How To Avoid eBay Scams

Marketplaces 101

Whether you are a business owner looking for ways to increase sales and reach a wider audience, or a casual seller that is looking to get rid of unwanted items and earn money on the side, eBay is a great platform for doing just that. But as with any online marketplace, there are always scammers lurking, ready to take advantage of unsuspecting sellers. In this blog post, we'll give you some tips on how to avoid eBay scams as a seller.


Don’t Sell Your Items Outside of eBay


It is never a good idea to sell your items outside of eBay, whether you are doing it intentionally or accidentally. This goes against eBay's terms and services, which can result in your account being banned. Many scammers will try to take advantage of sellers who are not familiar with eBay's protocols and procedures. There are two common ways how a scammer may attempt to take advantage of you:


  • They may pose as buyers, luring you into engaging with them off eBay. They may even try to attempt to contact you via social media to conduct the transaction. Once they have gained your trust, they may try to pressure you into selling your items outside of eBay to avoid seller fees.

  • They would send you an offer at the full listing price but then in the comment section would ask for you to text them because they have a question about the item. As tempting as it may be to accept the offer and text them, it is not worth the headache. They may report you to eBay or worse send you phishing text messages in an attempt to steal your identity.


To avoid falling prey to these types of scams, it is always best to stick with eBay when selling or buying items online. Familiarize yourself with eBay's policies and guidelines so that you can ensure both the safety and reliability of all transactions on the platform.


If you’re considering selling on eBay check out this article on How to Get Started Selling on eBay


The Overpayment Scam


If there is some sort of bidding war with potential buyers, then it is completely understandable getting more from the asking price of an item. Beyond that, no one will ever, EVER overpay for an item. Imagine going to a yard sale and finding a lamp for $5, but the buyer insists on giving you $10 for it. Sounds fishy right?


The same goes for eBay. If a buyer offers to pay more than what you are asking for then it is too good to be true. The typical scamming process is to issue you a check or bank wire a payment because their account is "restricted" by eBay. To reward you for doing them a favor, they would send you a check amount (or wire) more than your asking price. Eager sellers aiming to please the buyer would ship the item before waiting for the payment to clear or to double-check that the wired funds are applied to their bank account. But little do they know, the check will bounce or the bank wire transfer email is fake.


Gift Card Scam


Did you know that you can sell gift cards on eBay? While many sellers are aware of this fact, what many people don't realize is that e-gift cards and codes cannot be sold on the site. This is because e-gift cards are often targeted by scammers who attempt to trick sellers into sending them the code for their card after they made a purchase. Once the seller sends them the code, the scammer will use up all the balance and then file a chargeback with Paypal or their credit card issuer.


Don't Ship to Another Address


A buyer purchased your item and wants it shipped to a different address than the one listed on their eBay account. This could be for multiple reasons:


  • They are dropshipping your item and forgot to change the shipping address. The definition of dropshipping is an order fulfillment method where a business does not keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, the seller purchases inventory as needed from a third party to fulfill orders. In this example, the seller created a similar listing to what you are selling at a slightly higher price. Once someone purchased their item, that seller will buy your item and have it shipped directly to their customer.


  • They might be using a stolen credit card to buy the item. The scammer would input the billing address registered on the credit card but forgot to change the shipping address to somewhere else. Or they would not change the addresses at all to avoid raising suspicion on eBay's system but instead the scammer would ask you to change it on your end.


  • Or it could be an honest mistake; they moved and forgot to change out their old address on their eBay account. Moving can be a stressful experience, between the packing, paperwork, and logistics of the actual move, the last thing on your mind is to change the address registered on your eBay account.


Regardless of the reason, do not ship the item to a different address other than what is stated by eBay. A buyer can easily open an Item Not Received case and although the tracking info shows it was delivered to the requested address, eBay will not honor it since it is a completely different address from their system. In this case, it is best to cancel the transaction and have the buyer re-purchase the item with the correct shipping address.


Empty Box Scam


Although this scam is not too common it typically happens to smaller, high-value items like smartphones or handbags. The scammer will claim that you, as the seller, sent them an empty box. The buyer then opens an Item Not as Described (INAD) ticket where you are forced to accept the return and refund the money. The scammer keeps the item and sends you back an empty box. Unfortunately, this is the oldest scam trick in the book but is still highly effective. Here are some preventive actions that you can make to protect yourself:


  • Mention on the listing that the item will require a signature confirmation. Although eBay's signature confirmation policy only applies to items over $750 or more, it is still in your best interest to pay a little bit more for the signature confirmation. This is the most effective solution to avoid this scam. How do you know which item to pay for signature confirmation? This answer totally depends on your risk tolerance. Ask yourself this question, if I get scammed on this $200 purse, would it deeply impact my business? 


  • Get your package scanned at the post office, this will give you a receipt that shows the weight of the package which you can then use as evidence against a potential scam. If your package was supposed to be empty but still weighs three pounds, for example, this is clearly a sign of foul play on the part of the buyer.


  • One key strategy is to document any serial numbers or other concrete ways to identify the item. Scammers tend to shy away from listings that are detailed and include lots of pictures, as they are less likely to get away with their schemes.


eBay may not always have your best interests at heart, it's up to you to take control of your own situation and protect yourself from any potential scams or bad actors.


Broken Replica Scam


Unfortunately, this happens frequently to both experienced and novice sellers, typically those who sell electronics or collectibles. A buyer accuses you of sending a damaged item and immediately files for Item Not as Described case where this forces you to accept a return and refund the buyer. Unfortunately for you, the item the scammer sends back is either a replica of the one you sent or is missing a piece (for example, a rare cord for an electronic item). The scammer then sells the original item for a higher price and keeps the refund from you. Here are some preventative actions you can take:


  • When shipping items online, it is important to take the proper precautions to ensure that your items arrive safely at their final destination. This may seem like common sense, but it is surprisingly easy to accidentally damage the item during transit, leaving you vulnerable to breakage claims from the buyer. To avoid this, try to pack the item securely using strong materials, such as bubble wrap, styrofoam peanuts, or sturdy boxes. Additionally, be sure to package your item with plenty of padding in order to prevent it from shifting around during shipping.


  • Include as many pictures in the listing as possible, take photos of serial numbers, every angle of the item, and all the accessories that come with it. Again, scammers tend to target listings with not as many details or pictures, as they are more likely to get away with their Item Not as Described case.


  • This is an unpopular opinion in the reselling world: offer free returns. The benefit of offering free return shipping (as opposed to having the buyer pay), you can withhold up to 50% of the refund if the item is returned in a different condition than it was sent. This deters scammers from targeting you because they know they have a higher chance of not getting 100% of their money back.


Once you receive the item back, make sure to inspect the item thoroughly and immediately contact eBay if there are any issues. You have up to 3 days to issue a refund so make sure to not wait until the last minute to inspect the item!


Build Your Feedback


The greatest piece of advice I got from a friend who has been reselling on eBay longer than I am is this: build your eBay account to get 100 stars/feedback before you start selling. The concept behind this is that scammers typically target accounts with less than 100 stars because they assume you are new and not educated with eBay's policies and procedures. There are two ways to start building your feedback:


  • Buy all your items on eBay for an entire month or so. Instead of buying toilet paper, can goods, etc. at Amazon, Walmart, Target, or Costco, buy it on eBay instead. The price of the products may cost more on eBay however, just focus on the bigger picture which is to accumulate as much feedback as possible.


  • This tactic may not be for everyone but it is the quickest way to gain 100 feedback. Perform 100 small transactions by purchasing inexpensive phone cables.


Providing feedback on eBay is not a requirement for both sellers or buyers, and it can be easy to forget for sellers to leave you feedback after the transaction is complete. That is why it is important to shop from a big reseller (1,000+ feedback) because they most likely have their automatic feedback system turned on.  This means they will leave you feedback automatically after a successful transaction, making it easier and faster for you to accumulate stars on your account.


By having solid feedback on your account, scammers are less likely to target you because they know that eBay takes complaints and claims more seriously from established users with good-standing accounts.


You might also be interested in 10 Great Marketplaces Every Reseller Should Consider


Feedback Extortion


Scammers are always looking for ways to take advantage of unsuspecting sellers on eBay. One common tactic that scammers use is called feedback extortion. This involves purchasing an item from a seller and then demanding to be paid through private means, usually in order to avoid leaving negative or neutral feedback on their account. While eBay has rules prohibiting this type of behavior, many sellers feel pressured to comply in order to protect the integrity of their eBay account. If you ever find yourself in this situation, report this behavior immediately to eBay so they can remove the negative feedback.


eBay Copycat


You receive an email from "eBay" asking you to take one of many actions: review your security details, update your password or confirm a recent purchase. But as tempting as it may be to click on the link and log in to your account, it's important to double-check the email for any grammatical or spelling errors or the email domain name. As a precaution, you can go to eBay's website or app directly to see if there is any issue.


There are a number of different scams that operate on eBay, and the best way to avoid getting scammed is by knowing what they are. Common scams include phishing attempts, empty boxes, feedback extortion, and more. In addition to being aware of these common scams, it is also helpful to become familiar with eBay's policies and procedures. So whether you're buying, selling, or simply browsing online listings on eBay, remember that knowledge is power when it comes to avoiding scammers and protecting yourself on this popular e-commerce platform.


Check out eBays Security Center to learn more best practices on avoiding eBay scams. Want more tips on Reselling Marketplaces? Subscribe to Vendoo and never miss a thing!

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