A Decade of eBay Scams, How Buyers Scam Sellers on eBay
This article is written to highlight ways that sellers are getting scammed on eBay. It's designed to explain the ways that people try to cheat sellers so that sellers may protect themselves.
I don't advise or condone the acts described in this article.
I originally wrote this article purely out of frustration, at the time I was relying on eBay as a full time income and the fact that someone could take advantage of me and steal from me and eBay couldn’t seem to care less was astonishing. I had hoped that maybe one day things would change, the system would get better, but over this long period of time I’ve seen that not much has changed. Even today, I am still receiving responses from people who have been scammed on eBay.
Online Shopping Safety
These days online safety is a huge concern, fortunately for consumers the majority of online purchases are very safe often times even guaranteed, especially when purchasing from a big name like eBay. Many online retailers, like eBay, boast money back guarantees, letting consumers know that if they’re not happy for any reason they’ll get their money back no problem, but the way eBay handles some of these claims is extremely unfair to sellers.
Ebay Changes That Benefit the Buyer but Endanger the Seller
Here are some unfair changes made in order to make it a "safe" trading environment, although they do not benefit both sides...
- Sellers cannot leave negative or neutral feedback for buyers, but buyers can still leave any feedback for sellers. Also, if a seller receives too many bad feedbacks they will be suspended from eBay.
- Sellers must accept payment via Paypal or an eBay approved program. Sellers are no longer allowed to accept cash, check, or money order.
- Buyers can now file disputes against sellers if they feel that an item was not as described, which would be fine except that a buyer doesn't have to provide any proof that the item was not as described.
- Sellers have to accept returns. Yes, you can state "no returns" in your auctions, but that means nothing. If someone wants to return something, you have to accept it.
Not As Described: Buyer's Word vs. Seller's
As I mentioned above, eBay has made some changes to become "safe." One of these changes included adding a way for buyers to dispute transactions. It's really a good idea, but you have to be fair. The problem with this is that eBay and Paypal almost always side with the buyer.
A buyer can dispute a transaction for many reasons: not as described, item never arrived, wrong item, etc. The most common dispute for a scammer is the "not as described" dispute. A buyer can return anything simply by evoking this phrase, even if the item was described in minute detail.
Here are the details of an actual dispute that I had on an item I sold: I sold a used GPS unit for parts or repair. I clearly stated in the title and description that this item had a broken screen and was to be sold AS-IS and that no returns would be accepted. The person bought the item and said something to the effect of "it doesn't work" and wanted to return it. I told them that it was sold that way and I wouldn't allow a return. He filed a dispute with eBay and won. I told eBay that you can clearly see in the auction that it sold for parts, as is, but they still sided with the buyer. I had to give the buyer his money back and I received poor feedback for it.
Another example: I sold a rather large item on eBay. The buyer received it and put in a dispute stating that it did not work. It was a lie, as I had fully tested it and knew it worked, but there was nothing I could do. I accepted that he was lying and offered a full refund if he returned the item. He agreed, but then sent me an empty box via UPS. He provided the tracking number to eBay and they automatically gave him his money back. I told eBay that he sent me an empty box and they asked me to take a picture of the label to show that the box only weighed as much as an empty box would weigh. "Okay" I said. Guess what? He sent the package with a label he printed online that said he paid for a 12 lb. package! There was nothing I could do!
And yet another example: I sold an air purifier for a pretty high price, around $200.00. It was in perfect working order. The buyer put in a dispute saying it did not work. Shortly afterwards I received an email from someone that I had never done business with who stated that my buyer had bought an air purifier from him and he told me this guy was a scam. Unfortunately, it was too late. I went to my buyer's "items for sale" and was astonished with what I found: He had listed MY air purifier for sale for about double the price he paid me, using my pictures! There were two things wrong with this: 1. You are not allowed to use someone else's pictures on eBay, 2. This was only a day or two after I shipped the item, so he had not even received it yet. I told eBay all of this, and they suspended the user from eBay, BUT they still gave him a full refund from my Paypal account. Knowing that this guy was a liar and a scammer, they still took the money from me and gave it to him, and I never got my item or my money back. Thanks eBay!
Feedback: Nothing You Can Do
As a seller you cannot leave a negative or neutral feedback for a buyer. Buyers can leave you any feedback, but a seller can only leave positive or nothing!
Buyers are also asked to leave Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs), which consist of four categories:
- How accurate was the item description
- How satisfied were you with seller's communication
- How quickly did the seller ship the item
- How reasonable were the shipping and handling charges.
These DSRs are rated by buyers on a scale of 1 to 5. It's really a great way to help buyers know if the seller is trustworthy or not, but of course, there's a problem. Ebay feels that an appropriate average rating is somewhere around 4.8 (I could be slightly off). This means that if you receive 1000 positive feedbacks with 4 star DSRs, you are still below eBay's standards and you will be thrown off the site.
I don't know how you feel about DSRs, but I feel that if you are being rated between 1 and 5 an acceptable average would be somewhere around a 3. That would leave some room for error, and some room for jerks and scammers who leave bad ratings.
How to Pull Off a Scam on Ebay
There are many ways that buyers can pull off a successful scam on eBay, and here are just a few...
The Ole' Switch-A-Roo
So let's say you have a broken toaster. It's a great toaster but it bit the dust and you don't have money for a new one. So you search on eBay and you find the exact same toaster for sale, brand new or used but in good working condition. Ebay's current setup allows you to scam a new toaster for free. Here's all you have to do:
- Buy the new toaster on eBay
- Wait a day or two after receiving the toaster (don't wait longer because there is a time limit)
- Write the seller and tell them that you are unhappy because the toaster does not work.
Now, there are a couple things that could happen: 1. The seller may refund you, 2. The seller may offer a refund with return, or 3. The seller may not respond.
If they refund you, great! Congrats! If they offer a refund with return, then send back your broken toaster and make sure you put tracking on the package! If they don't respond, open a case with eBay, stating the item doesn't work and go through the process. The case process is very easy to follow and you almost can't lose. The worst case scenario is that you have to return the item and get a full refund. Either way, you get a new toaster for free (excluding return shipping, if required).
"I Didn't Get It"
The next way to scam a seller on eBay is to simply purchase and item and say that you never got it. This can go many ways:
- If the seller did not use tracking, you win!
- If the seller did put tracking, then check it and see what the tracking says. Sometimes tracking states that an item was "left at front door." Again, you win!
- If the tracking says that the item was delivered, it is a little more difficult. In this case, you have to be very creative. You could say that the tracking is wrong and that you never received a package and that no one signed anything for a package so there is no proof you got it.
Either way you will win, 9 times out of 10, if not more.
This type of scam happens less than others, but it still happens. The only flaw is that you do lose the money that it costs to return the item to the seller.
- You simply purchase an item, wait a day or two after receiving it, and open a dispute saying that the item was not as described. You can make up any reason, really.
- When the seller asks you to return the item for a full refund, you send them and empty box, but you have to do it right. First make sure that you have tracking on the package, then you have to print a return label online so that you can manually enter the weight of the item. You have to put the weight as if the item was in the box.
- Once again, you win! Congrats!
"I Didn't Approve That"
Another way to scam a seller is to purchase an item and pay with a credit card.
- You have to pay through a Paypal or merchant checkout, but you can still use a credit card to pay.
- After you receive the item, contact your credit card company and tell them that you did not receive the item, did not approve the transaction, the item was broken/didn't work, or a similar story, your choice.
- Your credit card company will almost always dispute the transaction, and I have never heard of a credit card company losing a dispute.
Leaving Feedback: Adding Insult to Injury
Here's where it comes down to being mean or nice. I have had a ton of people scam me and then leave me bad feedback, and then I have had some that left good feedback.
If you are going to scam someone and steal their stuff, you should at least give them good, positive feedback and DSRs.
Just remember that if a seller receives too many bad feedbacks, they will be thrown off eBay for good, no ifs, ands, or buts. Are you so cruel that you would not only steal items from someone, you'd also take away their job? You could at least be nice enough to leave them good feedback so they can continue to get scammed on eBay.
Is It Fair?
Do You Feel eBay Is Fair For Sellers?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.