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How To Identify Shill Bidding Techniques And Avoid Them

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Hello,

I hope you find this guide useful and helpful.

This guide is intended to assist the vast majority of honest auction site members, and to help the naïve and new members who maybe unaware that there is a number of sellers who knowingly abuse auction sites with various shill bidding techniques.

eBay are all to aware of this spiralling problem, and seem to have little or no way of detecting or preventing it. eBay are basically reliant on vigilant members to identify fraudulant activity. 

In fact eBay have made it even easier for the scammers to shill, since the introduction of the hidden bidder feature.

You may be asking yourself what is shill bidding? And how does it effect you.

In simple terms shill bidding is basically a seller, who uses another user I D: they have set up (and may have multiple accounts) which they then use to bid on their own listings or gets someone they know to bid on their listings (when unsuspecting bidders have placed a bid) in an attempt to increase the final price of their item. In some cases the seller ends up winning their own item because of their greed.

How often have you used an auction site to find an expensive item listed cheaply, which you have bid on and won at a bargain price?

How often have you seen expensive items listed for .99p, which inevitably sell for their guide and book price or higher?

Would you list a valuable item for .99p without a reserve?

You also need to be aware items with a reserve can easily be shilled.

How many times has a new member outbid you in the last few seconds, who has little or no feedback. However this could be a genuine new member.

Remember we all have to start off with zero feedback.

One of my personal concerns is the ease and simplicity that these scammers can set up multiple accounts on a regular basis.

I have found that one of the easiest ways to check if items are getting shilled is just by  watching the item, then wait and see if it gets relisted by the winning bidder or it may get relisted in several weeks time by the original seller.

A genuine bidder could relist it as they may have won a similar item or they might try and sell it for more than they have paid.

E.G. if you collect Beswick or Moorcroft do a search for Beswick Alice In Wonderland Figures; you might get 15-20 listings, some with reserves, private listings, 0.99p etc, etc. A complete set on today’s market would be valued at approx £700.00 individually some are worth more than others are. Watch the listings and look at the bidders and bidding patterns, also watch those with a reserve as these are quite frequently shilled.

Private Listings make it extremely difficult to monitor shill bidding, as you don’t see the other bidders ID or any information regarding who is bidding .

The only person who gets to see this information is the seller.

Please note that I'm NOT implying that any seller who has Beswick or Moorcroft items listed is involved in any fraudulent activity. The above is merely an example.

Also if the item has been shilled then the relisted item normally has the same photo ( Photo's Of Shilled Beswick Alice In Wonderland Figures and Photo's of Shilled Robert Harrop PG Tips Chimps ) also the description is identical to the original listing also the item location remains the same.

" Ah" but the criminal's are now realising how stupid they are, they are now tweaking the listings with new photo's and item locations.

The shill bidding account often has zero or hidden feedback, and in addition they will probably have many bid retractions. If you are being bid up by someone with questionable or zero feedback then it is always worth having a look to see what else that person is bidding on.

To check out what someone is bidding on then follow these steps: -

From My eBay, click  Advanced Search

From the menu on the left click Items by Bidder

Enter the bidder's user ID and tick the include completed listings box and leave "even if not high bidder" checked. Remember that a shill bidder doesn't necessarily want to win their auctions!

Now click Search.

If the bidder you are questioning is mainly bidding on one seller's auctions and they are bidding on different types of items then you should be suspicious. So if they are bidding on car auctions and also clothing auctions from the same seller then there is a strong possibility they could be a shill bidder. Obviously this is not always the case. Points to note are that a shill bidder is trying to just bid the price up and not necessarily win the auction, so they will bid just under the £1 or on the £1 whereas a person genuinely trying to win will bid over the £1. If they make a mistake and outbid the highest bidder rather than just nudge the price up then they may retract their bid. An ID with a higher than average amount of bid retractions could well be a shill bidding ID.

How to spot shill bidding...

The following are some warning signs to look for:

The Devoted Bidder.

A bidder who bids exclusively or nearly exclusively on one or two sellers' items yet rarely wins. It is true that many people lowball their bids on one seller's auctions hoping to win a bargain. Usually, however, the items are similar products perhaps this seller's specialty and the bidder hopes to get a bargain on shipping as well by buying all from the same person(s).

However, the "devoted bidder" is especially indicative of shilling when the items are varied. It is highly unlikely, for example, that a bidder just happens to need a quilt, a man's suit, a woman's dress, a backpack, 2 laptops, a lamp, and a slot machine, among other items, just at the same time as one seller happens to have all of those items up for auction!

How do you find out if the ID you suspect is a "devoted bidder"? Do a Bidder Search on the User ID, using the eBay Search link located on the top navigation bar of almost every eBay page. Sellers' names are now listed on the Bidder List page, so you can quickly and easily see if the bidder prefers one (or two) seller(s).

Bidding to Lose.

Question: When you want something that has an opening or current bid of, say, £10.00, and you're willing to pay around £20.00 for it, would you put in a proxy bid of £19.99? Of course not. That would be stupid, you answer. You'd go with the even £20, or, if you're really smart, maybe £21.00 or £23.00, or even £20.37, just to throw other bidders for a loop and increase your chances of winning. Maybe you'll even bid £15 now and watch the auction to see if you need to bid £20 later. But £19.99? Who wants to risk losing by a penny? So what is the putz that bid £19.99 doing? This is a "loser bid". It is specifically designed to lose, not to win. It's guesswork shilling, hoping to push another bidder (that's you) up to the next increment, or--if they're really brazen--your max.

Be careful! The amount of the "loser bid" depends on a) the opening bid and b) the current high bid (determined by other bidders). It's NOT unreasonable to bid £19.99 when the opening or current high bid is £9.99. Also, you may get confused about which bidder is a potential shill. Make sure to check the time and date of bids. You can find this information in the Bid History, after the auction is over, from the link on the main listing page.

Similarity of Seller & Bidder IDs.

This is something you'll only come across by chance, and you sometimes need to take the category into account. Watch for alliteration and initials, as well. For (fictitious) example, "tjbrown" might have a shill ID "tomjohnbrown@anymail.com". This is the type of similarity you should report as a potential shill. Sometimes the similarity is based on common interest, however. Another fictitious example: Seller "mario-rules!" has a bid from user ID "ilovemario!". Seller "mario-rules!" sells (you guessed it) Mario products. Check the other warning signs if you want, but the ID similarity is probably purely innocent and based on a common interest. If you see that "ilovemario!" is also buying a Laptop from "mario-rules!", however, you should probably report it to eBay.

Seller is too quick to relist.

When items are accidentally won by a shill account, they are often relisted soon after auction closes. This is particularly salient for non-duplicable items: handmade, unique, or rare/hard-to-find items, especially antiques, art, and collectibles. Though it does happen that a high bidder refuses an auction immediately after winning, it is more likely that they'll string the seller along for at least a few days. Relisting in fewer than 3 days is far too soon to not activate your radar.

How do you know the item has been relisted? Far be it from a shiller to eat the listing fees on an unsold item. That just wouldn't be fair. The shiller will likely relist using the eBay relist function in order to get their listing fees back. Therefore, the original listing page will have a link to the new auction. Of course, their intelligence may for once override their greed, and they might start up a whole new ad, which can be found in the current seller history.

Shotgun feedback.

Feedback is exchanged during a curiously short period of time (3 days at the outside). Feedback between shill and seller ID is known as "shill feedback"--a little consolation prize for the seller who accidentally wins their own auction. Few find it easy to resist. These days, with instant payments more and more common, it is really only the bidder-to-seller feedback that counts here. Which is just as well, because
it's the seller (the primary account) who's usually the lucky feedback recipient.

It is possible for a bidder to receive an item and leave feedback within 3 days (it happened to me once by the good graces of the Royal Mail Fairy). Possible, but not common. Look for other indicators, such as fast relisting, and use your own judgement. It won't hurt anything to report it--the seller will get to explain to eBay.

Numerous Retractions.

More than 3 in a 6-month period and you have the right to be suspicious. Let's face it: anyone truly that stupid or careless should not be using eBay. I mean, considering that after the first time you bid £1000 instead of £10 you needed to change your shorts...would you really let it happen again? The bid retraction option has been the favourite tool of shillers since the beginning. The shill bids outrageously high in order to reveal your maximum, then retracts and either: gives some lame retraction explanation like "oops, wrong amount" and bids again just under your max, or gives some lame retraction explanation like "don't want it", signs in under another account, and bids just under your max.

Since the number of bid retractions now shows up in your feedback profile, it is significantly less popular. We see more and more shillers using the guesswork technique, chipping away slowly at other bidders' proxy maximums. However, the newbie criminals still use it. Report 'em and nip 'em in the bud while they're young.

Nibbling.

Nibbling is when you see someone who has placed a series of bids one after another, upping their bid a little each time.
If this has resulted in the bidder winning the auction then it is a often not a problem and is just an indication of a bidder who does not understand how the proxy bidding process works, or had no fixed maximum price.
When the nibbler has retracted their highest bid leaving another bidder as the winner then you are looking at suspicious activity.

How to report shill bidding:

Use the report link on the Shill Bidding Policy page, found in the help pages.

You can use eBay's direct e-mail, click on help tab located at the top right of the my Ebay page. Then click on the contact us tab; click on the send us an email tab.

When forming your reports, it's important to include as much evidence as you can. This includes all user IDs, auction numbers, and miscellaneous evidence to help your report.

Keep the details because if Ebay don't see enough evidence the first time around, you can use your initial report plus any new evidence should the behaviour continue.

How to avoid shill bidding:

Check out your seller's feedback thoroughly before you bid! Are there a disproportionate amount of "not a registered users" in their feedback profile? Is there a disproportionate amount of "0" and "1" feedback users in their feedback profile, with suspicious dates? For instance, make sure feedback is being exchanged only a few hours after the auctions close.

Check out the bidding history of your seller. Are they placing bids exclusively on another seller's items? If they are shilling for another user ID, the chances are someone is shilling for them as well!

Check the bid histories of ALL the bidders on the auction. Simply view the "bid history" of the auction in question, and plug those names into the bidder search engine. Are any of the bidders bidding exclusively on your seller's auctions? This is perhaps the most important step to avoid shill bidding--always check the bid histories of any auction before you bid!

SNIPE your bids! The closer to the end of the auction that you place your bid, the less likely you are to be SHILLED. For instance, placing your bid 10 seconds before the auction closes would practically ensure you wouldn't be shilled AFTER placing your bid, as there isn't enough time. This doesn't guarantee that the auction hasn't already been shilled up to that point, but it does prevent it from being shilled further AFTER you bid.

 

I would like to thankyou if you have taken the time to read this guide and hope that it has been of some assistance.

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