Don't Get Wrapped in an eBay Shopping Scam

November 02, 2011

In 2010, Maryland consumers filed over 1,600 complaints against internet auctions, while national complaints totaled 56,107. As the “gift buying” season approaches and consumers rush to online shops, BBB | Greater Maryland reminds consumers to be on the lookout for eBay Grinches.

Fraudulent Gift Card Scams: Multiple techniques have been used to sell gift cards. In several instances, cards will have an initial credit line and cleared to zero dollars once the buyer receives them. Other consumers never receive their cards because they were “lost in the mail.” Some sellers set up a “mystery auction” where the price of cards is undetermined and buyers pay more than the cards’ real worth. FTC advises against buying gift cards online or from auction sites. Go directly to the retailers for authenticity.

International Scams: Do not deal with sellers that are temporarily out of the country. Many consumers have reported loses with international sellers, finding it more difficult to retrieve their transaction or find a resolution based on laws. Be wary if things do not add up such as the seller’s registered location, the eBay site or the item location. Sometimes the seller directs the winner to send a payment to a different location. If there are inconsistencies, the transaction could be fraudulent.

Hijacked Accounts: When accounts are hijacked, the seller or scammer will avoid conducting emails through eBay, because it will alert the account owner. The page may not include a “Buy It Now” emblem. However, eBay’s terms state to email the seller about it, or the button is a phony. The original listing might be directed to a phony page through the scammer. The item for sale is unrelated or more expensive than the seller’s typical items.

Vehicle Scams: The amount of online vehicle scams offering extremely low prices are rising. The seller tricks consumers to send money to various “legitimate” places such as Kelly Blue Book. The scammers claim to be connected to these sources as well as eBay motors, and attempts to have money sent to a phony escrow agent.

General Tips:

  • If something doesn’t seem right, trust your instincts.
  • Take notice if the seller does not provide a photo or uses a generic photo of the item.
  • Review the seller’s feedbacks. Look at the comments that other people have left and note their presence as well. Sometimes sellers use multiple identities or have friends boost their numbers.
  • Take stock of the seller’s other items. Use caution if they are selling something out of the norm.
  • Be wary of eBay sellers who want you to bypass the site and deal directly with them.
  • Understand the terms and conditions, payment options and return policies.
  • Use PayPal for purchases. Do not pay with cash or non-refundable money transfers.
  • Beware of fraudulent eBay pages. Consumers have received fraudulent emails asking for account information and directed to a fraudulent Ebay site. Never divulge account information and other sensitive material. When in doubt, look for https in the address bar to know that you are dealing with a secure site or ask a representative of the site to directly authenticate it.
  • If the seller is a business, check with your local BBB at to evaluate their practices.