Don’t fall victim to fraud on eBay. Prevent eBay and internet fraud by using our tested free safety tips.
Today’s Post covers fraud committed against buyers on eBay. Tomorrow I will cover fraud committed against Sellers.
Compared to the rest of the Internet, eBay is actually one of the safest venues for online buying and selling. Fraud is quite rare and affects a tiny fraction of the millions of dollars of business done on eBay every day. Nevertheless, with 85 million potential buyers, eBay does attract its share of online criminals—dishonest people bent on stealing your money any way they can. Below are some strategies you can use to ensure a safe buying and selling experience.
The most common type of fraud on eBay occurs when someone sells an expensive item that he doesn’t possess and/or has no intention of delivering. For example, let’s say you have been looking at one of those new Hitachi plasma TVs that sell for over $3,000. You see one from a seller for under $2,000 and you bid on it. You send the money and the TV never arrives. A week later you e-mail the seller and get no reply. When you check the seller’s account on eBay, it has been terminated. Your money is gone and so is the seller.
While this scenario may sound frightening, this type of fraud is easily prevented if you follow these simple steps:
1. Analyze a seller’s feedback
Don’t just look at a seller’s feedback number, take a moment to analyze it.
eBay’s feedback profile on other members can tell you a lot about the sellers with whom you are considering doing business. Look at an eBay member’s username; a number in parentheses immediately follows it. That number is that member’s unique feedback score. Click on that number and you will see a report that analyzes their feedback. Note that you can look at the member’s feedback as both a buyer and a seller.
One of the things that fraudulent sellers do is purchase a lot of inexpensive items on eBay to build up their feedback. You might see a total feedback score of 30, but when you click on the seller tab, you will see that their feedback as a seller is very low or even non-existent.
Below the score is the number of users who left positive comments and the number who left negative ones. The next line reveals the total number of positive feedback left. Note that this aggregate number is higher than the positive feedback number above it. This is because eBay only counts positive feedback once from any given member. So the difference between these two numbers represents the amount of transactions that were from repeat buyers. The fact that people came back to buy from a seller inspires confidence in his past performance.
2. Don’t Buy Expensive Items from New Sellers
If you look at the top right-hand section of a member’s feedback profile, you can see when a member been registered on eBay and the member’s ID History. It also shows you where the member is registered. Most fraudulent transactions are by sellers who have been registered for less than thirty days. I would be very hesitant to bid on, or buy, an expensive item from a brand-new seller. If you are considering bidding on an item, you can also click on the link that says ID History. This page will show you if the seller has changed her username since she registered.
If you are buying a T-shirt or a coffee mug for $20, the chance of out-and-out fraud is pretty slim. Most fraudulent sellers focus on items with high values, such as diamond rings or plasma TVs. So I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a low-cost item from a seller who may have a low feedback score as long as it is positive. After all everyone has to start somewhere. But if you are thinking of buying a $10,000 Rolex watch you want to be very-very careful.
3. Never Send Cash, a Money Order, or a Certified Check for an Expensive Item
Most legitimate sellers accept PayPal and/or credit cards as payment methods. There are a few sellers who demand money orders or certified checks, but they are in the minority. Only if a seller had a high positive feedback rating—and had been selling on eBay for at least a year—would I consider this type of payment. However, I would first look to see if the same item was available from another seller who did accept PayPal.
4. Always Ask Sellers for a Tracking Number or Delivery Confirmation
UPS and other shipping services track all packages to their destinations. Similarly, the US Postal Service offers delivery confirmation. Positive tracking prevents a seller from claiming he sent a package when he actually did not. If I buy an expensive item (over $200) I usually insist on positive tracking such as you get from UPS, FedEx or DHL. Delivery confirmation from the USPS is not positive tracking.
5. Make Sure You Pay the Correct Seller
In another popular scam, an eBay member monitors auctions for expensive items during the final few seconds of bidding. When a bidder wins an auction, this unscrupulous person sends her an immediate e-mail requesting payment. The responsible bidder pays right away –only to later receive a payment notice from the legitimate seller. To avoid this scenario, before sending a PayPal payment for an expensive item, I always check the username of the person I am paying to make sure it’s the same as that of the person who sold me the item.
Another variation on this scam is an e-mail that arrives from a purported eBay seller demanding immediate payment for an item you bought—or else the “seller” will report you to eBay and leave you negative feedback. You panic and send him the money, only to realize later that you never bought anything from that seller.
6. Read the Auction Description Carefully
One recent scam involved some sneaky members selling the empty box that the popular Microsoft® Xbox game system came in. The auction description would describe the Xbox system in great detail with lots of photos. Unfortunately, buried in the text was the statement “you are bidding on the box only.” Buyers reading this line assumed that, by “box,” the seller was referring the Xbox—when, in fact, the seller was only offering the empty box in which the product was originally packaged.
7. Make Sure You Are Buying Authentic Products
Unfortunately, there are a lot of knockoffs and outright counterfeit items for sale on eBay. eBay aggressively polices this through their Verified Rights Owner( VeRO ) Program , but eBay can’t catch everyone. If you are bidding on a brand-name item, such as a Rolex watch or a Prada handbag, this is another situation where you might want to check the seller’s feedback and ID history very carefully. If the seller is selling the item too cheaply –then there is a good chance its a fake.
8. Look for buySAFE-Bonded Sellers
BuySAFE is a bonding service underwritten by the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company that insures buyers against fraud. Whenever you see the buySAFE seal in an auction, you know two things: the seller has been thoroughly vetted by buySAFE, and, if that seller defrauds you, buySAFE will reimburse you for your loss up to the amount of the seller’s bond. If you click on the buySAFE seal in the seller’s auction, it will tell you the amount of the bond which can be anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000. (If you are selling expensive merchandise, you may want to consider using buySAFE so your potential bidders feel comfortable about you)…..
9. Report Suspicious Auctions to eBay
If you come across an auction that looks suspicious –such as a seller from Taiwan who has only been on eBay a few weeks selling an expensive piece of jewelry and demanding cash as payment—take action. In this situation, you should not only refrain from bidding on the item, you should click on the link at the bottom of every auction that says Report this listing to eBay. Upon receiving the report, eBay’s Trust & Safety department will examine the listing and cancel it if they think it may contain a high risk of fraud.
10. Safeguard Your Registration Information and Password
Phishing is jargon for sending out spoof e-mails designed to lure recipients into entering their eBay passwords and credit card information into spoof Web pages that look just like the PayPal or eBay sites. To avoid falling victim to these online predators, remember a couple of simple pointers: Neither eBay nor PayPal will never send you an e-mail asking you to click on a link to update your account information. Legitimate e-mails will always be addressed to you by name and will direct you to the eBay or PayPal homepage to log in as you normally do. If you receive an email from eBay or PayPal that starts out “Dear Member” then it is a fake.
11. Evil Twin
A more recent method of stealing your personal information is the “Evil Twin.” This scam takes advantage of wireless connections in airports and coffee shops. The Evil Twin is essentially a wireless version of a phishing scam—you think you’re connecting to a genuine hot spot, but are actually connecting to some guy with a laptop and a wireless network card sitting perhaps a few feet away. Because he is closer to you than the base station, you might actually log onto his network instead.
Once you are logged on, the thief can capture a record of your keystrokes. Therefore, you want to be careful of entering personal information such as passwords and credit card information when you are on one of these networks.
12. Pay with PayPal or Other Secure Methods
For items covered by eBay’s Buyer Protection Program, your purchases are protected against fraud—including sellers that do not deliver your merchandise as promised, or delivered items that differ significantly from the auction description—up to $2,000.00. When you look at an auction you will see a box that says “PayPal buyer protection up to $2,000.” This means the seller is a verified PayPal user and as long as you follow the rules at this link: http://pages.ebay.com/help/tp/paypal-protection.html
Sellers can also be defrauded by buyers. Our next post will cover fraud committed against sellers.
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