How to spot Ebay International scam

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I was recently looking for a small tractor. Quite a high ticket item on ebay, so I was surprised to find quite a number listed for small amounts in dollars or sterling. And with no bids even though there was only a short time left on the auction.

I tried bidding, only to find that they were all  closed auctions. I tried contacting the sellers through ebay messaging to gain bidding rights but received no replies.

I checked the userid listings and began to get the first whiff of rat when none of the users seemed to have ever bought anything remotely similar to the ones listed.

I shrugged and got on with my life.

A day or so later I began to get emails OUTSIDE of ebay and from apparently real names all with addresses on yahoo, hotmail, inbox or similar more or less anonymous mail providers. All had some  plausible reason why the auction had failed and all offered to sell me the same item listed at $3000 or sterling equivalent.

All suggested using the ebay international system to safeguard each party. I  was to pay half or two-thirds of the money, the tractor would be delivered and I would have three days to check it out, accept it and pay the balance.

The smell of rat strengthened. I reported one incident to ebay and they confirmed the scam. I responded to the seller I now knew to be bogus asking him to provide proof of id, pickup address for the equipment, and a copy of the tractor's title. I said I was doing this because I was concerned and had contacted ebay.

The seller replied saying that he was indeed the user he purported to be and that he too would contact ebay to see what was going on.

A few minutes later I receive an email purportedly from ebay international confirming the validity of the seller's user id and referring to his real name and email address.

A quick search on Google confirmed that the reply address and the web site referred to were know fakes.

Piching my nose to quell the overpowering reek of rat, it was dropped uncerimoniously into my garbage can. And emails sent to abuse@ all the hosts I now had identified plus further reports to ebay.

All the listings disappeared pretty  quickly and the email address stopped working in a day or so.

The moral of this rat's tale [or should that be 'tail']?

Watch out if

1. Something is offered at a ridiculously cheap price, there are no bids, the auction is closed and you get no response from the user. The listings are often in dollars and have 'from usa' or 'from china' or 'from' some other country in the listing.

2. Check the item description carefully. They usually show a buy now price not listed in ebay proper. It was always $3000 for what appeared to be a brand new loaded mini tractor. They always refer to time-wasters or previous sales problems to explain whay they would like to 'vet' all potential bidders. And the description always includes an email address outside ebay through which you can be vetted.

3. If you send a message to that email address the seller has yours.

4. They will make some plausible approach outside ebay [my guy said he was in Sweden on business and that was where the tractor was and why he wanted to use the ebay international system to manage payment.

5. Give up at this point and send copies of the emails to ebay fraud department. If you go further you will be directed to fake ebay sites that will capture your id from the payment details required and probably your card or paypal account details as well.

6 A few hours searching likely high-ticket items turned up quite a large number of more or less identical fradulent entries. I reported as many as I could but...well I have better things to do than police ebay!

At the time of writing there were 17 fraudulent listing shown in search results for 'kubota' . I urge any of you to report any similar listings ou find as they do clog up the search results and make the whole ebay experience less enjoyable and productive. I all straight users act collectively against the fraudsters we will win!

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