Being scammed sucks, especially on eBay. You invest all of that time into selling a particular product or you spend a lot of time researching the perfect item, complete the transaction, and then… nothing. The buyer never pays up. The seller never ships your item. Some Ebay scams are obvious, but others are subtle and manipulative. Do you know when you’re being scammed?
The nature of a scam is seated in deception. People who are being deceived don’t know they’re being deceived – after all, that’s the definition of the word. So the only way to protect yourself from being scammed is to catch the deception before it catches you. This can be tough on eBay because you don’t have face-to-face interactions.
But there’s still hope. Read up on the following 5 scams that are common on eBay. Learn them, memorize them, and always keep an eye out for them. Once you can spot these from a mile away, you’ll never fall prey to them again.
The Overpaying Buyer
The Scam: When you’re selling an item, the buyer actually offers to pay you more money than the agreed price. At the time of transaction, they’ll send a cashier’s check (a real one) that has no monetary value tied to it. Or they’ll send a faked Paypal email that requires you to show a “shipping/tracking number” before the funds are transferred. By the time you’ve sent the item, it’s too late.
How It Gets You: Honestly, greed. You put up your old iPhone 4S on Ebay for $200 but a buyer says he wants to give you $350 for it. That promise of extra money is extremely enticing, which automatically shuts off the reasoning centers of the brain in favor of “I’m going to be rich!”
How to Avoid It: Never, never, never, ever send out any items until you have the cold hard cash in your hands. Once you lose possession of the item, you no longer have any leverage with the buyer. Always wait until payments are cleared first.
The Scam: A potential buyer will contact you and offer to make an immediate payment if you settle the transaction outside of eBay. The transaction will go smoothly, until they contact you afterwards and complain of a defective product / false advertisement / dishonest eBay listing. They’ll blackmail you into paying them or else they’ll contact eBay and get you banned.
How It Gets You: The promise of guaranteed money, as opposed to potential money from an auction, can sweep you off your guard. Plus, these people are going out of their way to pay real money and make this transaction happen. They couldn’t possibly be con artists, right? Wrong.
How to Avoid It: The reason scammers want to settle outside of eBay is because eBay won’t help you if you do that. eBay is only responsible for transactions that occur entirely through their system. Therefore, if you want eBay’s protection, never agree to settle elsewhere.
The Bait-and-Switch Refund
The Scam: In this Ebay scam, everything goes according to plan. You put up an item for sale, a buyer bids on it (or Buys It Now if you allowed it), you receive payment, you send the item, done! However, before he bought your item, he also bought a broken version of the same exact item. They use this to blackmail you into giving them a full refund or else they’ll report you to eBay.
How It Gets You: When something like this happens, it’s easy to feel helpless. You feel like they outsmarted you, you have no evidence that your item was functional, you can’t prove that they’re lying. In order to mitigate your losses, you agree to the full refund and move on while the scammer just got a free item from you.
How to Avoid It: Sadly, this scam is a little harder to avoid. You have two options. One, you can require your buyers to purchase shipping insurance to protect yourself against this kind of thing. Two, you can state on your eBay listings that there are NO REFUNDS on your items.
The Vanishing Cash
The Scam: The scammer sets up an eBay listing that looks entirely legitimate. The deal is finalized and you send in your payment… and receive nothing. They basically run away with your money. This scam occurs most often with vehicle sales and real estate sales on eBay.
How It Gets You: Normally, this sort of scam is prevented by eBay’s Buyer Protection Policy. In that case, if the seller doesn’t ship their listed item, eBay helps to resolve the dispute. However, items in the Vehicle and Real Estate sections of eBay are excluded from the Buyer Protection Policy.
How to Avoid It: The best preventative measure is to avoid buying vehicles and real estate on eBay. Go through more reputable and more secure channels for those kind of transactions.
The eBay Phishing Email
The Scam: Scammers send you emails disguised as official eBay notices. The email will contain a link to eBay and will often ask you to click on the link to log into your account, secure your passwords, review payment details, or whatever else. What they really want is for you to click that link, which takes you to an imitation eBay website where you enter your login details. Next thing you know, they have your login info and steal your eBay account.
How It Gets You: Because eBay emails are automated, it’s easy to deconstruct them and replicate them. Counterfeit eBay notices are therefore easy to make and send out en masse. The level of detail is usually so high that only a trained eye can spot a fake email from the real deal.
How to Avoid It: Never, ever click on links in emails, whether they claim to come from a trusted source or not. This applies to services other than eBay, too. Never, ever click email links! Always type the address into your browser and log in manually.
Even if you don’t use eBay, knowing about these scam tactics can help protect you against scammers in other areas of life. However, if you do use eBay, then you should be aware of these Ebay scams and always keep your eyes peeled for shady people. Being scammed is never fun so be diligent and stay safe.
About the author: Joel Lee is an online blogger. This article first appeared on makeusof.com in January of 2013 and remains as relevant today as it did back then.
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