Spotting a Scammer - how to spot fake bidders/sellers

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Some quick pointers on spotting bad bidders/dodgy sellers.

You're about to bid on an item, or someone has bid on yours. How do you know you can trust them?

EBAY is like the world's biggest car-boot sale or pub car park. Buyer Beware! and all that, but here are some hints I've learned - usually the hard way! - on how you can increase/decrease your trust in someone you're dealing with.

  1. Do your research!! the more you're about to spend, the more research you should do.
  2. Check they're feedback!!!
    1. Positive is good. More is better than less. BUT
      1. check what the feedback was for - if they've bought twelve postcards for 10p, or twelve 1 cent ebooks at auction, they will have a positive rating of 12 for as little as 6 pence cost to themselves...!  One positive feedback buying a high-value item, is better than 50 bought this way
    2. if they have any negative feedback check out why.
      1. Look at the item being disputed. Look at the buyer and sellers responses. Sometimes you can't please all the people all the time, but they're attitudes will show you what you can expect should something go wrong with your own auction. Is the seller reasonable? Are they short tempered? etc.
      2. beware of recent negative feedback following a long spate of inactivity on an account. Could be a sign that the account has been nabbed by some ne'er-do-well and they are not who they say they are.
      3. no feedback - big risk. We've all been there, starting out. There's no feedback so no track record. That doesn't mean they're not good people. Email them before the auction ends and see if you can get them talking. Why are they selling? Any marks/problems? If they are genuine,they're usually quite willing to give you the back story on the item. If they're scammers, in my experience more often than not you get short stock answers. Good things do happen though - I sold a desk marked as collection only to a guy with zero feedback who lived 400 miles away. He owned a pub (which I confirmed on t'internet), and good as his word, one of his lads turned up in a transit van to take it back home...
    3. check when they got their feedback
      1. feedback gained over a long period of time is better than a dozen in the last week.
    4. check their feedback to see if any was for being a seller, i.e.  if they have sold before, and not just bought lots of stuff
      1. I recently got stung where a guy had 100% feedback for buying things, but the phone I bought was the first thing he'd actually sold, and he shafted me for the item. Paypal gives them 10 days to reply to an 'item not received' dispute - which is just enough time for them to empty their paypal account of all the money you gave them, and then you get nothing back - even if they find in your favour. (unless they have buyer protection - another story)
    5. check what feedback they leave for others.
      1. minimum age for using ebay is 18, but if they constantly say "Waz", "init", "r", "sweet", they could be kids using their parents accounts so bid accordingly.
  3. Check the item description.
    1. is it used. why? what specifically is the condition. Is it as new, or badly worn.
    2. is the description just pasted in from a website? short original descriptions are sometimes a lot more reassuring than plagerised web-sites. hopefully should contain an indication of the reason for sale. If not, ask for one.
    3. is the picture original or a stock photo. Sometimes a stock photo is used as it shows off the item to its best since its a professional photo, but there should be at least one original photo of the item you're buying. If there isn't, email the buyer and ask for one.
    4. watch out for categories especially favoured by petty criminals, e.g. mobile phones, laptops.


  1. one day auctions
    1. if you were selling an item, you would probably want to give the most people the most time to see the auction, so you get the best price :-  so why would a seller give people only 24 hours to spot the auction, research it and bid on it? Either they are really in a BIG rush to sell the item, or they are trying to run a fake item and complete the auction before ebay spot it and close it down...
    2. your choice, but my advice is stay clear!!!


  1. A Special note on MOBILE PHONES
    1. if its a mobile phone it should have at least a charger sold with it, and hopefully the box and instructions that came with it. If its just a phone on its own, its possibly been stolen.
    2. If it has the word BLOCKED or BARRED in the description somewhere DONT TOUCH IT WITH A BARGE POLE. it means the phone has been stolen, and the original owner has notified the networks, who have now 'blocked' its access to all networks in the country - making it unusuable in the UK.
    3. This is different to the word UNLOCKED, which just means that a phone previously locked to a single network (e.g. Orange branded mobiles that can only work with Orange SIM cards), has now been 'unlocked' to allow any network card to use it. Phones are originally built this way, and its only the networks who sometimes require the manufacturers to 'lock' them to their own networks. Any phone shop or market stall holder can probably 'unlock' your phone for a few quid now as its only a software change. most sellers have this done so that it opens up the number of potential numbers of bidders on the phone to more than use the same network. Personally I prefer them to be locked, so that I know they haven't been messed with.
    4. If you're selling a phone, restrict the bidders to UK bidders. Saves a lot of trouble with nigerians wanting to scam money from you. They even purport to be american shops who want to ship the item to a customer in nigeria. If you see a bidder you're not happy with, remove they're bid from the auction.
    5. Also beware scammers who buy your phone, and then return it on some pretence - make sure it's your phone you get back! Before you send it type *#06# into the keypad and it will display its unique EMEI code. Make a note of that and it can be used to bar the phone should it go 'missing'...


  1. one last note on bid completion
    1. when you've paid for an item, specfically through paypal, always email the seller via the item's auction page (contact seller/ask seller a question button) to tell them that the payment has been made. That way if their paypal account is pointing at an out-of-date email address (which happened to me once), they'll not be wondering why you haven't paid; and conversely, you won't be sat there wondering why they haven't posted it yet!!
    2. pay sooner rather than later. You've waited up to 10 days for the auction to end, why hang around with the payment now?! If you've won - pay for it. The sooner its paid for (and cleared if necessary), the sooner you get the item.
    3. if you're selling an item, beware of paypal users who wait for you to send the item and then claim a dispute with paypal that you haven't sent it them - paypal may refund their payment to them and you'll be out of pocket and not have the item either!! Good research into their feedback should reduce the likelyhood of this happening though ...


Finally A gift - A handy little link.

paste all this line into your address bar in internet explorer and replace the word USERID (the one in uppercase) with the ebay id of someone you want to know about, and this link will show you everything they have WON OR BID ON recently.....shows if they are carpet-bombing certain items... e.g. scammers tend to bid stupidly high on lots of items....e.g. posh mobile phones, etc.

##NOTE## : 


(S & T - tried emailing you but couldn't get through! - send me your email address and I'll get back to you!)