Can You Still Trust eBay Feedback?
The eBay feedback system has long been the backbone of the eBay.com buying and selling system. The system enables users to ascertain important information about who they are dealing with, by examining a users’ previous transactions, and then deciding whether or not this is the type of person they want to deal with.
Simply put, if a seller has ripped off, annoyed, and/or stolen from other people, or if the seller has a reputation for sending damaged, broken, misrepresented, or otherwise sub par goods, they will have negative feedback, and users should avoid them. The generally used rules of thumb concerning eBay’s feedback system are typically:
- Be wary of new users who have no feedback, or only a few feedback, especially in high value transactions. Avoid sellers with excessively negative feedback, especially for similar problems. (If ten other people say their items stunk of smoke, or came damaged, your item will also) If a seller has stolen from another eBayer (item paid for and never received), don’t deal with them. This rule is sometimes broken if the seller has had lots of other positive transactions, and you suspect it was just a disgruntled buyer. However, you do so at your own risk.
- Sellers with lots of positive feedback, and few or no negative feedback are generally safe to deal with.
In the past, by following these “general rules of thumb” buyers could decrease their risk of being scammed ten times over. Today unfortunately, it is just not that simple.
Online scammers have found various ways to circumvent the eBay feedback system, through either cheating the feedback system, falsely obtaining positive feedback, or stealing the positive feedback of other people.What does this mean exactly?
It means that scammers can have accounts with high numbers of positive feedback, little or no negative feedback, and the overall appearance of the perfect seller. It also means that the aforementioned “rules of thumb” can no longer protect you online.
How Feedback Scammers are Cheating the Feedback System
The following are just some of the ways today’s scammers are circumventing the eBay feedback system:
Purchasing Positive Feedback:
There are several ways for scammers to purchase undeserved positive feedback on eBay.
The first is the simple yet blatantly direct purchase of positive feedback. This is when a seller posts an auction saying “I am selling positive feedback”, and the winning buyer gives the seller positive feedback in exchange for positive feedback of his or her own.
The second is a little less overt, but is still a direct purchase of positive feedback. This happens when the seller lists the words “Positive Feedback” or “Feedback Exchange” in his or her item title under the guise of being a real transaction, and not a feedback exchange.
Item titles may include things like “Free Stickers for Leaving POSITIVE FEEDBACK”, “new recipe gets POSITIVE FEEDBACK from all”, or “the most POSITIVE way to buy prewritten FEEDBACK”.
Essentially the title of the item has the words “positive feedback” in it (often highlighted or capitalized), in order to let other scammers know, free feedback is being given away at this auction. The buyer then simply buys the item, and both buyer and seller get undeserved positive feedback.
The third way scammers purchase positive feedback is perhaps the most covert way of doing so. In recent months, eBay has started cracking down on feedback exchanges and free feedback auctions. It has always been against eBay policies to exchange feedback, but for one reason or another they actually decided to start enforcing it, thus forcing many scammers have had to find new ways to obtain their underserved feedback. Well the latest craze for obtaining undeserved feedback is the purchase of online recipes, e-books, wholesale lists, free information, and information booklets. Simply put, any item that can and does sell on eBay for under $1, is fair game for scammers looking to purchase positive feedback. Whether the auction is setup solely for feedback exchanging, or even if the auction is legitimate, it is easy for a thief to buy 10 recipes or e-books (gets a yellow feedback star) for under $1. That’s right, how beneficial is the feedback system when a yellow star costs you less than a dollar?
This is the simplest way for thieves to obtain positive feedback. Basically they set up multiple accounts on eBay, setup the sale of multiple items, purchase the “items” from themselves, and then leave themselves positive feedback. Some scammers will even setup 100+ accounts just to make themselves look like a trustworthy seller.
As the name implies, feedback theft is when someone takes feedback that doesn’t belong to them. Put simply, it is when a scammer hi-jacks, or takes over control of another seller’s eBay account. The scammer then uses the stolen eBay seller’s good reputation to trick buyers into paying him or her money.
Hi-jacks commonly occur when sellers are tricked into entering their personal information (including passwords) into spoof/fake eBay or paypal sites.
How to Protect Yourself From Feedback Scammers
So how do you protect yourself from scammers who have circumvented the eBay feedback system?
First off, and this applies to almost every tip below, you should always closely examine your sellers feedback. That means you don’t just look at the number of positive and negative feedback a seller has, but rather look at the feedback comments, look at who the buyer and seller were, look at what was for sale, find out how much the item sold for, and determine whether the seller is now selling similar items at similar prices.
Look at Feedback Comments:
If your seller has a lot of overly positive comments, or just a lot of similar feedback comments, they may be involved in feedback exchanges or leaving feedback for themselves. Most scammers don’t leave original feedback every time when leaving themselves hundreds of feedback.
Look at Who the Buyer and Seller Were:
The first reason for this is that a person can buy 10,000 items on eBay, get 10,000 positive feedback, yet never sell ever sell one thing. If an eBayer has lots of positive feedback, but it’s all for buying and none is for selling, be just as wary when dealing with them as you would a seller with zero feedback. After all, they are just as new to selling as a zero feedbacker.
Secondly, if the seller has a lot of buyers, but all the buyers have only 1 or 2 positive feedback, there is a large chance that the seller is selling to him or herself. Be especially careful if your seller’s buyers only have 1 positive feedback, and that just so happens to be from the seller him/herself.
Look at What Was For Sale:
Never buy from sellers who have obtained feedback from things like: five cent recipes, e-books, wholesale lists, free items, or feedback exchanges and purchases. If a seller has to fake his or her feedback, are they really safe to deal with? (In case your wondering, the answer is NO!)
Also, lets say your seller has been selling 5 and 10 cent items for over a year. They may have 10,000 positive feedback, but now they all of a sudden switch from selling 5 cent items, to big ticket items. Yes this person may have come through with small ticket items, but they can still take your big ticket purchase and run with your cash.
Find Out How Much the Item Sold For:
As mentioned above, be careful of sellers who have a wide difference in item prices. If a seller has sold 50 expensive computers to 50 satisfied buyers, you’re likely in a safe situation. However, if the seller has sold 50 five cent items, you not in such a safe place.
Also, some scammers prepare for a big score by selling small ticket items like stamps and baseball cards to build up positive feedback. They then use their good reputation to sell big ticket items (hundreds or thousands of dollars in value) and then dash with your cash. If someone only sells baseball cards, and then starts selling laptops out of the blue, be a safe consumer and ask why?
Beware Private Feedback and Private Auctions:
Private feedback and private auctions should also bring up a red flag when it comes to any eBay transactions. Feedback portfolios are designed to show how trustworthy a seller you are. If you are hiding your feedback, you are hiding how trustworthy you are. I doubt there are many sellers with great feedback, that they don’t want others to see. Likewise, if a scammer is buying feedback, chances are he or she doesn’t want his or her buyers/potential victims to know about it. If a seller has a lot of private auctions, or private feedback, ask them why. If they don’t give you a good enough answer, don’t do business.