Handling abusive/offensive/threats phonecalls, emails

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Hi all,

I have been on Ebay for 2.5 years and after 200+ transactions I have encountered my first issue with a person who visited my car and tried to offer half the price to end the auction early. So I have written this guide to help users who are encountering abuse and things they can do.

He has subsequently phoned me by with-holding his number and been abusive trying to be someone else.

For anyone who is getting abusive emails or phonecalls I suggest you read the Protection from Harassment act 1997, you can Google it and is usually found at the Opsi Gov UK website. A person giving you harassment can be jailed for up to six months or in case of threatening violence five years, and be fined and be charged for anxiety caused. If you are getting abuse then send the link to the person and it should stop them.

Your contact details are available if the person is in a transaction with you, they can obtain your contact number via Ebay and you will be notified that your details are requested. I suggest you list a work number or mobile number to prevent you getting calls at home. There are advantages of dealing with abuse on a LAN line as listed below as providers usually have more options to block with-held numbers, an option that some mobiles (such as Sony) provide, but not all. You can on some mobiles create calling groups to accept incoming calls of your choice, check your phone manual to see if this is an option and make a decision to which number will cause you the least distruption. Getting a cheap sim and using it as your Ebay contact number is also another option.

If they persist then contact your local Police Station, please remember to stay calm, never give out personal details to strangers and never argue back, it encourages them to keep calling.

If you are receiving phone calls, get a crime reference number if the number is coming up with-held. Contact your phone provider and they can use a tool to show what the number is so you can identify them. Most LAN providers can block incoming calls that have numbers with-held by entering a code, BT for example is *27#. Anyone trying to call you with a with-held number will be unable to get through.

Mobile providers are more complicated, if you are a pay as you go customer then they will usually recommend that you change your number or contact the police. Pay monthly customers will have more options open to them, contact your customer service department for your provider. If you do change your number then order the sim online, it will be far cheaper than buying it from a shop. If you do decide to take matters to the police record the time and date of the calls and make a note of what was said. It is usually better not to answer calls if you know it is going to be abusive, after all the person is getting a kick out of getting a reaction out of you. The alternative is to have a whistle handy and blow it down the phone, this may make the person think twice about calling you, but it may escalate the situation as well!

Check feedback from sellers and buyers on an account, they may have left abusive feedback for others. State on your auction that you will only accept certain conditions such as 10 rating or more, no negative feedback, etc. If a bidder violates this cancel the bid: Cancel Bid. You can block email addresses under Ebay Email Abuse and also prevent people from bidding on your future auctions:Block Bidder so ensure you do that.

If they are stupid enough to put abuse in writing forward it to Ebay and block the account. I also suggest setting an email account just to use with Ebay. With my BT account I can set up five mailboxes and aliases, so I will configure one for Ebay and mails to it will be sent to my real email address, I can close it down if required to prevent abuse. If you can't set up an alias and use Ebay on a regular basis then just create an account for Ebay on a free service such as Hotmail, Yahoo, Google, etc. You can also report abuse from these accounts by sending an email to where-ever the person is sending the emails from to abuse @ provider.

Remember you can also change your account name, if the person persists in trying to harass you through bidding on items and not paying again report to Ebay. Make sure that all auctions are ended and change your userid. The downside to this a person can still search for your old account for 30 days and find your new ID. The alternative is to start a new account, again by doing this the harasser has won. The best balance is to wait for a cooling off period, do not bid or buy items for a while, change your ID and wait 30 days before bidding/selling again. Trouble is your history will reflect your previous ID, if you are a buyer not so much of an issue, but if you are a regular seller then it is likely the person may come across you again. However it is much better in my view to try this as opposed to building your ID up from scratch. Do ensure that your ID is not the same as used on email or any other account as a person may try to disrupt you there, it should be unique to Ebay to minimise disruption.

The person involved also discovered my reserve amount by using another account, entering a high bid and then retracting it. The account used had zero feedback and 25 bid retractions in less than 10 days, the account was also registered in the same area as the bidder. Again you can specify that anyone with bid retractions does not bid on your item (remember people do make mistakes such as typing £43 instead of £34 so don't be too harsh!) and again block the user-id.

Most important don't let them get to you, they are the one with the problem, don't make their problems yours. If you sold your item outside Ebay you could still encounter abuse from a potential buyer, seller. Ebay offers a degree of protection such as retrieving your fees if the person doesn't pay. Don't get discouraged, I've dealt with 100s of people over the years in Ebay, I'm not going to let one person put me off, I say the same to you.

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