Thousands of eBay transactions happen successfully every week, but there are a minority of scammers out there looking to take advantage of sellers. New eBay sellers are, of course, more vulnerable to being tricked with less experience and knowledge of the most common scam scenarios. An unfortunately necessary sequel to the first part last year, here is another set of scams to be aware of when selling on eBay. Be sure to read part 1!
Payment by check
There are only a few eBay categories that allow payment by check. The reason why checks are restricted is simple enough; they are fairly easy to counterfeit. Though a check may initially be accepted by a bank, it can actually take weeks to finally clear despite the funds being released. Before this, it could bounce or be reversed due to fraud. If a buyer asks to send a check for an item not in an category where checks are allowed, the seller is taking a big risk by accepting it as they have no transaction protection and also risk being suspended.
How to avoid the scam: The easiest way to avoid this scam is to specify that you do not accept check as a payment method when listing the item. If you are going to allow payment by check, advise the buyer that it will take a number of weeks for the check to clear and so they would have to wait a long time for their item to be sent out. If the buyer is legitimate, they will likely offer a different type of payment at this stage. A scammer is unlikely to be heard from again if questioned.
Fake item returned
eBay’s Money Back Guarantee continues to be manipulated by scammers in a number of new ways. One scam that is especially difficult for sellers to prove fault involves the buyer returning an item claimed to be “significantly not as described” as per the MBG. An item is indeed sent back, but not the real one. The box is empty, full of rocks or the buyer has purchased a low value item online (e.g. fragrances) to send direct instead. The buyer uploads the tracking number to eBay in order to prove they sent “the item” back.
How to avoid the scam: Frustratingly, this one is hard to completely stay away from. First, always be aware of unsolicited items in the mail. Second, if something suspicious does arrive, keep the item(s), all packaging and even take photos. The latter is especially helpful as potential evidence to connect the tracking number from the company to the tracking number provided to eBay.
Empty box “delivered”
It sounds like the worst case scenario of any eBay transaction. The buyer receives the item but the box or package is completely empty. Now, maybe the item was really stolen in transit, but it also could be an unscrupulous buyer trying to get a refund alongside their new item. Either way, the best thing to do is a file a police report and then a mail fraud case. Ask the buyer to do the same. eBay may still ask for the buyer’s money to be refunded.
How to avoid the scam: Making sure to get appropriate insurance on each eBay package is essential for this exact scenario and keep all postage receipts. Without insurance, a seller will have no opportunity to recuperate any funds from the mail service if stolen or damaged.
Unauthorized charge claim
What seemed like the perfect transaction can turn sour even when you least expect it. Even if the tracked shipment seems to arrive at its intended destination with no issues, there still may be problems coming. A buyer can claim unauthorized charges via PayPal up to 120 days after their original purchase on the basis of the item being significantly not as described or not being delivered at all. Although there is an evaluation period where a seller can prove that the item sent was appropriately described and/or delivered (with tracking info, photos etc), the money is removed from the seller and put on hold until the situation is resolved.
How to avoid the scam: Always use tracked shipping with signature confirmation. This is the best protection against a buyer claiming that they did not receive the item. The mail service can usually provide a copy of the signature on arrival as evidence. Always document as much information about the item before sending and be sure to pack it properly to prevent damage.
Have you personally been a victim of an eBay scam? Have you heard or experienced any other scams that we should know about?