How to Spot eBay Scams: a New Sellers Guide

Plenty of new eBay sellers come afoul of scammers while trying to make their first sales. While it is useful to be aware of specific eBay scams (and we’ve featured quite a few already), it is also helpful for new sellers to be familiar with common scam characteristics. Recognizing these can help avoid many scam situations altogether. Here are six red flags to watch out for while selling on eBay, to help avoid being scammed. 

Red flag no 1: Buyer offers more money than listed price

Why would anyone ever offer to pay more than the asking price? The probable answer: scammers who are trying to get a seller’s guard down. The offer for more money than the listed price is usually followed by another request (see no. 3 and no. 6) that can potentially result in the seller being scammed. If something sounds too good to be true (such as a buyer wanting to pay over the asking price) then it probably isn’t.

Red flag no 2: A quick sale

If you place a high-value item for sale and it is sold exceptionally quickly (say, less than twenty minutes later) keep on your toes. It may be legitimate, but you may also soon receive a message from the buyer with some unusual requests to complete the transaction (see no.3 and no. 6). There is nothing inherently shady about sellers who are quick off the mark, but it’s more than a little suspicious with high-value items such as electronics.

Red flag no 3: Request to pay outside eBay

There are many ways a scammer can try and cheat a seller out of payment for an item. Requesting to pay via Western Union, MoneyGram or any other type of wire transfer is a major red flag. Less obvious variations exist, such as requesting a seller’s PayPal email address so they can later fake a PayPal payment notification email. Always direct buyers to pay directly through eBay and be sure to double check payments within PayPal before sending items.

Red flag no 4: Broken English

As experienced eBay sellers will confirm, messages sent by scammers to sellers often include incorrect spellings, bad grammar or broken English. This is not to say, of course, that every message sent to sellers with broken English is from an unscrupulous buyer. In the same way, buyers with an excellent command of English are not always legitimate buyers. In combination with other red flags, however, broken English is an indicator that the buyer may not have honest intentions in mind.

Red flag no 5: Buyers with no history

A buyer with low positive Feedback is enough to make any seller a bit wary. A buyer with no history of any kind on eBay is a cause for concern, especially if their first purchase happens to be a high-value electronic item. It may be a legitimate new buyer but it is hard to tell with no Feedback to go on. Some sellers choose to block buyers with zero Feedback to avoid this issue.

Red flag no 6: Request to ship to a different address

On the face of it, a buyer asking to send an item to a different address is a perfectly reasonable request. After all, people forget to update addresses all the time. The problem is that unscrupulous buyers can take advantage and claim that the package did not arrive at the correct address. Sellers do not have any backup if this does happen as sending items to a different address on file is against PayPal rules. eBay sellers, therefore, lose PayPal’s seller protection on the transaction.

Spotting eBay scams: the need for constant vigilance

Being familiar with the six red flags above does not make any eBay seller immune to scams. Being aware of typical scams and their characteristics can help stop scams before they gain any traction. It is important to remember, however, that some scammers are more sophisticated than others. Recognising that buyers with no history are a red flag, it has become more common for scammers to hack into an already established eBay account and defraud unsuspecting sellers this way. This proves that sellers must remain vigilant and look beyond these obvious red flags.

Gemma is our all things eBay expert. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Canada and travels extensively. You can read about her travels at her blog Off Track Travel.

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