There are plenty of places where scammers search for new victims. While phishing remains an effective attack method, online e-commerce websites like eBay are lucrative hunting grounds. Facebook’s Marketplace is also regularly used, so it’s essential to know the tricks used by criminals.
It might take a bit more time than a typical online scam, but criminals often try to trick more than one victim simultaneously to maximize their ill-gotten profit. For example, two years ago, a Louisiana man was sentenced to four years in prison for defrauding eBay customers out of nearly $2 million.
Read on for the most common scams on the e-commerce platform and what you can do to stay safe.
Here’s the backstory
When you shop online, you have a reasonable expectation that your data will be safe. But while online platforms take the necessary steps to protect you, criminals can and will slip through the protocols.
Scammers can infiltrate services and websites. eBay is well aware of this and periodically highlights the problem to its users. The most common hustle on eBay is seller fraud, which comes in various forms.
1. The short duration of listings
Be cautious when items are listed for a short time. According to guidance from eBay, fraudulent sellers want to make a sale as quickly as possible and will therefore list things for a short time. Of course, no scammer wants to be caught, so be wary of deals like “one-day special” or “must sell quickly” descriptions.
2. Heavily discounted items
Keep an eye out for scams where expensive items go for a steep discount. It might seem like a bargain, and the item’s pictures look genuine, but it will be nothing like the original once you get the item after paying for it. The chances are also good that it will be a bad-quality knock-off.
3. Contact or payment off eBay
One scam technique is when a seller requests to complete a transaction through a different website or payment system. Many scammers will insist that you pay through a wire transfer to an overseas account. Not only is this against eBay’s policy, but you’ll lose your money.
Also, never give anyone you meet online personal information, and always use the app or service’s messaging system. It is a great way to protect yourself. In addition, if something goes wrong, you would have no recourse if the conversation moved elsewhere.
4. Fake eBay emails
eBay’s Security Center warns that criminals also use the company’s logo and phony email addresses to scam people. While they might appear genuine, there are a few things to tell real apart from fake.
Actual emails from eBay will never use threatening language or ask for personal details. Also, real eBay emails will never have attachments, so it’s probably fake if you get one allegedly from the company with a download attached.
5. Automotive fraud is on the rise
eBay has listings for many things, including vehicles, which are more expensive than smaller ticket items. If you want to use the platform to buy a new car, a few things should be immediate red flags.
When the pricing seems too good to be true, it probably is. If the seller insists on payment in gift cards, it’s a scam. Also, be suspicious if the seller refuses to meet in person, pushing you to make the purchase quickly or requests wire transfers to foreign accounts.