16 Ways to Avoid Fraud & Scams on eBay

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Fraud is an ongoing fight and is on the increase and eBay is no exception. More and more fraudsters are trying to exploit this online market.  The golden rule here is to apply common sense.  However, some of the tactics used can be pretty convincing, especially to the novice user.  REMEMBER: IF SOMETHING SEEMS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE IT PROBABLY IS!  I would also recommend a visit to eBay’s safety centre and reading through guides like this one, to gain a better insight into common fraud tactics used.

1 Don’t depend on Feedback.

Whilst Feedback is a good indicators of a seller honesty, it is possible to fake feedback by having multiple IDs, and IDs can be stolen.  Buying very cheap information only products is also a very quick way of building feedback, without doing any real trading.


2 Fake eBay webpage’s

Fake websites are easy to create and will often look just like the real thing. If you clicked a link in an email to reach the website, check that the web address is the same as the one shown in the mail. eBay provides a tool for detecting bogus websites in the eBay Toolbar called the Account Guard. The Account Guard turns green when you are on a genuine eBay or PayPal site and turns red if you are on a suspect site.


3 Stay inside eBay

Frequently both seller and buyers will approach other users directly and suggest a private deal away from eBay’s commission fees.  As a seller it is very tempting to take them up on the offer as it avoid eBay’s commission fees, and buyers avoid the chance of loosing the auction.

However, trades outside eBay are not subject to any of the protection of the eBay marketplace and if something goes wrong there is little thant can be done.  It is also a good idea to always pay with PayPal as it provides a level of payment protection. It is also a tracable payment which allows eBay to see that you have paid for an item.


4 Shill Bidding

Shill bidding is common on eBay and means bidding on your own items, either through a second ID or via a friend, in order to artificially raise their final value. Shill bidding is illegal in the UK.  Here are some ways of spotting a shill bidder if you suspect foul play:

Examine Feedback Carefully. Shill bidders may bid exclusively on items offered by one seller. If a bidder has a long history of buying from one seller, it is quite possible they are in cahoots. Be suspicious of zero feedback.  Buyers should be wary of a seller with zero feedback under all circumstances suspiciously quick feedback. Be alert if their feedback was left by a satisfied buyer within hours of an auction ending, before the item could possibly have been delivered. Feedback from no longer registered users is always something to be wary of, whether looking for shill bidders or vetting a seller before making a bid.
Retracted bids, especially from the same seller, this could be a sign that shill bidding has been committed. If you are suspicious of any behaviour on eBay it can be reported using the “Report this item” link at the bottom of every listing page

5 ‘Phishing’ or ‘Spoof’ emails

Most people get several bogus emails reporting to be from eBay or PayPal every day most of which will be sent by fraudsters intent on extracting confidential information such as your PayPal login details. Delete any emails sent under the following circumstances:

If you get an email from eBay or PayPal, informing you that a bid you know nothing about has been successful. Reputable banks and organisation such as eBay or PayPal will never ask for your password, account details, or personal information via email. Phishing emails usually have some of the following characteristics

They will not be addressed to you, but usually start with a generic "Dear eBay member".
They have an urgent tone, e.g. "Account Suspension - Urgent Auction Required".
They have links to web pages that look like eBay pages but are not the real thing (see below).
They ask for confidential information such as your PayPal password or credit card numbers.
Remember: 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. If you are in doubt don’t click on any links from an email.

A quick way to identify bogus emails is to hover your mouse cursor over a link which will display the link’s destination.  If it is not the same as the links which is shown in the email, do not click it.


6 Avoid Use Instant Money Transfer services

Money transfer services such as Western Union are designed for people who trust each other to transfer money from one another and are not intended to carry out transactions between strangers.  Once a transaction has been made the money is untraceable.  For this reason eBay has banned the use of Western union on its site.


7 Fake Goods.

Unfortunately the sale of fake goods is common on eBay,  so it is important to exercise caution when buying designer items such as Louis Vuitton, Channel and Paul Smith etc.  I have also written a guide on how to spot memory card fakes, this is aimed at the Sony Memory Stick Duo Pro. However the distinguishing signs of a fake tend to apply across any product. It can be very difficult to spot fakes, but if something seems too good to be true it probably is.  If you must buy these kinds of items on eBay always check a seller’s feedback.  It is also safer to buy from business sellers.


8 Items that don’t exist

If a seller is peddling a non existent item often there will be no photograph, or a photography clearly lifted from elsewhere on the internet.  If you are at all doubtful, ask to see a photo and get more information.  Once again, checking feedback is important.


9 Excessive postage

eBay allows sellers to set their own postage.  Whilst most give reasonable postage rates some sellers use excessive postage and packaging to increase their profits.  Always check the postage cost of an item and compare with similar items.

10 Check your PayPal Account for Payments

Once you get a payment for a sale through PayPal, you will get an email telling you that the payment has gone through to your account. Fraudsters can send out fake emails telling you that you have been paid in the hope 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.


11 Second Chance Offer Fraud

Second Chance Offer emails are sent, via eBay, by sellers to unsuccessful bidders if they have additional items to sell or the winner fails to pay.  Always 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 to them as opposed to the legitimate seller for items that do not exist, or as a way to get hold of personal data. If in doubt, view your emails in My eBay.


12 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 and Pricerunner.


13 Don’t buy information only products

Some sellers try to sell lists or links to information which is usually available elsewhere for free. They also sell a list of cheap products from a Police auction or a company that has gone into liquidation, avoid them like the plague.

14 Read the description carefully

When buying items on eBay it is very easy to read things into the description, bidding on what you want, and not what is described.  Sometimes the seller is actually selling the box that an item was sold in and trying to pass this off as the real thing. Always read the whole description in detail before bidding. Sometimes sellers put that the item is faulty in the middle of a gargantuan description in the hope that you won’t bother to read the whole thing.

15 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, you have all the same statutory rights as buying from a shop.  If you make a purchase on eBay from a business seller, this means that you have at least a 7 day cooling off period when the item can be returned for any reason.

When buying from an individual the usual rule is Caveat Emptor - buyer beware.  Providing your purchase arrives as described there’s little legal comeback and the standard seven day internet cooling-off period usually doesn’t apply to auction purchases.


16 Beware of Strange Requests

Always be suspicious of people who ask for things out of the ordinary such as overpaying for an item and then getting a refund, or posting to another country from the one given as the user home country.  Anyone requesting shipment to Nigeria or offering to pay you more than the item is worth you should exercise extreme caution. As a rule I do not sell to anyone in Nigeria. Neither will I post to a different address to one that is listed on eBay or to Nigeria. If you’re questioning my reasoning on this, then please take a further few minutes to read my Nigerian 419 scams Guide. Lastly if you have some common sense, use it! Nothing in life is free and rarely will people sell a bargain, trust your judgement, if something seems a little odd there is probably something fishing going on. This is good advice for life in general as well as eBay trading.

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