What to Watch for When using eBay

June 23, 2010

eBay can be a great place to buy and sell items online. Unfortunately, with a popular auction site such as this, there are unscrupulous people that will take advantage of consumers if given the opportunity. Consumers need to be aware of this and need to know what to watch out for. Here is a list of things mentioned on eBay’s website:


Shill Bidding” – This is basically when a seller has multiple accounts or a group of friends who deceitfully up bids to up the profit margin on a purchase.


Bid Shielding” – In this scenario, the buyer with the multiple accounts or group of friend bidders will keep upping their bids but then retract them. This process is used to scare off other bidders from making a bid. Then, the bidder with the lowest bid gets the item for bottom-dollar price.


Switch and Return” – A buyer will purchase an item from you and return it, only the item they return is not what you sold them but an imposter.


Fakes and Reproductions” – Sellers may provide a fake certificate of authenticity on collector items. This may be done on rare items purported to be in “mint condition.” Also watch out for wording in the ad that states “to my knowledge” or “I think.” Be especially aware of counterfeit trading cards.


Sadly, those are just a few of the terms and practices of unscrupulous eBay participants. There are other precautions eBay users need to arm themselves with to be able to predict and prevent internet crime.


1. Know who you are dealing with! Find out a seller’s information. Do this by placing a low bid on an item and go to http://search.ebay.com . Enter in “the seller’s name and item number”. Ebay will send you the contact information. Then, call this person. Look up the phone number online at www.411.ca  and verify their address if provided. “If the phone number does not work, that is a red flag.”


2. As far as payment methods, C.O.D. is ideal as is escrow.com, although somewhat expensive. PayPal is also acceptable, although unless stated in the ad does not provide you with $2000 coverage protection. If using PayPal it is recommended that you use a credit card. Credit card companies will refund your money if the seller fails to provide the merchandise. Keep away from money transfers, i.e. Western Union and MoneyGram. Typically, a scammer uses money transfers to hide their identity, so law enforcement cannot protect you. As far as checks, this is not a secure method of payment. “Counterfeit checks, commercial money orders, and postal money orders” may be used. The post office reports that some individuals are being left empty handed. A tactic that oversees scammers will use is sending an overpayment via foreign cashier’s check. Then, they want left over monies sent to them via Western Union. Scam!


3. Be wary of fake eBay and PayPal sites. If a hot link is listed, place your cursor over it and look at the URL on the bottom. If the two do not match up, there is a problem. Also if there is no “s” in the “https:” web address, the link is not a secure site. DO NOT add your personal information on here. This is how scammers get a hold of your eBay ID and password, credit card, and other personal information.


4. If a person only wants to deal with you through email, that is a red flag. It is likely the account is stolen, especially if they are asking for payment via money transfer. Money transfers have to be requested via email because Ebay will not publish these types of requests on their site.


5. Other red flags eBay tells you to watch out for are auctions which hide the bidders, sloppy English, the product is in a different location from the seller, the eBay “buy-it-now” button is missing, a product is in the wrong category, (which scammers will do, since certain categories are flagged as “SCAM AUCTIONS”.)

6. Keep your password and account secure. Ignore pop-ups that may request personal information. Make sure your computer is protected by updated anti-virus and firewall software. Set your security options in your web browser to alert you when a website is unsafe. Set your security options on your web browser to alert you when a website is unsafe. Always type out URL addresses provided by eBay and PayPal to ensure that you do not click on malware. Never send your personal information via email. Email is not secure. Be careful about opening attachments, which may also contain malware.


7. Be familiar with the product you are buying to ensure don’t purchase imitations. Consult with the exports on a said product. Make note if a picture looks like it was personally taken or copied from the internet.


8. Be leery of quick-sell auctions, as opportunists will always pressure you into buying but won’t always deliver.


9. Another tip, provided by a consumer, is pay the extra money to the post office to get a tracking number. A postal receipt means nothing without a tracking number, and without this the post office cannot help you locate your purchased item.


If you educate yourself and are aware of and avoid potential scams that are out there, you can have a very positive experience on eBay. Many people enjoy eBay as a great tool to find good deals, special interest items, etc., and many people also find eBay a convenient place to sell their wares for profit or simply to clean out their closets. However, consumers have unknowingly fallen victim to frauds that latch on to popular site such as eBay. If you suspect a scam on eBay, report it to your Better Business Bureau at 519-673-3222 before you fall victim to it. Don’t “assume” until you have checked it out!