Fraudsters are found on every online platform, eBay included. Though safeguards have been put into place to limit the damage they can cause, new scams continue to pop up in an attempt to exploit eBay users.
Being less familiar with the platform, new eBay sellers are particularly vulnerable to scams. And indeed, they are often targeted for this specific reason.
Read on to learn about four of the most common scams on eBay and how to protect yourself from becoming a victim.
This is the third part of our series about common eBay scams. Be sure to also read part 1 and part 2, to ensure you’re up-to-date regarding the most used scams on eBay. It is also important to know how to spot a scam.
Payment with a cash transfer service (e.g. Western Union)
If a buyer asks to pay using Western Union or a similar cash transfer service, it is an immediate red flag for a scam.
Western Union is a very popular payment method with fraudsters for a number of reasons. For one, money can be collected and sent to almost any country in the world. The process is very quick and also nearly impossible to trace.
In 2017, Western Union was ordered to pay half a billion dollars after the Federal Trade Commission found that the company turned a blind eye to thousands of fraudulent money transfers.
How to avoid the scam: Never accept payment by cash transfer from Western Union, Money Gram or similar services. This type of payment is not only vulnerable to scams, but not allowed under eBay’s Payment Methods Policy.
Misuse of the vehicle protection program
eBay Motors facilitates the sale of new and used vehicles as well as the purchase of auto parts via My Garage. With vehicle sales often involving large sums of money, eBay Motors has become the target of fraudsters.
Most vehicle sales on eBay are covered by the Vehicle Purchase Protection Program (VPP), which protects against certain losses associated with fraud.
A current scam involves using the VPP to dupe unsuspecting buyers and sellers into purchasing an non-existent vehicle. The fraudster will refer to the safety and security offered by the VPP to earn the trust of the buyer or seller and distract them from these red flags:
- The buyer/seller is unable to meet in person as they are abroad (deployed by military, death in the family, work out of town), are going through a divorce or are having health issues
- The price is significantly lower or higher than market value
- The buyer/seller wants to use a shipping service
- The buyer/seller would like to pay or receive funds through Western Union (see above scam)
How to avoid the scam: Do not continue with the transaction if any (or multiple) of the above red flags are present. eBay users buying or selling vehicles should also know the approximate value of the vehicle concerned – if it looks too good to be too, it probably is!
Fake emails from ‘eBay’
In a previous edition of this series, we discussed a scam in which the fraudulent buyer sends fake PayPal payment notifications to the buyer.
With the transition to managed payments in progress, it is inevitable that fraudsters will focus less on PayPal and more on the eBay version of this scam.
In this scam, the eBay user is sent an email that appears to be from eBay. There will be a link in the email that lead to a fake version of the eBay. The victim will then sign in and submit personal account information.
In an alternative version of this scam, a fraudster will attain the seller’s email address and send a fake payment notification or something else relating to a recent sale.
How to avoid the scam: Keep all communication with eBay users on eBay. Be suspicious of emails purporting to be from eBay. Sign into eBay and then check My Messages first. If the same message is not there, it is fake. A copy of important messages is always sent to My Messages. Report the fake email to eBay.
Overpaying or overbidding for an item
This very common eBay scam isn’t particularly sophisticated; it relies on the seller being lured into the false promise of extra cash and higher profits.
The scam usually starts with an unsolicited message from a buyer who is very interested in the item and willing to pay well over the listed price. A typical offer would be $1000 for a laptop worth around $500 or 600.
If the listing is in the auction format, the unscrupulous buyer may place ridiculously high bids, much higher than the average final selling price for the item.
The buyer then pays with a fraudulent check, which will soon bounce after the item has been sent.
How to avoid the scam: The easiest way to avoid this scam is to think critically when a buyer offers to pay much more than the item is worth. Is there any legitimate reason why a buyer would do this? The answer is no.
Experienced sellers, have you noticed any other notable scams increasing in frequency lately? Let us know in the comments section below.