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Trader Scams and eBay

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 7 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Ebay Scams Ebay Fraud Ebay Fraudsters

There are a variety of eBay scams in existence and many people have suffered the consequences of not reading the small print, or just being another customer with a complaint to eBay. There are some common eBay scams that anyone using the service should be aware of, many are listed below.

Upping Postage Scam

Inflated postage is something most people have either suffered on eBay or certainly seen on various listings. This is a ploy by the seller to make more money from the transaction by charging over the top postal costs for items that will cost little to post. Always check the postage details on a listing. You can also set up your account to ensure the postage appears. Always look for sellers stating anything about additional postage charges not made in the listing.

The Shill Bidding Scam

Shill Bidding is listed on the eBay site in the help section. It is essentially artificial bidding to increase an items bid value (thus pushing the price up). Not many people realise your friends and family are actually violating eBay protocol if they bid on your items (even if they want to purchase them). This is to protect innocent buyers from people falsely upping an items worth and thus negating the luck of getting that all elusive eBay bargain. This rule also extends to employees, who are also not meant to bid if their boss is selling something. Always keep your eyes open for this by checking previous items in the sellers feedback and cross reference with location wherever possible.

The Digital Delivery Scam

This was one of the most annoying eBay scams because many sellers use pictures of real books / software in their listings and some place the ‘digital delivery’ note in small letters or within a lot of text, so it can be missed by innocent purchasers. If you are purchasing a book or software, make sure it isn’t a digital copy. All this means is you’ll receive the item via email (cheap for the seller and can be copied as many times as they like). eBay actually changed the Digital Delivery rules in March 2008, so if you see something for digital delivery, take heed and move on, they should ONLY appear in the Classified Ads format and not in regular eBay bid listings. The change was made to try and combat fake feedback garnered from digital goods.

The Empty Box Scam

A foul form of crime in which the seller knowingly lists an empty box on eBay, but alludes to the fact it contains whatever item the box shows. This is a particular scam with regards to video game consoles/laptops and some gamers have paid hundreds of dollars only to receive and empty PS3 or Xbox box in the post. Also see ‘Photo Scam’.

Photo Scam

This scam essentially sees the seller list a photograph of an item on eBay, but the description alludes to the purchaser that it is the real item for sale. The purchaser bids believing they are getting the actual item, but instead receives a photograph in the mail. This was popular during the video game console launch when a few unsuspecting buyers got photos of Xboxes and PlayStations that cost them hundreds of dollars. Because the items are usually listed in such a way that they may be read as being the photo, the purchaser has no recourse.

Fake / Replica Items

You’re probably aware that selling fakes is also illegal. These can be hard for a purchaser to spot, because given the illegality of such items, the seller is hardly going to say the item is a replica. A good way of combating this might be to check the sellers previous items, if they’ve sold 20 Gucci handbags in the last few months, or 20 copies of Word for Windows (or whatever the item may be, counterfeit or bootleg) chances are they’re dealing in copies and not originals that are endorsed and made by the company involved.

Item Didn’t Arrive Scam

To avoid this scam to the best of your ability always ensure the seller will post the item recorded delivery of some type. Though this will not stop the odd item going missing, it will help not only you, but also the seller if something does happen where the item goes missing. There have been accounts of this rule actually helping the seller more than the purchaser, especially with regards to PayPal since they look for proof of posting when trying to sort out bad auctions. Remember if the seller does have postage proof and you don’t have your item, there’s probably not much you can do with regards to eBay and PayPal. Always double check the sellers details and keep a not of any discrepancies (different location to that listed, multiple email accounts etc).

If It Seems to Good To Be True, It Probably Is….

The key rule with eBay as with life is “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is”. We all enjoy getting an elusive bargain, but don’t let your love of a bargain cloud your common sense whilst bidding on eBay. Given the ease with which multiple positive feedbacks, accounts, emails etc can be launched on eBay, you really need to get a feel for not only the seller, but also the item they’re selling.

Following the Rules and Still Getting Scammed

This can happen. No matter how diligent you are, you can still fall foul of the dreaded eBay scammer. Try and remember to look as in depth at what you’re purchasing as you possibly can. Try and avoid making hugely expensive purchases via eBay unless there’s a way of getting the sellers information (contact them and chat, get their address, home phone number and arrange personal pick up wherever possible, with the money being passed in person – get a signed receipt!). With regards to expensive items- sometimes it’s better to pay real world prices than get something cheaper on eBay.

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One of the more popular eBay scams is virtual car fraud. The car is always below market value and invites the user to pay into a Barclays account on the premise that the transaction is being overseen by eBay. eBay have nothing to do with this; eBay buyer protection does not exist in the UK for vehicles. eBay will have nothing to do with the victim or acknowledge that it is a problem.The Police will take a statement, but dismiss it due to low priority.The banks will say that they only process transactions, even if it is to an account that has been used fraudulently on many occassions. The easiest way to avoid this is not to buy a car online.These scams operate on eBay and Autotrader etc.
duck phillips - 2-Dec-12 @ 10:07 PM
Don't panic, carry on regardless: Remember, ebay are more interested in catching fraudsters on their websites than hunting down innocent victims, as, as always, catching the bad-guys at it is good for business.
The Editor - 24-May-12 @ 11:42 PM
One of my friends has just sold his 2 month old iPad on Ebay for £600. The buyer paid with PayPal late on a Saturday. My friend got a phone call from the buyer Sunday morning (he'd put his contact number in the listing) saying he was in the area that day and if it has not already been posted could he collect. That afternoon he turned up and was handed the iPad. On the 29th day after the sale he filled a Item not Received claim and as my friend did not have a tracking number for the postage, the full £600 was refunded to the buyer. Lots of emails to Ebay informing them that the buyer collected in person so there would not be a tracking number did not help. Ebay just emailed back asking for the tracking number!! The police are now involved and ebay are looking to take my friend to court to recover the £600 from him. I would advise that if you allow a buyer to collect that you see photographic proof of ID and scan/copy it.
Freddy - 8-Dec-11 @ 2:16 PM
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