Hello Fellow eBayers,
This is Jim Lee. I'm a musician, artist, and an eBay seller too. I'm also the author of Funkychops, Quickbeat & other Guitar/Bass Download Products.
I truly believe that people are basically good, but it seems like I'm encountering more and more scams on eBay. Perhaps I've just developed a better eye for spotting these shenanigans? Anyway, the purpose of this guide is to share some knowledge that I've gained throughout the years as an eBay buyer and seller. Specifically, on how not to get scammed. I'm writing this guide in hopes of sparing a fellow eBayer some grief.
In this digital world, info is power. Use this power to protect yourself. As an web professional, I've been exposed to a multitude of scams. I'm sure anyone who uses email knows what I mean. Below are some actual examples I've experienced:
There was supposedly this guy, a buyer from Indonesia, who wanted to buy some very expensive bass guitar gear from me. He said it was needed for a jazz festival ASAP... and he was willing to pay extra for quick shipping. Since I was naive, I corresponded with this person. He asked for my bank account number, so he could transfer the funds. Fortunately, I didn't give him the info. Looking back, I can see the clear marks of a scam. 1) The buyer was from 'Indonesia.' Now, the fact of Indonesia doesn't have much to do in the sense that it could be Any place, the United States, UK, anywhere. Though it may be more than a coincidence that Indonesia is considered a high-fraud-activity area. What Is important is that this buyer was 'out-of-the-ordinary' in his geographic location. Scammers come from your country and all over the globe... if you're asked to ship a high-priced item to an unverified location, don't be worried, just be cautious. PayPal offers buyers and sellers some protection... make sure you read their policies, not all things are covered. 2) The scammer was using a Yahoo email address. Not every buyer or seller who uses a Yahoo account is a scammer...there are tons of legitimate users. The thing is that scammers Love free email accounts like Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.. 3) The scammer wanted express shipping at any cost. This is another tell-tale sign of a scam. 4) This auction was a high-priced item. Scammers often seek out higher priced items. 4) I had a high eBay feedback rating, but low number of feedback. Since, I was just starting on eBay, I did not accumulate much feedback. Scammers love newbies.
There was this seller from whom I purchased a pair of blue jeans. I never received the pants. This scammer was a pro. His feedback rating was high. This person's technique was to establish fake feedback, and then list a whole bunch of multiple-item Buy It Now auctions of designer jeans in a short period. These auctions are tied to a bogus PayPal account. When I tried to contact the seller regarding delivery of the jeans, I didn't get a response... after repeated attempts, I suspected that I've been scammed. Now, here's the part where I try to recover my $60 under eBay's buyer protection policy: I was first required to file a report using the PayPal resolution. After a long time, PayPal found the seller to be at fault... and issued a refund from the seller. The problem is that the seller/scammer closed their account... so I Never received the payment. At that point in time, it was past due to file under eBay's protection policy. Anyway, I was not surprised to see that the scammer's eBay account was suspended... I'd estimate that there were over 100 listings when I purchased the jeans. The scammer could've made over $6000 with a bogus eBay & PayPal account in less than 2 weeks... the scammer then closed the accounts and vanished without a trace. Mister Mean Jeans left a lot of people scratching their heads, without jeans, minus $60.
I bought an item that was supposedly signed by the rock-band Rush. It came with a COA (certificate of authenticity) and the seller had a high feedback rating and was a long-time eBay seller. I received the item and the COA which looked like it was printed on a bad home-printer. I contacted the seller, who assured me that all was legit. After I asked for more proof, the seller never replied to me again... and in fact, set their email system to deny my emails. I contacted eBay who did nothing, as according to them, nothing was in violation. After some research, I realized that I was pulled into another type of scam. The counterfeiter. This scammer (as all scammers) prey on people's trust. Because it is often difficult to prove, these scammers often stay in business for years before they get shut-down. They run a 'legit' business... they keep their customers happy and often have very-high feedback ratings... the only thing is that their autographs are fake... and their customers don't know it. They sell anything from records to guitars with fake autographs on them. The prices are usually $25-$300, just low enough to keep people from having their item appraised. Furthermore, their marketing targets naive fans rather than collectors. Looking back, a Big thing that I overlooked was this seller's use of 'private feedback.' When you see private feedback, you should be cautious and ask yourself 'what is this person trying to hide?'
Like it or not, eBay is filled with Counterfeit items. Sometimes an unknowingly fake item is sold to one eBayer, and then resold to another and so on... but, for the most part, Counterfeit items are sold by pro scammers. It could be a fake designer jeans, it could be fake autographs, whatever. If it's in demand, and has value, counterfeiters will produce it. I've even seen brand-new Fender guitar necks aged and modified to look as if it were older... since vintage Fender items are generally higher in value. There are many techniques the eBay scammers use; from hi-jacked accounts to established accounts that have been successfully conducting business with naive customers. Your best protection is your own knowledge of what you're buying. Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for photos. If you're planning to purchase a high-ticket item, you can always hire an independent appraiser to check-out the item.
At this moment, I was pretty seasoned at recognizing the scam warning signs. I noticed a drum set that seemed too good to be true. The photos looked great, the price was great, the feedback was great too... but something didn't feel right. That's when I checked-out this scammers other items for sale. Tons of high-ticket items, from laptops to music instruments. There must've been over 200 items, with the majority having bids. There were three things all of the listings had in common: 1) One day auctions 2) All of the items were expensive, 'in demand' items 3) All the photos were inconsistent. I don't like being a tattle-tail nor an eBay vigilante, but I did report the scammer to eBay... I didn't want to see all those people bidding out a thousand dollars a pop. Sure enough, this scammer's eBay account was suspended. This is a typical one day auction scam. As long as the scammer doesn't get caught, within a couple of days, the scammer can list on eBay, get paid, and split... all with bogus accounts. The sad thing is that this scammer could've had a multitude of these scams running at the same time. Though I caught one, who's to say there weren't hundreds of 'successful' listings from this scammer's other fraudulent accounts. That's the sad nature of scamming. It moves on & evolves. That same scammer is probably still scamming on eBay today, even though he/she has been suspended numerous of times.
Another popular scam I've witnessed is the eBay listing that asks you to email them before you bid. Now someone asking you to email them isn't necessarily a scammer, but if there are other warning signs (one-day listing, free email account, etc.) you should be very cautious. Perhaps the scammer has posted a real estate listing, and their only motive is to collect email addresses of people interested in purchasing property... perhaps later on, this scammer will sell your email address to other scammers - who then send you incessant emails on 'great mortgage rates.' Another popular scenario is that that once you contact the seller, you're then asked to provide your account info to 'prove you have the funds.' Perhaps the scammer will say that the have more of the item you emailed about and needs to sell them quickly... just send them payment for the incredible price they offer. Perhaps they'll send you to a bogus website or bogus escrow company... did I mention that most scammers are Internet professionals and very web savvy?
These people are not as malicious as the others, but they are still scammers-of-sort. When you see a Money Back Guarantee, the ethical sellers will refund your payment minus the shipping costs... now this is where it gets hairy. How much are the shipping costs? Perhaps more than the item? Another popular scam is where the purchase price is relatively low and the shipping is crazy high. These sellers circumvent eBay's listing policies And intentionally deceive buyers who aren't paying attention.
Many eBay pros have multiple accounts. Scammers will use bogus accounts to create bogus feedback... usually positive feedback. This is often used to: boost the feedback rating, feedback number, or used in conjunction with one of the scams above. For instance, a scammer may leave several feedback comments such as 'Great computer. Fast shipping. Thank you.' for a one-day-listing featuring computers. Unsuspecting buyers who read this supporting feedback and decide to buy from this 'trusted' seller.
Have you ever received a bogus eBay email? Of course you have. This is probably one of the biggest tactics used by eBay scammers. They may pose as a buyer asking a question. It may be a supposed notice from eBay. Anything. These scammers have two goals: 1) Make sure your email is live, meaning that your email address is connected to a real person. Often spammers will send-out billions of emails to guessed email addresses, such as email@example.com. Those who reply will get added to that spammer's live list. 2) Gain access to your password. This is the jackpot. Often the scammer will associate their bogus email with a bogus site. The site may even look exactly eBay... so you may log-in into your account... and bingo! They have your info. Scammers then use this info to pull other scams, such as the ones mentioned above. The scary thing is that they may have your info, and not use it 'til the time is right. It's always a good practice to periodically change your passwords.
No. I don't think so... at least not anymore than corporations that market you to believe the best of them. eBay & PayPal both want you to feel that you're safe as a buyer or seller, and they offer various forms of buyer/seller protection. When you read between the lines, you may realize that you're not as protected as they'd like you to believe.
I think eBay wants to paint a rosy-colored picture to the safety of shopping there... and I think most people are buying it. I believe buyers would be scared if eBay published just a fraction of the scams that have happened. Think about it, are You seeing more, or less scams in your email? Do you think scammers are becoming more, or less sophisticated? Don't kid yourself - if you want to be one step ahead of the scammers, you need to evolve too.
For instance, do you know that scammers can target your friends and family just because you opened an email or forwarded a 'funny photo' sent to you? They can... and sometimes you'll never know, until years later - when the scammer decides to use the info gathered... but that's another story.
I'm sorry if I sound negative, but scammers put me in a bad mood. Ebay, like life is a great place... you just need to be aware, and more importantly, do something about the bad stuff going on. Educating yourself is always a great place to start. I hope I've been some help.
Copyright © Jim Lee