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Since its inception in 1995, scammers have used eBay to perpetrate their schemes. The trust involved between buyers and sellers on eBay can be easily manipulated by scammers. While the company has introduced protective measures, as a user, you can take proactive steps to safeguard yourself.
This comprehensive guide sheds light on prevalent eBay scams, equipping you with the knowledge to identify and avoid them. These scams target both buyers and sellers, each with distinct tactics. In the unfortunate event that you fall victim to a scam, we’ll outline the necessary actions to report and address the issue effectively.
How do eBay scams work?
eBay scams operate in a similar manner as scams on other online marketplaces:
- Fake Listings: Scammers create phony listings that might include false details or unrealistically low prices.
- Deceptive Interaction: If you engage with these scammers, they might persuade you into purchasing items that don’t exist or are damaged. They can also convince you to make payments outside of eBay’s system, preventing you from contesting the transaction. Additionally, they might coax you into revealing personal and financial information for identity theft purposes.
- Pressure Tactics: Scammers frequently use aggressive sales tactics that can make it tough to recognize warning signs.
The positive aspect is that by understanding safe online shopping practices and recognizing common scam methods, you can evade falling victim to these scams. However, the challenge is that eBay scammers constantly refine and alter their strategies to deceive you into giving away money or sensitive data.
eBay buyer scams
When you buy things on eBay, it’s usually a simple process. However, there are scammers who try to cheat honest buyers. They want to trick you into losing your money or personal information. One common scam involves deals that seem unbelievably good – like a brand-new iPhone for a fraction of its normal price.
But these deals are often fake. If something seems too good to be real, it likely isn’t genuine. Always be cautious and double-check before making a purchase.
Here are some of the most common eBay scams for buyers on eBay:
The non-delivery scam, often referred to as a “non-delivery fraud,” takes advantage of buyers on platforms like eBay. To safeguard buyers from deceitful sellers, eBay provides a money-back guarantee. This guarantee, however, has a few exceptions. Here’s a list of items not covered by the guarantee. This implies that if you purchase any of these items, the seller could receive your payment, but then not send you the item you bought. Unfortunately, in such cases, eBay won’t be able to help you with a refund or recourse. So, exercise caution when considering purchases from this list:
- Businesses that are up for sale
- Certain categories of business equipment
- Websites that are being sold
- Real estate transactions
- Vehicle sales
- Services offered
- Items auctioned by Sotheby’s
- Listings in classified ads
When dealing with any of these types of transactions, be extra vigilant to avoid falling victim to this kind of scam.
Seller ships with deliberately incorrect name on the label
The scam involves a seller who intentionally uses the wrong name on the shipping label. The deception takes place offline after the eBay transaction is finished. Here’s how it works:
- Sale Completion: The seller conducts the eBay sale as usual, and the buyer successfully completes the purchase.
- Misleading Shipping: Once the sale is done, the seller sends the package to the correct address but with a different name on the label.
- Intentional Confusion: When you, as the buyer, receive the package with the incorrect name, it creates confusion. You might believe that you’ve received someone else’s item by mistake.
- Return or Revisit: Assuming the package isn’t for you, you might decide to return it or take it back to the post office, thinking it was delivered to you in error.
- Undetected Scam: At this point, the eBay transaction is noted as either refused or returned. The key aspect of this scam is that the seller retrieves the product undetected and retains the payment for the sale.
- Dispute Challenge: Unfortunately, there’s no effective way to dispute the transaction once it’s completed in this manner. Since it appears as if the item was sent back or refused by you, the scam is difficult to challenge.
In essence, the cleverness of this scam lies in its offline nature. By manipulating the package’s label information, the seller manages to deceive the buyer into thinking they received the wrong item, leading to a seemingly legitimate return process. Meanwhile, the seller retains both the product and the payment, exploiting a loophole in the transaction process that makes it hard to contest.
The empty box scam
The “empty box scam” is a deceptive scheme that targets people seeking sought-after items that are in high demand, often garnering significant media coverage. This is especially prevalent for products with restricted availability or those that are hard to find through legitimate sources. Here’s how it works:
Imagine you’re searching for a popular item that everyone is talking about. You stumble upon a listing advertising this item for sale. Eager to secure it, you may be willing to pay a premium price. But here’s the catch: the scammer’s listing is designed to trick you. Amidst the excitement, you might overlook a crucial detail—the listing only mentions the box that the desirable item comes in, not the item itself.
In your haste, you go ahead and make the purchase, not realizing that you’ve fallen victim to the scam. When the package arrives, you excitedly open it, only to find that it contains nothing but the packaging—no actual product. You’re left with an expensive box and disappointment, having paid a premium for what essentially amounts to an empty container.
This scam preys on people’s eagerness to acquire highly sought-after items and their tendency to overlook important details in the heat of the moment. It serves as a reminder to always exercise caution, thoroughly read product descriptions, and verify the authenticity of listings before making a purchase, especially when dealing with items that are generating significant buzz.
When shopping online, a drawback is the inability to confirm if products are genuine before purchasing. Scammers exploit this by presenting seemingly high-end, popular items at appealing prices. Regrettably, these low-cost products are actually fake versions, commonly known as counterfeit or imitation replicas.
Payment outside of eBay
When it comes to making payments on eBay, it’s important to stay within the platform for your security. eBay has safeguards in place to ensure a safe environment for both buyers and sellers, but these protections only apply when transactions happen directly on their website.
Be cautious of sellers who try to take transactions off-site. Some dishonest sellers might put an item up for sale on eBay but then ask you to send the payment through methods not connected to the platform. These methods could include using cash, making a bank transfer, sending a check, using a money order, or even purchasing gift cards.
If you fall for this, you could end up sending your money to a scammer through methods that are difficult to trace. Once they have your money, they will cut off communication and not send you the item you paid for. Unfortunately, eBay won’t be able to help you in such cases because the transaction happened outside of their official system.
In summary, it’s safest to complete your transactions within eBay’s platform. This way, their security measures can keep both buyers and sellers protected.
Gift card scam
The gift card scam involves scammers getting in touch with people through phone calls, emails, or social media. They do this to trick individuals into thinking they’re getting a special, time-limited deal. To make it urgent, they claim there’s a discount that’s only available for a short time. The scammers then request the victim to provide them with the number of a gift card for payment. Once they get this code, they vanish, taking the balance on the gift card with them.
For instance, in one case, scammers targeted AT&T customers. They falsely informed these customers that eBay would cover half of their cable bill if they prepaid for six months using eBay gift cards. In another variation, scammers might ask for a gift card payment upfront to confirm an order. This could be framed as getting faster shipping or a special discount.
Fake customer service
Fake customer service scams involve scammers posing as legitimate customer service representatives from a trusted platform, such as eBay. In this scheme, a dishonest seller might display a counterfeit eBay customer service number on their profile or product page. When a buyer encounters an issue with their order, like a non-delivery or incorrect item, they might call this fake number for assistance.
The scammer, impersonating an eBay customer service agent, uses this opportunity to deceive the victim. They may manipulate the victim into providing money or sensitive personal information. In more sophisticated instances, the scammer might claim that they require access to the victim’s bank account to process a refund.
It’s important to be cautious and verify the authenticity of customer service numbers through official channels to avoid falling victim to such fraudulent tactics.
eBay seller scams
eBay seller scam examples involve scammers pretending to be buyers on eBay. Instead of targeting buyers, these scammers focus on deceiving honest sellers. They use tactics like posing as buyers and manipulating consumer protection measures to carry out their fraudulent activities.
Here are some of the most common ways eBay sellers are scammed:
Private deal offered outside of eBay
When someone offers to buy your item privately outside of eBay, they might suggest paying directly to you instead of using eBay’s official payment methods. This could be because they think that by avoiding eBay’s platform, you won’t need to pay any transaction fees. If you agree and end the listing, you send them the item. However, there are risks.
They might not actually pay you, or they could later argue with eBay that the item arrived damaged or the listing was fraudulent, leading to a dispute. This is why eBay advises conducting transactions within their platform to ensure safety and protection for both buyers and sellers.
“Changed address” is a new type of scam that involves a deceptive tactic related to overpayment. In this scheme, a person posing as a buyer expresses interest in buying your item. They’ll send you a payment larger than necessary, claiming it’s meant to cover extra shipping expenses because they now want the item delivered to a foreign country (often Ghana, but not always).
They’ll also request your PayPal email address. Afterward, you’ll receive communication from scammers impersonating PayPal representatives. They’ll ask you for postal tracking numbers and explain that the payment will be released once you provide evidence that the item has been shipped. If you’re someone who tends to trust others, you might send the item, believing the email is genuine. However, this is a scam, and unfortunately, you won’t ever receive your money or your items back.”
An “overpayment offer” occurs when someone interested in buying an item from you offers to pay more than the price you’ve listed. While this might appear as a good opportunity, it’s often a scam. The buyer might present a check that seems genuine but is actually fake.
If you accept and send them the item, you’ll later discover that the check bounces, meaning it’s not valid, and you’re left without the item or the money. This scheme tricks sellers into losing both their merchandise and funds.
Empty box claim
In this situation, everything seems to go smoothly at first. The buyer makes the payment promptly, and you send the item without any issues. However, a problem arises when the buyer receives the item.
They allege that you actually sent them an empty box, suggesting that you’re engaged in fraudulent activity. As a result, eBay intervenes and asks for a return of the item. The buyer ships back an empty box to you while retaining both the item and the funds. You’re left with neither the item nor the payment, as eBay refunds the buyer’s money.
Buyer claims the item wasn’t received
PayPal Seller Protection is a safeguard for sellers on eBay. It’s designed to give sellers confidence in their transactions. To benefit from this protection, sellers need to show proof that they delivered the item. If the sold item’s price was less than $860, showing a delivery notification is enough evidence.
However, if the item was sold for over $860, it requires proof of delivery with a signature. Some scammers who have experience might exploit this situation. They could exploit sellers who aren’t aware of this extra-proof requirement. These scammers might falsely say they didn’t receive the item, ask for a refund, and then keep the valuable item without paying.
Broken replica scam
The “Broken Replica Scam” is a scheme where a buyer appears satisfied with their purchase and completes the payment for the item. After receiving the payment confirmation, you promptly ship the item to the buyer. However, the scam unfolds when the buyer claims that the item they received is damaged. They might even provide photographic evidence of the supposedly broken item. The catch is that the item they received is actually a replica or counterfeit of the genuine product you sent.
The scammer then takes advantage of this situation by reporting to the platform (such as eBay) that the item arrived in a damaged condition. They request a refund based on the false claim, presenting the pictures of the replica as evidence. This maneuver can lead to them receiving a refund from the platform while retaining the replica, leaving you without both the payment and the genuine item you initially shipped.
In essence, this scam hinges on the buyer’s deception about the item’s condition and uses the counterfeit nature of the item to exploit the system’s refund process, ultimately benefiting at the seller’s expense.
Feedback extortion refers to a deceptive practice that occurs on platforms like eBay, which connect individuals looking to buy and sell items. On these platforms, establishing a positive online reputation is crucial.
After each transaction, both buyers and sellers can publicly share their feedback about the experience. It’s generally advisable to avoid engaging with accounts that have a history of negative feedback, as it suggests a potential issue.
However, there’s a manipulative tactic where certain individuals exploit this system. Scammers will make a purchase from you and then attempt to coerce you into sending them money privately. They do this by threatening to leave negative feedback on your account, potentially harming your online reputation.
This behavior closely resembles blackmail. Since once feedback is posted, it can’t be easily disputed, some people feel compelled to comply with the scammer’s demands to protect the credibility of their account. In essence, feedback extortion preys on the fear of tarnishing one’s online standing, creating a dilemma for those targeted by these malicious practices.
An unwarranted chargeback occurs when a scammer takes advantage of the buyer protection policies on transaction sites. These platforms are designed to safeguard buyers. If you complete a transaction and the buyer uses a credit card or PayPal, they can simply contact the service provider and reverse the transaction.
This means the money you received will be taken back, and you’ll also face an extra chargeback fee (which is $20 for PayPal; it varies for different credit card companies). The scammer can claim suspicion of a problem, prompting institutions to initiate a chargeback swiftly. This happens even if they already received the item or regardless of its condition. Challenging a chargeback can be a time-consuming and troublesome process for you.
How to identify a scam listing on eBay
Identifying Scam Listings on eBay involves being alert to certain signs that could indicate fraudulent activities. Here are some key points to consider:
- Brief Duration: Be cautious of listings that are only available for a short time. Scammers often aim to finalize transactions swiftly to avoid detection. While some valid cases might explain short durations (like event tickets), exercise extra care and research before proceeding.
- Limited Feedback History: Approach sellers with minimal or no feedback history with caution. While new sellers can be legitimate, it’s wise to scrutinize their other characteristics before making a purchase.
- Too Good to Be True Deals: Exercise caution with deals that seem unusually generous. This is particularly applicable to heavily discounted, high-value, or rare items, such as electronics or iPhones. Scammers exploit the allure of a “great deal” to distract from warning signs.
- Off-eBay Contact or Payment: If a seller suggests communicating or paying outside eBay’s platform, be wary. Using eBay’s official systems ensures coverage by their money back guarantee and buyer protections. Transactions conducted off-platform may lead to account suspension.
- Irreversible Payment Methods: Be cautious if a seller pushes for payment methods that lack reversibility, such as cryptocurrencies, wire transfers, or mobile payment apps like Cash App and Venmo. Scammers prefer these methods because they can’t be traced or undone, contradicting eBay’s payment policies.
- Feedback Discrepancies: Pay attention if a seller’s feedback primarily pertains to low-value items and suddenly includes pricier goods. Scammers may start with inexpensive items to inflate their ratings, then introduce costlier items to deceive buyers using a seemingly positive history.
- Extended Shipping Timelines: Suspicion arises when delivery times are excessively long, especially for domestic shipments. Most items within the same country should arrive within a week or two, unless they are bulky. Unexpectedly lengthy delivery periods or high shipping fees could signal a scam.
By staying vigilant and recognizing these red flags, you can better protect yourself from falling victim to scam listings on eBay.
How to avoid eBay scams
Protecting yourself on the eBay platform is crucial, even if these guidelines seem extensive. Whether you’re a buyer or seller, exercising caution is vital. While some of these points might be familiar or not relevant to every transaction, maintaining awareness is essential due to the inherent risks of online financial transactions.
Here’s how to avoid eBay scams:
Never accept checks as payment
It’s important to avoid accepting checks as a form of payment due to the significant risk of fraud associated with them. Checks are frequently targeted by scammers. If you do decide to accept checks, it’s crucial to wait until they have fully cleared before taking any further action.
When you deposit a check into your bank account, the balance might reflect the deposited amount, but it can take around one to two weeks to verify the legitimacy of the check. If you proceed with sending out the item before the check clears, you could end up with an empty bank account and no item returned. To ensure a secure transaction, always stick to the approved payment methods provided by eBay.
Always complete transactions through eBay’s official channels
When conducting transactions on eBay, it’s important to use the official channels provided by the platform. This means completing deals and communication through eBay’s built-in services.
Transactions and agreements made outside of eBay’s platform cannot be monitored or verified by eBay. To ensure your protection and demonstrate that you’ve acted in good faith, it’s recommended to keep all interactions within eBay’s official channels. This way, you enhance your chances of resolving any issues that may arise during the transaction process.
It’s important to meticulously document your actions when preparing and sending out items. This includes taking thorough notes and photographs of the packaging process and the items themselves. If you use tracking numbers, make sure to include those in your records too. This documentation is crucial in safeguarding yourself against unjustified fraud allegations.
eBay tends to support buyers in disputes, so having solid evidence is essential. Alongside capturing images, make an effort to note down specific characteristics of the items. This is especially vital for valuable, sought-after items like new smartphones or gaming consoles. Keep track of serial numbers or any distinct codes associated with the items. These measures help reinforce your position and protect you in case any disputes arise.
Always arrange for a tracking number
When sending deliveries, always get a tracking number. If your item is valued above $750, arrange for a signature upon delivery. This safeguards you for PayPal Seller Protection, though this might not apply to all eBay payment methods. Choose the most secure tracking based on your item’s value. Having solid evidence boosts your transaction’s security in case of a dispute.
If you face a fraudulent chargeback, you can dispute it with your bank, but you’ll need proof. PayPal Seller Protection also defends against baseless chargebacks, so don’t hesitate to contest one if it’s incorrect. If a customer is unhappy, offering a refund is wise. It costs only the item’s price, avoiding extra chargeback fees if they involve their bank.
Be cautious if the item’s image appears in other listings or is a stock photo. If the seller won’t provide more pictures or info, it might be a scam – better to avoid.
Compare the price
When you’re considering buying something, check how its price compares to similar things. If it seems much cheaper without a valid reason (like if there’s damage), there’s a chance it might be a scam or stolen.
If the item’s price is significantly lower for no apparent valid cause (like visible damage mentioned), be cautious. It could be a scam or potentially an item that’s been stolen.
“Steer clear.” In such situations, it’s best to avoid making the purchase altogether.
Investigate the feedback page
If you’re looking into the feedback page of a seller, pay attention to the type of positive feedback they’ve received. If most of the positive feedback comes from sellers who sold inexpensive items, it could be a tactic to create the appearance of a trustworthy profile. However, it’s possible that the seller is new and lacks experience.
In this case, it’s a good idea to start a conversation about the item using eBay’s messaging system to get more information before making a decision. This helps you make an informed choice when considering a purchase from that seller.
If the item isn’t covered by the money-back guarantee, your options for protection are limited. Before proceeding, thoroughly examine the seller’s profile, especially if the item is costly and not covered by the policy. Be cautious in such cases.
When you receive a package not addressed to you, assess the situation. Is an expected parcel due? Look for shipping numbers or transaction codes to confirm it’s your package. If all details match except the name, you might decide to open it to verify your goods.
When considering buying something on eBay, it’s important not to hurry. Take your time to thoroughly read the item’s description in the listing. If the title of the listing or the description clearly states that you’re only getting the box without the actual item, it’s crucial to understand this.
If you proceed with the purchase and later realize that you only received the box as described, you won’t have strong grounds to dispute the transaction. This is because the information provided in the listing was accurate and truthful. So, it’s wise to be cautious and attentive while reviewing eBay listings to avoid any potential misunderstandings.
How can you tell a fake eBay email?
Detecting a fake eBay email involves looking for specific signs that indicate a phishing scam:
- Confidential Information Requests: Authentic eBay emails won’t ask you to provide sensitive information like passwords, credit card details, or Social Security numbers. Be cautious of such requests.
- Urgent or Threatening Tone: Phishing emails often try to create a sense of urgency or fear to prompt quick action. If an email pressures you to respond immediately or face consequences, it could be a scam.
- Unsolicited Attachments: Be wary of emails with unexpected attachments. Authentic eBay emails typically won’t send you files to open, as they can contain malware.
- Generic Greetings: Legitimate eBay emails address you by your name or username, rather than using vague salutations like “Attention eBay member.” A generic greeting could indicate a scam.
By staying alert for these traits, you can better protect yourself from falling victim to phishing attempts.
Will eBay refund me if I get scammed?
eBay offers a Money Back Guarantee that applies to most transactions but not all. This means that if you, as a buyer, experience situations such as not receiving the item you purchased, receiving a faulty or damaged item, or getting an item that doesn’t match the listing description, eBay will provide a refund.
This policy is designed to protect buyers and provide a remedy in case of problems with the purchase.
How do you know if a buyer on eBay isn’t real?
Identifying a potentially fake buyer on eBay can be straightforward when they attempt to continue the sale away from the platform.
This frequently occurs when the buyer proposes using payment methods such as checks, money orders (like Western Union or Money Gram), wire transfers, or third-party escrow. Such requests are common indicators of a scam, as genuine eBay transactions should always take place within the platform’s secure environment.
What happens if you don’t receive an item from eBay?
If you don’t receive an item you ordered from eBay, here’s what you can do:
- Check Delivery Information: First, look at the delivery details provided by the seller. If the date when the item was supposed to arrive has already passed, then you might have an issue.
- Contact the Seller: Reach out to the seller and let them know that the item hasn’t arrived. Explain the situation and ask for assistance.
- Seller’s Response: If the seller responds and resolves the problem by providing more information or a solution, that’s great.
- eBay Money Back Guarantee: However, if the seller doesn’t respond or can’t fix the issue, you could be covered by the eBay Money Back Guarantee. This means you might get a refund for the item’s cost. eBay steps in to help resolve the situation between you and the seller.
Remember, it’s important to communicate with the seller first and give them a chance to address the problem. If that doesn’t work out, eBay has a protection policy to help ensure you’re not left without the item you paid for.
How long do eBay refunds take?
eBay refunds typically take around 3 to 5 business days to process. During this time, the buyer’s original payment method will be used for the refund. In some cases, you might also be eligible for fee credits.
However, it’s important to note that the exact duration of the refund process can vary. While most refunds are completed within 3 to 5 business days, it could take up to 30 days in certain situations, depending on the payment method used by the buyer.
How do I know if an eBay seller is trustworthy?
To determine if an eBay seller is reliable, check their feedback score displayed under their username in their listings.
This score, shown as a percentage, reflects the positive experiences reported by buyers. For instance, a 99.5% feedback score indicates that nearly all buyers who provided feedback had positive interactions with the seller.
What happens if an eBay seller doesn’t accept a return?
If an eBay seller refuses to accept a return, there’s still a solution in place. The majority of purchases are protected by the eBay Money Back Guarantee.
This guarantee ensures that if the item you receive is damaged, defective, or doesn’t match the listing description, you have the option to return it for a refund. This is applicable even if the seller has a no-return policy. In such cases, eBay steps in to ensure you’re covered and can get your money back.
What to do with a scammer on eBay?
If you suspect a scam or fraudulent listing on eBay, you can take action. At the bottom of each listing, you’ll see a link that says “Report this item.”
When you click on this link, you’ll be directed to a form where you can provide details about why you’re reporting the listing. This is the right place to report items you believe are counterfeit, stolen, or involved in any kind of suspected fraud.
What happens if I get scammed on eBay gift card?
If you’re scammed with an eBay gift card, here’s what to do:
- Keep Evidence: Hang on to the gift card and receipt as proof that you bought it. This can help when talking to eBay or local authorities.
- Contact eBay: Get in touch with eBay’s customer service immediately. Explain the situation to them. They can guide you on what steps to take.
- Refund from Seller: If the scam occurred on eBay, ask the seller for a refund. Explain the issue and your concerns. They might cooperate and refund your money.
Remember, acting swiftly and preserving evidence is important if you’re caught in a scam involving eBay gift cards.
Can a scammer be tracked?
Scammers can potentially be tracked by using services like BeenVerified. Scammers often employ consistent fake identities when targeting multiple individuals, including fake names, email addresses, addresses, and IDs.
This repetition can create a digital trail that leaves traces behind. Background check services, such as BeenVerified, specialize in monitoring and documenting these profiles, making it possible to trace and identify potential scammers through their recurring fake information.
What to do if you’ve been scammed on eBay
If you’ve fallen victim to a scam on eBay, take these steps:
- Contact eBay: eBay acknowledges scams and collaborates with law enforcement. They suggest that scammed users file a police report with local authorities. To learn how to report a scam, visit the eBay Security Center.
- Report Seller Issues: If you encounter problems with a seller, report them directly to eBay using the provided link.
- Report Fraudulent Listings: If you spot a potentially fraudulent item on eBay, report the listing directly.
- Report Buyer Misconduct: If you suspect a buyer of illegal or fraudulent behavior, report them using the designated link.
- Involve Local Police: Report the scam to your local police and obtain a crime reference number. This documentation is crucial for recording the incident and might be necessary if you’re pursuing insurance claims.
- Consider Insurance: If you’ve suffered financial loss due to a scam and PayPal isn’t able to assist promptly, reach out to your bank. Banks can initiate their own fraud investigations and can be notified to aid your situation.
The Bottom Line: Stay safe from eBay scammers
Unfortunately, there has been a noticeable increase in scams happening on eBay, despite the platform’s efforts to ensure a secure environment for buying and selling.
To protect yourself, it’s essential to become well-acquainted with the scams outlined in this guide. By understanding these tactics and being able to recognize the clear indicators of a scammer, you can take proactive steps to ensure your safety while using eBay. Additionally, for an extra layer of security, you might want to consider signing up for Aura, an identity theft and fraud protection service.