Scam Auctions Explained

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Beware of fraudulent auctions posted on a Hijacked Account .  If you are looking for an expensive item and you notice it, say 50% cheaper, then odds are you are in danger of being scammed by someone who has hijacked an eBay account and posted fake auctions deliberately to obtain money for free (as if it exists!!!).   If you see a seller advertising item for 50% or less of what other sellers sell for, then beware - Its better to be safe than sorry! 

Scammers usually target only high priced items in an effort to defraud eBay users for the highest amount possible in the shortest amount of time!

Below are some typical example warning signs that you may be dealing with a scammer or a scam auction;

  • Seller and/or the highest bidders user ID is kept private - this would be due to eBay members trying to warn unsuspecting bidders who bid on those suspect auctions, therefore the scammer would keep their user ID and the high bidder user ID hidden so they cannot be warned. Another reason is that scammers will "shill bid" (bid up) each others auctions to artificially inflate the price to make the item look more appealing;

  • Look at the sellers other items for sale - if the seller advertises other high value items like cameras, bikes, computers, cars or anything of very high value en masse it should be a warning sign unless it is a normal occurance for that seller;

  • Read feedback comments - if the seller has never sold any similar items and suddenly starts listing loads of high value items (except exclusions for new eBay sellers), it is a clear sign of a hijacked account or dodgy activity;

  • Read the Description - if the auction text contains large text inviting you to contact the seller before bidding, usually at specified email addresses on aol, hotmail, gmail, googlemail to discuss the auction before bidding, then this is a sure sign something isn't quite right;

  • Look for the Buy Now (but there is no Buy Now option) on the auction - this should raise alarm bells as they are asking you to directly breach eBays bidding policies.  eBay has strict policy for sellers who want to sell using Buy it Now (B.I.N).  Therefore, if you see an auction advertising items that usually sells for say £2,000 with text similar to "Limited Stock - Buy for only £500" you can be sure that its a dogy account as real sellers cannot justify such deals, regardless of where they are advertising;

  • Wrong category listings - e.g. a Laptop listed in gardening or similar is also a sign of dodgy dealings (the seller is not likely to sell the item so why trust their excuse that it was an error?);

  • 1 Day/Fast Track Auctions - real sellers usually list expensive items for 7 - 10 days (because the longer the auction, the more chance they will get more money for it).  Think of it this way:  The more buyers that find a listing usually mean more bids, which usually means the item sells for a higher price.  A scammer who hijacked someone elses account cannot afford to take the risk that the original account owner or eBay Security Team would discover the hijacked account.  

  • Search eBay - take the email address the seller advertises within the listing and put it in the eBay search box (using Advanced Search) and check the box that says "Search Items and Descriptions".  Often you will find even more hijacked accounts all linked to the original email account;

  • Be suspicions of Free Shipping - or silly shipping costs, such as £3 for shipping for a plasma TV or similar.  Think in conjunction with any above listed elements of the auction, you'll find sellers don't often sell items worth several thousands and throw in free shipping as well  - that is a big red flag and we suggest you spend time investigating, alternatively, move to the next listing as its likely to be a scammer;

  • Never Pay by Western Union - this is a sure fire guarantee that the scammer is a scammer!  Its like topping up a sellers bank account by Wire Transfer or Bank Transfer - be cautious at all times.  If you send a cheque, cashier's cheque or money order beware as you will not be able to get your money back if the seller is a scammer and just dissappears with your funds.  If you pay by Paypal be sure your backup funding is a Credit Card, so if you never receive your item, you can contact your credit card company and file claim for non delivery of goods (chargeback);

  • Never agree to pay via escrow - scammers have been known to create fake escrow websites just for the purpose of defrauding eBay buyers, if you wish to use an escrow service then do so at your own peril.  eBay stipulate that should be a safe option, we disagree as they are all a waste of time and usually involve a scam of come sort;

  • Ask questions - when you look at auction that looks credible, ask questions, a seller will be happy to answer you if they are genuine.  Ask specific questions that pertain to what they advertise.  If the seller says they bought the product a few months ago, ask if they can email you a copy of the receipt as all sales have a minimum 1yr warranty and people always keep receipts - its part of life and no-one throws the receipt away, it just doesn't happen.  Also ask for additional pictures, ask them to take a photo of the rear of the item or somewhere daft to see if it really exisits;
  • Request an inspection in person - if the seller is genuine, they will let you come by and see the item is really with them - if they don't, then move on and forget it.  Any real seller will think of refusal as being a lost sale - just make sure your personal security is covered and do not take cash to pay (you could be mugged).  Ask if you can phone them to ask few more questions since you are seriously interested in the item, anyone selling items worth hundreds or thousands of pounds will be happy to talk with their prospective buyers on the phone.  If you do get a number check the number so it is geographically correct to the sellers location;
  • Pay attention to currencies - a lot of fake auctions show the item located in say the UK but they are asking for payment in Euro - why?  We do not spend Euro's in the UK;

  • Most of the scammers are located outside of UK - therefore pay attention to any email communication.  For example, if the seller state they are called John Smith but their English language skills points to a person whose English is not their first language, well there you have it... another sure fire chance that its a scam.  Who are they? Professional Scammers specialise in hijacking other accounts and uploading many scam auctions daily.  The goal is to get in contact with prospective buyers outside eBay and coax the buyer to send payment via a "cash method" for any amount and dissappear.  Usually, the scammers full time job is figuring out new ways to hijack another account, upload more images and beginning the whole process again.  Test the water, type 'romanian scam' or 'romanian scam eBay' into Google and you will even find them bragging how easy it is to scam us on eBay.

Report the Scam to eBay

Please help other eBay members by reporting the scam auction - Reporting Scam Auctions and hijacked accounts helps remove these auctions promptly, so the good sellers on eBay who are new and not aware would not fall for this Scam and you will also be helping to make it more difficult for the scammers.  The scammers auctions will be taken down promptly - so the scammer will run short on available hijacked accounts to use.
  • On the bottom of each auction there is a link called "Report Item" - click it;
  • In step 1 choose "Fraudulent Listings";
  • In step 2 choose "You suspect the listing is fraudulent and you did not bid";
  • Click "Continue";
  • On the next screen click "Email Us"
  • On the next screen write into the comments box why you believe this auction is fraudulent, just a few words is enough, such as hijacked account;
  • Click "SEND"

Additional Information

We hope this guide is useful to you, please let us know if there is anything we have missed and we will add it to this guide at the earliest opportunity.  If it is a Romainian scam, try this link - they should be able to record details for you:

For realtime eBay scammer listings (purely so you know what to look for and an example of listings) visit this link - DO NOT enter your details, just click the image and see the horror within!

For an example eBay phishing page (the page that allows a scammer to get your log-in details) see this page - again, DO NOT enter your details, just have a look how easy it is for these people to replicate the real eBay!

Virtual Retail Legal Dept - Sept 2006
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