS tape first class with the Royal Mail, others charge £2.50. The variation is greater with bulkier items.

9 Payment doesn’t exist

Once you have successfully sold something, you will get an email telling you that the PayPal payment has gone through to your account. Fraudsters can send out bogus emails telling you that you have been paid, hoping that you will send the goods without checking. Always check your PayPal account to make sure the funds have arrived before sending out the goods.

10 Second Chance Offer Fraud

Be cautious if you receive a Second Chance Offer email. These are sent out by sellers to unsuccessful bidders if an auction winner fails to pay up, or if a duplicate item becomes available. Check that it has come from a seller you have been dealing with for something you have previously bid on. Fraudsters use bogus Second Chance Offer to get people to send payments for items that do not exist, or as a way to get hold of personal data. Check any emails in My eBay.

11 Don’t assume eBay is the cheapest

eBay is not always the cheapest place to make a purchase. Sometimes sellers are trying their luck and so always check prices first on a shopping comparison engine like Kelkoo, Shopping.com and Pricerunner.

12 Don’t buy information only products

Some sellers try to sell lists or links to information which is usually available elsewhere for free. Avoid like the plague

13 Read the description carefully

Sometimes it seems you are bidding for an object on eBay, when all that’s actually up for grabs is a link to a site selling it. Equally sometimes the seller is actually selling the box and item was sold in and trying to pass this off as the real thing.

Always read the whole description in detail before bidding.

14 Know your rights.

If you use the ‘Buy It Now’ button, rather than a standard auction, to buy from a UK based trader on eBay, and you have all the same statutory rights as buying from a shop.

Buy from a private individual and the law says “let the buyer beware”. Providing your purchase arrives ‘as described’ there’s little legal comeback (assuming you can trace them anyway) and the standard seven day internet cooling-off period usually doesn’t apply to auction purchases.

15 Don’t depend on Feedback.

Whilst Feedback is a good indicator of a seller's honesty, it is possible to fake feedback by having multiple IDs, and IDs can be stolen.

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This Guide was written by Hello Baby - Please visit the Hello Baby eBay Store

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