Shill Bidding: The Vintage Clothing Scam On eBay

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How to Avoid Shill Bidding On Vintage Clothing:

"This scam highlights the growing vulnerability of online auction shoppers. Consumers should not have to surf with sharks."

- Attorney General Andrew Cuomo 

A Real Life Example Of This Fraud On eBay

As Reported In Reuter’s July 2007: A jewellery company which ‘allegedly’ bid on its own eBay auctions to illegally drive up prices by as much as 20 per cent had to pay £205,000 in penalties. The company and his employees made 200,000+ bids on its own auctions. The eBay store regularly held no-reserve auctions but the seller "ensured his employees knew of which auctions to bid at along with a predetermined price". Brilliantly eBay alerted the authorities to this scam which was estimated to have cost buyers around £2.5 million.

Thrifty Beatnik Is Against Shill Bidding. Are You?

Having recently wrote a guide on the postage scam [Ban Profit On P+P] that is rife with some other clothing sellers I felt it was now time to deal with that other illegal cash cow ‘Shill Bidding’. Firstly I do not wish to tar all sellers with this guide; there are many quality sellers out there with products that attract high prices due to the awesomeness of their items but there are other who are quite evidently inflating their prices fraudulently.

A Theoretical Example Of Shill Bidding

You’ve found a vintage jacket with the perfect measurements, awesome style and lovely quality so you take a bid. Then looking at the auction history you note that earlier bidders had been outbid step-by-step in small bids by one or two very particular bidders. Suddenly you notice that your highest bid is getting slowly bid up to in small amount. This other eBayer increases up your bid to its maximum and in some cases even cancels the bid leaving you in a winning position and stretched to your maximum bid.

Looking at these bidders histories, you find that they only ever bid on this particular seller's items. Another sure sign is a number of newly registered or low feedback score bidders in an auction; having many bidders with very low (less than 20 or so) and/or no feedback should be considered suspect. This technique is used a instead of a reserve (which some believe put off buyers) so that the con-artist/seller can get the price they want instead of its genuine worth that auctions offer.

This inflationary technique is known as shill bidding and is entirely against eBay rules; it is classed as fraud.


How To Become a Shill Bidding Detective!

Therefore with the aspects of Shill bidding covered let’s look into protecting ourselves against this common fraud. After all in the world of cyberspace it is us the e-buyer that must protect ourselves from such elements. eBay provides a useful search function that can be utilized to allow you to see all of the items a potential shill bidder user has bid on in the last 30 days.

  • Click on Advanced Search towards the top right-hand side of the eBay search section.
  • In the left side bar click on the Items by Bidder link.
  • Enter the username of the person you wish to investigate and tick the Include Completed Listings box.

When the results come up you should be able to see whether or not the bidder has a disproportionate bias for one particular seller. Of course, this isn't concrete evidence but if you suspect there is foul play you can challenge the seller or report the practise to ebay. Also, look at all the completed items in detail. The bidder may actually be genuine. A tell-tale sign that they are not is when certain items which have been "won" are quickly relisted.

A good rule to use is to avoid sellers who you think are shill bidders. At Thrifty Beatnik we pride ourselves on not lowering ourselves to this level of scam preferring to lose money on an item and postage rather than con people. I believe that our ‘1p including postage’ category is evidence of this enough and we send out many items a week at this extremely low cost.

 If you are found to be doing this it is very probable that your eBay account will be suspended.

Here is eBay’s policy on Shill Bidding

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