Mobile Phones and the many headed hydra called shill bidding

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Eagerness and Excitement are your worst enemy.

I have been looking at replacing my Samsung Note GT-N7000 and really only had 2 choices; the Samsung Note 5 or a Motorola, I decided on the Motorola for several reasons, the main one being a clean Vanilla OS and the spec was very close to the Note 5 but cost less, in addition the Motorola is readily available now.
So, I set about watching auctions for these phones and straight away I noticed shill bidding raising its ugly head, it takes away the whole ethos of ebay and its one of the reasons I have backed away from buying a lot of products from ebay. Shill bidding is fairly easy to spot, with clues such as a bidder having 100% bids to that seller and 0% feedback  and fast bidding to raise the price quickly.

How do you check that I hear you ask, the first thing I do is click on " xx Bids" next to the current bid price on the auction you're looking at. I start to look for patterns and check the dates and times people have bid, if I see a bidder (Bidder A) with a lot of feedback repeatedly bidding, I question their motive for repeatedly bidding. If I see another bidder (Bidder B) just below the last bid that "bidder A" put on and the date is earlier than the last bid of "Bidder A" the chances are they are genuine and "bidder B" is just trying to find "bidder B's" maximum bid. Obviously Bidder A doesn't want to pay their maximum but they have made a choice that this is  the price they are willing to pay. The flip side to this is a shill bidder forcing a price up until they find "bidder A's" Maximum, this is normally followed by a bid retraction if the shill bidder becomes the highest bidder, especially near the end of an auction. 

look at trending prices to give you best guess selling prices., bear in mind these trending prices are a guide and normally country specific, a ballpark figure so to speak. You can pay less, or more than the selling approximations. 
Example of the profile of a shill bidding account
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Example of the profile of a shill bidding account

I spy with my little eye - Shill Bidder Patterns

I have monitored 6 of these auctions up to now and every single one has shill bids. You know the scenario,  you're watching an auction and some muppet (shill bidder or Noob) starts bidding with 5 days left on a 7 day auction, you curse the fool for doing so, but what you should be doing is watching for the shill bidding patterns, and, when you see it, run... unless you have money to throw away, in which case knock yourself out.
Personally, I unwatch and walk away because you're going to pay more than you expected and when you get into a bid war you better have deep pockets. This is why I fix a price in my head and never, ever go over it; If you start over bidding yourself you're on a slippery slope.
As you can see from the example image above it's pretty easy to spot one type of shill bidder but shill bidders come in many forms. Another way is the same bidder making multiple bids quickly, this is more obvious if the eBayer in question has reasonable feedback; say +20, because no self respecting eBayer would bid on an auction repeatedly and so early on in the auction,  effectively forcing the price of the item up. That's like going into a shop and you're the only customer, picking an item to purchase with a £5 label and saying i'm going to give you £10, no £20, wait £30, no £40, £50, you know what you got me on a generous day £60 does this make sense to you? 
  • If you said 'No' you're smarter than you think, so hone those instincts.
  • If you said "Yes" I have many things to sell you ;-)

Genuine bidders, their patterns and motives.

  1. Genuine bidders may bid early in the hope people forget about the auction and they win at a low price by default. This usually happens on 0.99p starting prices.
  2. They may be busy people and just put a maximum bid in and pray the auction somehow becomes invisible to us mere mortals. This seldom works especially if a shill bidder is around the auction.
  3. They may bid and get out-bid  immediately (see pattern 2) and try to find the maximum bid without bidding too much. This can be spotted by looking at the date and times. The eBayer who put in a maximum bid will generally have an earlier date and/or time stamp depending if these bidders bid on the same day or not. This earlier date/time stamp will not occur with a shill bidder because they aren't bidding against another bidder.
  4. Genuine bidders may also be eager and get caught up in a bidding war, this normally happens near the end of an auction but can happen earlier if two or more people want the item being sold, so again what you'll see is alternate bidding but small amounts, normally the minimum required, they will also bid odd prices like £51.53 if the last bidder bid £48.00

So now you're a little bit wiser

Never stop watching for these patterns, it's a shame shill bidding can't be stopped, but that's ebay for you. Ultimately ebay have a vested interest in shill bidding because of higher fees on final selling prices, so I can't see them stopping shill bidding anytime soon. At the end of the day educating yourself to the rogue practices on ebay will help you avoid some of the pitfalls and hopefully save you money. remember set a price and never go over it, there are always other auctions. 
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