There is always an element of risk when bidding on Ebay - However this is multiplied tenfold when bidding on a big ticket item such as a laptop. But if you take proper precautions you should be safe from the scammers...
Checking out the laptop without seeing it in person - Pitfalls to avoid:
Description: Some sellers purposely omit details that detract from the laptop's desirability. Eg. Not mentioning a non-UK keyboard or say, implying Bluetooth is built-in by saying 'bluetooth compatible' - What they should say 'Bluetooth compatible but not built-in'.
Model number: There are often numerous versions of laptop models with various specifications. Make sure you have done your research.
Condition and accessories: Carefully review the list of what is included in the auction. Clarify the condition of everything you are buying. Some of the questions you should ask yourself and try to find out are:
• Is any software included?
• Is there a warranty?
• Is the screen bright?
• Are there any dead pixels?
• Is there a valid serial sticker (COA)?
• Is the screen hinge solid?
• Are there cracks or creaks?
• Are the keyboard keys worn?
• Is it a UK plug?
• Is the operating system included?
• Is the box included?
Blurry pictures: Blurry pictures mean the seller is incompetent or hiding something - neither is a good quality in a stranger that you are sending your hard-earned money to.
Warranty: If mentioned, make sure that this is transferable - All Thinkpad warranties move with the machine rather than the owner (like a car) and do not have any paperwork. Any claims are done using the serial number and as long as the laptop is not reported stolen you will be fine.
Ask lots of questions: If a seller is not responsive before they have your money, how responsive will they be after you pay them? Be wary of anyone that can not give you the answer you want. Only use the Ebay message system to initiate correspondence.
Scam Spotting – Things to look out for and to be wary of
Ask to collect with cash - Simple as that. It is maybe a £1000+ item - Is a drive costing maybe £50 in fuel not worth it?
A price that seems too low is not always a sure sign of a scam, but remember that something that seems too good to be true usually is Eg. Buy It Now for EUR200 - Come on, do you really think a T43p selling on Ebay for £1,250 would go for EUR200?!
Location location location: Why is the seller registered in USA but selling in Euros with their location as Portsmouth, UK (or completely hidden) where we use GBP?
Seller has 10 positive feedbacks but all for buying 99p ebooks - Suddenly they are selling a £1,000 laptop.
Seller has little feedback but is suddenly selling every electronic item imaginable (total value of the goods on auction is maybe 1 million+.....yeah sure...)
‘Engrish’ - Seller has excellent English in the advert but answers your detailed questions in a language I call 'Google Language Translator'...
Seller has lots of feedback but last bought or sold something on Ebay waaaay back - Could it be they hacked an old account by claiming to forget the password etc.
Seller has little feedback and it seems they have sold a few laptops successfully. However all the buyers only have a few feedback ratings as well - Could it be the buyers and sellers are the same person? It is possible to create multiple online accounts and buy/ sell to yourself to boost your feedback.
Teletubbies to televisions - Seller has been selling teletubbies for a few years but suddenly switches to selling lots of high-end notebooks? Ok anything is possible, but can you afford to lose your money by not checking why? What are the odds the account has been hijacked.
By this point you should be a position to make an informed and safe buying decision.
So what is the safest way to pay?
I reiterate - Collect the laptop in person with cash. Everything else is exponentially riskier.
PayPal if your item is less than £500 and you can meet their convoluted conditions for a successful claim you may still not like the outcome.
Generally, claim procedures are focused on scams or non-delivery. Proving something is different than what you thought is really hard, especially if the description is short and followed by an 'as is' statement. However, in situations where you clearly did not get what you paid for, you may be able to file a full claim.
Buyers usually have to wait a set time before filing a claim and getting their money. Unfortunately by then scammers empty out the PayPal account. Many people find that they deserve their money back but PayPal could not recover the funds.
I personally prefer Bank Transfer – In this age of terrorism, it is impossible to open a bank account without providing ID and proof of address. If something does go wrong you know of a real person that you can sue in the small claims court.
Nowadays you can cash a cheque at any cheque-cashing place and they are not too fussy about checking things out as long as they get their fat commission.
If you are still thinking of using Western Union or some other such service you really should get off Ebay for your own safety!
I still want to buy from Ebay - How should I proceed?
Make the effort to find out to find out more about a seller – It’s your hard-earned money after all. If you have any other questions about buying a laptop on Ebay feel free to drop me a line! Good luck, 1basispoint
PLEASE NOTE: Scammers affect thousands of people on Ebay everyday. Please vote 'Yes' for this guide below to help others from getting scammed and make Ebay even safer!