The do’s and don’ts of online auction trading, plus a list of other eBay scams to beware of: Internet Scambusters #322
With up to 20 million items on sale at any one time, and tens
of billions of dollars changing hands every year, eBay scams
are a real risk for anyone involved in online auction trading.
But, by observing a handful of safeguards and knowing where the
greatest risks lie, you can reduce or even almost eliminate
your chance of getting scammed. In this week’s issue, we list
23 stay-safe tips.
But first, we urge you to take a look at these top articles
from our other websites:
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What You Should Know Before Opting For Credit Card Forgiveness: Find out how credit card forgiveness can work for you and against you.
The 3 C’s of Photo Sharing: Creative photo sharing requires that you take these few simple tips to heart.
Is A Lawn Tractor What You Need This Spring? It is never too early to be
thinking about whether or not getting a lawn tractor is right for your lawn care needs.
And now for the main feature…
eBay Scams — 23 Stay-Safe Tips To Keep You Out of Trouble
You only have to do a quick search of Scambusters articles to
discover that eBay scams are one of the biggest categories of
online fraud. See this article on online auction scams, for example.
Trying to discover the scale of the crime is a different
matter. The company itself doesn’t publish statistics but has
claimed in the past that only 0.01% of transactions result in
a confirmed case of fraud.
That may not seem like much, but when you consider that at any
one time there are between 18 million and 20 million items on
offer, that still works out at up to 2,000 potential scams on
the go right now, as you’re reading this!
In the UK, 8,000 eBay related crimes were reported to police
in 2007. And last year in the US, the FBI’s Internet Crime
Complaints Center (ICCC) said that more than half of all
online fraud complaints were about auctions.
And that’s not the only problem. In addition, every day,
crooks send out hundreds of thousands (or perhaps even
millions) of bogus emails, pretending to be from eBay. Most of
these have links to eBay look-alike pages, which are used to
phish for sign-on and other personal information.
To be fair, the online auctioneer, which has more than 200
million members and sells tens of billions of dollars worth of
stuff on a couple of dozen sites worldwide every year, is
doing a good deal to cut the risk of scams.
For instance, it has its own downloadable anti-fraud toolbar,
and people who sell what are regarded as high scam-risk
articles, like computers, can no longer insist on cash or
check payments; they must also accept PayPal or a credit card.
It encourages the use of its own PayPal payment service,
which keeps credit card information away from prying eyes.
The firm itself also offers lots of advice, including
tutorials on how to avoid being conned. Using this and other
security information sources, we’ve pulled together a list of
23 eBay stay-safe tips.
Follow this advice and you’ll substantially reduce or even
almost eliminate the chances of becoming an eBay scam victim.
First, here are the things you must ensure you do…
Keep a close eye on your “My eBay” page to make sure no one
is using your account to trade.
Always log in to both eBay and PayPal manually. Don’t use
the auto sign-on. Use different passwords for your eBay and
PayPal accounts and change them very regularly.
Seek further information and pictures of an item. The more
costly, the more determined you should be to verify the
details and the more you should want to know about a buyer or
seller. You can actually get full contact details, including
address and phone number, of someone you’re dealing with
before paying for or sending an item.
Read the fine print. Always check a seller’s return and
refund policy and read every word of the article description
and other details.
Consider using a PayPal security key, which you can buy for
$5 and which generates a random temporary security code that
has to be used for logging on to your eBay or PayPal accounts.
Check out prices (both on and off eBay) for similar items
you are buying or selling, to get a clear idea of what might
be a reasonable sum.
Use a shipment tracking method when sending items of value.
If you’re a buyer, insist the seller uses such a method, even
if you have to pay for it.
Keep copies of all correspondence relating to a sale along
with photos of an item before you ship it.
If you’re a seller, use some form of identifier that can
only be removed once the buyer accepts the item. Your returns
policy can state you will only accept items back with this
identifier intact. This prevents fraudulent returns of lesser
Now, for the things you should make sure you DON’T do…
Don’t pay by instant cash, cash transfers or money wires
like Western Union or MoneyGram. They can’t be tracked and
traced. Even money orders and checks are not safe. For
preference, use credit cards or PayPal, which offer fraud
protection (although be sure you completely understand
PayPal’s rules before you use this service).
Don’t reply to or click on links in emails that seem to come
from eBay, including Second Chance Offers that sometimes
arrive after you’ve been outbid. Instead, sign on to your
account. If it’s a genuine communication, it will be listed in
Don’t click on links that sellers provide in their listings.
Instead, if the link supposedly offers more information or a
download, do your own online search instead. (eBay’s own
links, such as those for more pictures or shipping methods, are
Don’t buy collectible items about which you’re not already
an expert. You must be able to distinguish between fake and
genuine. The jeweler Tiffany once claimed that almost
three-fourths of all items bearing its name sold on eBay were
Here’s more info on antique and collectible scams.
Don’t agree to deal with a buyer or seller outside of the
eBay trading environment. You’re at risk, without any
Don’t accept an overpayment for an item, in which you’re
asked to remit the difference to anyone. You can find more on
overpayment scams on our site.
In addition, here are some pointers of eBay activities you
need to be aware of…
One-day or even three-day listings. Some quick sales are
perfectly legit but scammers also like to use them.
Overseas-based sellers or buyers, especially those in
Africa, eastern Europe and Italy. Again, there are certainly
legit ones (although rarely from Africa), but definitely be
skeptical and cautious.
Sellers who don’t accept credit cards or PayPal, or buyers
who send a check and insist you send the item before the check
has cleared at the bank.
Phony bidders who compete against you to force up the price.
Make your bid towards the end of the auction.
Sending items to buyers whose address has not been verified
Seller feedback. By all means use this important way of
checking a seller’s reputation, but be aware that hackers have
been known to take control of legitimate accounts or at least
pass themselves off as reputable traders in phishing emails.
Escrow services — where the buyer deposits the money with
an independent third party pending receipt of the sold item.
If your buyer or seller suggests, or more especially, insists,
on a certain escrow company, check them out independently by
phone (don’t trust a website) and with your state licensing
body. We recommend you use eBay’s approved escrow company,
Sellers with Private Sales. They may be legit, but remember
you don’t get to see what they’ve previously sold and what
feedback they’ve received
Despite these guidelines, there’s always a risk of you or
someone you know being caught by an eBay scam. As soon as you
suspect, report it to eBay and to PayPal (if the service was
used). eBay has dispute services.
There’s an old phrase that’s been used in the world of
commerce for centuries. In legal jargon, it’s called “caveat
emptor.” To you and me, it means “buyer beware.” With eBay,
the same rule also applies to sellers.
If someone or something seems suspect, it/he/she probably is.
Always remember and apply that, and follow our tips, and
you’ll be a long way down the road to staying safe when you
That’s all we have for today, but we’ll be back next week with
another issue. See you then!