Wherever there is a big online marketplace, you will also find scammers who are trying to separate people from their money or personal data, and eBay is no exception.
I’m a pretty tech-savvy person, but I still fell for an eBay scam. I saw a Yeti cooler accessory on eBay for a great price from a new seller. I went for it. The money left my PayPal account and the cooler bag never showed up. Fortunately, eBay discovered the seller’s account was compromised and refunded my money.
I wasn’t the only one; a lot of people tried to buy from the same seller. The warning signs were there: no feedback, a too-good-to-be-true price and generic photos.
My cautionary tale didn’t have any serious repercussions for me, but it made me much more wary about eBay transactions and what we as buyers or sellers can do to avoid scams. Check out these five scams and learn how to protect yourself.
1. Buyer damages or alters the item and demands a refund
Here’s a story that comes directly from a Komando listener who sold a MacBook on eBay. The seller mailed the laptop and everything seemed normal. But the buyer swapped out the computer's hard drive for a smaller one, scratched the case, took photos of the damaged laptop and demanded a refund through eBay. The seller, an eBay sales novice, didn’t have evidence to prove the laptop’s original condition and hardware.
The auction site sided with the buyer in this dispute. "The school of hard knocks provides a great education; it just sometimes has a very high tuition!" our listener said. This type of scam may also crop up in the form of a bait-and-switch where the buyer swaps a less valuable item for a more valuable one and then makes a refund claim to eBay.
To avoid this sort of issue, document the items you have for sale. Take photos prior to (and even during) packing and take stock of components and accessories. Write down or photograph serial numbers. Hopefully, you won’t need to defend yourself against this sort of scam, but be prepared to do so if necessary.
2. Fake eBay emails try to steal information
Phishing attacks are emails aimed at stealing personal information. They are disguised to look like legitimate messages. Scammers may try to make a dangerous email look like it came from eBay by including the eBay logo and even a fake eBay email address.
The phishing email may ask you to share your login information or financial data, like credit card or banking numbers. They may also have potentially dangerous attachments or links to the scammer’s website. EBay says it never sends emails with attachments and never asks for confidential information. You can also find copies of key messages in your eBay account online, so you can check to see if a suspicious message also appears there.
If you suspect you’ve received a fake email, eBay asks that you forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org for investigation.
3. Seller asks you to make a payment outside of eBay’s system
There are a lot of sneaky ways a scammer might entice you to pay for an item outside of eBay’s safety net. They may contact you about a supposed second chance to buy an item, or offer you a discount to pay outside of eBay. You may get a message with unusual payment instructions, which could ask you to deposit money directly into a bank account. These are all big red flags. For your own protection, stick with paying securely through eBay using approved methods.
4. Buyer overpays for an item
A popular scam involving cashier’s checks has been known to crop up in relation to eBay transactions. For some categories, including many subsections of eBay Motors, eBay allows for payments other than credit cards or PayPal. But beware of accepting a cashier’s check from a buyer.
This scam works by a buyer sending a cashier’s check that is made out for more than the selling price. The buyer then asks for a refund of the extra money. The fraudster is banking on you sending the money back before you and your bank figure out the cashier’s check is counterfeit. One way to avoid this scam is to not accept cashier’s checks, but also be immediately suspicious of anyone making an accidental "overpayment."
5. The "Item not received" scam
This scam tries to take advantage of eBay and PayPal's merchant protection rules. The buyer purchases an item that costs over $750 on eBay and then claims it wasn’t delivered and requests a refund. A regular delivery confirmation notice isn’t enough to protect you as a seller. For items over $750, eBay and PayPal require signature confirmation of delivery. The easiest way to avoid this scam is to require a signature confirmation for higher-dollar items.
Protecting yourself from eBay scams involves using common sense, looking out for warning signs and properly documenting your sales and deliveries. Most eBay transactions go smoothly, but it’s all about being aware and prepared just in case there’s a problem.
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