What are eBay scams?
eBay scams are tricks amateur and professional scammers to either get the item without paying or receive the money without sending the item. These scams have been around since eBay was launched in 1995, and they will continue to be a consideration in the future. eBay is only an intermediary and is not responsible for buyers actually receiving the items. That’s why buyers and sellers on the platform must take every precaution before finalizing the purchase.
Common eBay scams to watch out for
eBay’s ability to curb fraud on its platform is limited, so users must do their best to avoid scams themselves. Let’s review the most common types of fraud.
A phishing attack relies on the target clicking on a malicious link or downloading malware disguised as a legitimate attachment. Once the virus infiltrates the victim’s device, it can steal files, credentials, lock the device, or open the backdoor for the attacker to access it. Be wary if a buyer ever sends you a link you didn’t ask for.
Incorrect name scam
One scam eBay buyers should be aware of is when fraudulent sellers ship an item with an incorrect name. While it can be a legit mistake, this could be a type of a scam where a seller is using a fake name hoping that the buyer will return the item.
How is this a scam? If you get an item you paid for but return it because the name on the package is not yours, eBay’s money-back guarantee is void. A seller may use a fake name and hope that you will return the item, thinking you received someone else’s package. This way, the scammer gets the money and the item, while you are left with nothing.
A non-delivery scam is as simple as it sounds — you order an item that never arrives. It may happen for several reasons, none of which would be your fault. In most cases, you can use eBay’s money-back guarantee and try to find another item. But keep in mind that the guarantee doesn’t apply when you’re buying:
- Digital products.
- Tickets for travel.
- Real estate.
The best you can do to avoid this scam is to not buy these items on eBay.
Here’s how a chargeback scam works. The buyer orders your item, pays, waits until you ship it, and then requests a chargeback from their bank or PayPal. Chargebacks are not inherently bad. If a seller proves to be a scammer, the buyer can easily get their money back. But some buyers abuse the chargebacks to get their item for free. The silver lining is that the buyer can’t issue chargebacks without reason because the bank will always analyze whether it was a legit request.
Some buyers will offer to pay over the market price, even double. Why would you refuse the extra cash? Wait. Surprising you with a generous offer is the key to this scam. If a buyer offers to pay over the asking price for your item, they’re likely planning to pay with a fraudulent check. You send the item, while the check bounces, leaving you with nothing.
While the money can appear in your account instantly, the bank may take up to two weeks to clear it. Always make sure that you have received the money before shipping.
Settlement outside of eBay scam
Some eBay buyers may want you to settle the transaction outside of the platform. Sounds like a basic scam you would never fall for, doesn’t it? After all, you lose your seller protections by settling outside eBay. But scammers can be very persuasive, offer your extra money, or create a sad story about why they can’t use eBay at the moment.
Ironically, if you end up agreeing to their terms and move away from eBay, the scammer will likely contact the platform with claims the listing was fake and they never received the item.
Empty box scam
As a seller, you may think your eBay transaction was flawless. You got the order, shipped it, and it reached the buyer. But the buyer raises a dispute out of the blue. Not only that, they claim you shipped an empty box.
Such cases are challenging for eBay because there’s no way to determine who’s telling the truth. Unfortunately for the seller, the platform tends to side with the buyer and issue a refund. The only real way of protecting yourself from these scams is to check the buyer’s history and avoid dealing with suspicious users.
Broken item scam
While it’s similar to the last scam where you complete the transaction and ship the item, the broken item scam ends with a refund dispute because the buyer claims they received a broken item. If you packed the item properly to prevent damage during shipping, what likely happened was the buyer bought an item they already had. But theirs was broken. So they plan on getting a replacement and returning the broken one to you.
To protect yourself from this scam, always record the unique details and the imperfections found on your items. Otherwise, just like the “empty box” scam, eBay will likely side with the buyer since it’s difficult to say for sure who is telling the truth.
Item not received scam
While the previous scams use eBay’s policies to their advantage, this one turns to PayPal Seller Protection — specifically, a rule stating that the seller must prove the item was delivered. Here’s the catch: For transactions under $750, a delivery notification will suffice. But if the item was more expensive, it has to be signed for. No signature, no proof.
To prevent scammers from falsely claiming the item wasn’t delivered, remember this rule and get the buyer to sign upon delivery.
Spotting eBay scams
You will never know if the transaction will be completed successfully. But you can avoid eBay scams if you read the listing carefully, check the user’s purchase history, and protect your account. Here’s how you can spot common eBay scams.
The seller’s job is to sell the item. As such, you would imagine they will add a thorough description complete with photos showcasing the item from every angle. When you see the opposite, be cautious. A seller trying to sell an item with a blurry photo, unreasonable purchase price, or a vague description probably doesn’t have anything worth buying to begin with.
Identifying phishing attempts
Cybercriminals often use phishing to get whatever they’re after. Usually, it’s an email, telling you to check your package information or urging you to check on “an important” document that they have attached. Phishing is also common in eBay transactions because the scammer can get access to your account.
Don’t let yourself be rushed to act on a message you got from a stranger, because that’s often how criminals achieve their objective. For example, if an email says you may lose your package unless you click on the link, double check the sender’s email address and go to your eBay account directly.
Recognizing non-delivery scams
Remember the scams we described and how they work. For example, to avoid non-delivery scams, you only need to stay away from the categories that eBay’s money-back guarantee doesn’t cover.
Always check the user’s reviews before a transaction and track your orders. If you should’ve gotten a package, and you did, but it shows someone else as the addressee, you may need to open it to check if it’s your item.
Protecting yourself from eBay scams
Here are some safe online shopping tips cybercriminals that will help you avoid common scams on eBay and elsewhere:
- Secure your account. Make sure you always use strong, unique passwords and multi-factor authentication. Doing so won’t help you shop safer, but it will help you avoid identity theft in case you are tricked by a phishing email . Keep in mind that if you fall victim to identity theft, you may need to delete your eBay account.
- Keep your security software up to date. eBay scams rarely result in cyberattacks, but if they ever do, it’s better to keep your antivirus software updated.
- Save eBay as a bookmark. Save the site on your bookmarks tab and visit the eBay website directly instead of clicking links in your email. This will help you avoid fake websites impersonating eBay to get your credentials.
- Read the necessary documents. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the seller protection and eBay money-back guarantee policies.
- Don’t transfer money to the seller’s bank account directly. Rather, use a third-party service such as PayPal.
- Don’t overshare. Don’t share personal or financial information with other buyers and sellers.
- Never agree to settle outside eBay. Sometimes you may save a few bucks, but much more often you’ll be left with nothing.
- Report suspicious users. If you feel something’s not right, always contact eBay. By reporting suspicious users to eBay’s customer support, you protect yourself and help protect other users on the platform.