How eBay Scammers Find Their Targets

eBay scams update — latest tricks and security tactics: Internet Scambusters #772

eBay has revolutionized the way we buy and sell stuff, whether used or new.

But it’s also a target for scammers, who know how to spot their quarry.

We’ll give you the lowdown on their latest techniques and tactics in this week’s issue.

Let’s get started…


How eBay Scammers Find Their Targets


Most of us have bought or sold stuff on eBay and many of us will either have been scammed or been suspicious enough not to deal with a buyer or seller who looks potentially crooked.

But how exactly do scammers operate and know how best to target their crimes?

One obvious starting point for phony sellers is to find out which items are most in demand and then list their own non-existent versions.

That’s not tough to do because eBay actually produces a list of its most searched-for items.

For instance, you may not be surprised that sneakers and other sport shoes are among the most in-demand items. Games consoles and toys like Lego are also popular.

But some of the others might surprise you — for example: candles, model horses, and various obscure collectibles.

(You can see the site’s trending list here. It changes regularly.)

eBay doesn’t seem to disclose how much of their business is subjected to fraud, and of course, it’s a perfectly reasonable and helpful thing for the auction site to tell potential sellers where they’re most likely to score a sale.

It’s also worth pointing out that both eBay and PayPal (as well as credit card issuers) offer financial protection against scams.

Nevertheless, falling victim to a con trick and then trying to recover your losses can be a long and painful experience.

So, knowing what’s hot on eBay, as the crooks do, can help you at least be alert to the greater risk of being scammed when you make a purchase.

More Warning Signs

But there are also a number of other warning signs that you may be lining up for an eBay buyer scam.

Individually, most don’t necessarily mean you’re about to be ripped off, but when several of them appear together, that’s almost certainly a red flag.

Here are seven to watch for.

  1. The item is listed as “Buy Now” at a price well below the current market value.
  2. The seller has little or no feedback or, if they do, they are all recent and for selling small, cheap — a couple of dollars or so — items for which they’ve attracted five-star feedback.
  3. The seller of a used item or collectible either doesn’t provide an original photo, or they use a stock one they’ve downloaded from the Internet.
  4. There’s no information about the item beyond its name. Or there’s maybe a vague description with little or no detail.
  5. The seller asks you to work outside of the eBay system. Why would they do that unless they had dubious intentions?
  6. The seller doesn’t accept PayPal. These days, this would be highly unusual but it’s a trick sometimes used by overseas scammers, especially in Nigeria.
  7. Sales spiels that try to rush you by suggesting it’s a one-day sale or there’s some other urgent need to buy now.

Sellers Are Victims, Too

Sellers, of course, can also be on the receiving end of a scam.

Recent tricks include returning items for a refund that are really cheap knock-offs of the original, or are damaged in some way.

In a recent case in the UK, a crooked buyer slipped out of reach of the victim after the victim signed for the “returned” items — two valuable swords — when they were delivered, without first checking the contents of the package.

The package contained a brick and one broken sword but eBay allegedly initially refused to reimburse the victim because he’d signed for them — yet they refunded his money to the crooked buyer!

After a British newspaper intervened, the issue was resolved and the fake buyer was suspended.

The message here is clear: If a “buyer” is supposed to be returning something valuable to you, check the package before you sign for it.

A more common trick is for a fake buyer to claim the item they bought never arrived, which is virtually impossible to disprove unless you send items either tracked or with signature confirmation.

So, if you’re selling expensive items, or even anything over $50, it’s worth paying the extra to track its progress.

And before you even send it, check the feedback of the buyer. You can always cancel the sale and give a full refund. At least you’ll still have your items.

Fake Message

The other well-used trick is to fake a message from PayPal telling a seller that payment has been received, prompting the victim to mail off the sold item.

This one is easy to side-step. Never accept a payment message like this at face value. Log on to your PayPal account to be sure the money is there.

And don’t be taken in by some sort of statement in the fake email that it could take a couple of days for the transaction to appear. With the real PayPal, that’s not true.

eBay is a great buyer/seller market and the company does a lot to try to prevent fraud but, when you’re dealing with people you don’t know, it always pays to be extra cautious.

Alert of the Week

There’s a new bout of TV box upgrade scams doing the rounds right now.

Victims receive a call pretending to be from their cable or satellite TV provider saying they need to replace their set-top box with a new device.

The scammers then demand payment, sometimes warning victims they’ll lose their TV signal if they don’t go ahead.

This is phooey. TV providers don’t operate this way. And if you fall for it, the crooks will likely also end up with your credit card number.

That’s it for today — we hope you enjoy your week!