Avoid high capacity disk drive scams

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"You can never be too rich or too thin" ... or have enough disk space for your films, music, encrypted intercepts, or whatever.
So you go looking for a good value disk drive of the largest widely available capacity. At the time of writing 3 terabyte drives are being superseded by 4 terabyte drives, but the 3TB drives are cheaper per byte (by some 0.25 nanopence per byte, or 8%, at retail prices). Maybe an eBay seller has some thing to offer?
Some people have worked out that, rather than bother a payday lender, they can get an interest-free loan of several weeks from the PayPal account of an eBay purchaser such as yourself. They just create an eBay account and list a fictitious high capacity disk drive. You'll bid successfully and pay for the item; then, despite an update claiming that the item has been dispatched, no item will appear and the seller won't respond. Meanwhile the seller has the use of your money until the "item  not received" case that you had to open is resolved.
No doubt sellers believe, and probably rightly, that the size of sums involved (~£60) and the fuzziness of online identities mean they won't find themselves up in court or at least their PayPal account confiscated.
Here are some typical characteristics of such scam listings and their sellers:
  • the seller has no positive feedback (hasn't even bothered to concoct some positive feedback by buying a few trinkets!);
  • the seller's ID is automatically generated, such as "scammer_69";
  • the seller is private, not business, with no physical address in the listing (to avoid confrontation with irate purchasers and/or the police);
  • the listing is entirely boilerplate, with just the product data provided by eBay and a picture (a "Sell one like this" job?);
  • the picture may have a mystery logo that doesn't seem to match the seller (presumably stolen from a genuine listing).
Now an experienced eBay user might ask "Who would bid on a non-trivial listing from a private seller with no positive feedback"? But people don't always distinguish between private and business listings and eBay seems keen to make people view it as just another online store. So the environment is ripe for such a scam, and doubtless it applies to other types of in-demand products that are sufficiently but not too expensive.
Let's have a look today. My search for "3TB (drive,disk)" from £30 to £90 in "All Categories" returned 42 listings for items in the UK. Of those, 11 listings for internal drives and 10 listings for external drives matched all or most of the characteristics listed, exactly half of all the listings. Some sellers appear to be working on their second instalment: here are deanleno_5, fordmey_70, daes_51, all with negative feedback for non-delivery of a hard disk, which doesn't bode well for the current high bidders. Who would bid on a non-trivial listing from a private seller with no positive feedback? A total of 235 bids had been received for the 21 items, so quite a few people.
My advice is for buyers to avoid bidding on listings with the suspect characteristics. Despite attempts to present eBay as just another online store, the system only works with private sellers if they participate in the site to obtain feedback and if buyers pay attention to the feedback status of private sellers. If each new scam eBay ID has to gather positive feedback, the scam becomes much less attractive.
Practically, it's useful to enable "seller information" in your search listings ("Customise View"). This causes the seller's feedback status, if any, to be shown in search listings, although not the business/private status.


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