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Common EBay Scams – How to Identify and Avoid Them

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For many consumers, eBay is the go-to marketplace for buying and selling most items. Doing business on eBay is often straightforward and hassle-free. Unfortunately, there are many scammers on the platform who will take advantage of you. It is therefore imperative that you do not let your guard down when you are shopping on eBay or on any other online platform.

Here are the most common eBay scams to watch out for:

Seller knowingly sends the wrong item.

This is a scam that you need to watch out for if you’re buying a computer, especially a laptop. Here’ how the scam typically works: a seller advertises a laptop with a high powered processor (For example, an intel dual core i5 processor). But after you buy the computer, the seller sends you a computer with an intel Celeron processor, which is a much less powerful and a lot cheaper processor than you bought.

Many people never bother checking out the processor when they get their computer, and would never even realize they’ve been scammed until it’s far too late to do anything about. You might also receive a pirated version of Windows 10. When you buy a computer on eBay, be sure to fully check the system out to ensure you’re getting what you paid for.  

You can easily check out your computer’s processor and other specs in Windows 10 by going to Settings > System > About. Look under Device specifications. Here, you’ll find all the details of your computer’s processor, system type, RAM size and whether you have a genuine copy of Windows 10. You can also verify the size of your hard drive by clicking on Storage in the left pane.  

Buyer claims item not received.

As a business seller, you’re covered by the PayPal seller protection. However, if an order has a total cost of £450 or more, you’re required to get signature confirmation which will protect you if a buyer claims they haven’t received the item. Fraudsters know that private sellers may be unaware of this requirement.

So, what they will do is purchase items worth over £450 and then claim they never received the item. If you never purchased the signature confirmation, you won’t have any protection against those scammers.

Seller disappears after payment is made

This scam is simple. You pay for an item and never receive it. For the majority of listings, as a buyer, you’re protected by the eBay money back guarantee. But there are several items that are not covered under this policy. These include:

  • Vehicles
  • Real Estate
  • Business & websites for sale
  • Digital content,
  • Intangible goods
  • Classified ads
  • Services
  • Some business equipment categories

This means that if you send payment for any of these high-value categories to a fraudster, you could lose all of your money and have no recourse. The best way to avoid falling for this type of scam is by physically inspecting the item, paying in person and collecting the item there and then.

Hijacked account

If you have a weak or hackable password, your account could be hijacked by a fraudster. If you are a seller with several items on your account and you get hacked, the first thing a scammer will do is to change the PayPal email address on a certain number of listed items in your account. This means that every time those items are sold, the fraudster will be the one getting paid for those items.

If you sell a lot of items each month and don’t have a process for checking that you’re receiving payment for each item, the fraud could go unnoticed for months. This is because the fraudster will only change a small percentage of items to avoid suspicion. If you sell digital items and the buyer gets to download their item automatically, it might take a long time to find out that you’ve been scammed.

Sellers have lost thousands to this type of scam and have no recourse. This means you won’t get any of your money back if this happens to you. The best way to secure your account and protect it from being hacked is to use a strong password and enable two factor authentication.

Fake buyer scam

This scam is aimed at sellers, and is widespread on most online marketplaces, and you can lose the item you’re selling as well as some money if you fall for this scam. Unfortunately, you won’t get any recourse if it happens to you, so you need to ensure that it doesn’t.

It begins with a buyer showing interest in what you’re selling. When they pay for the item, you’ll notice that they will overpay by at least £50, depending on the cost of the item. They will then contact you to explain that they made a mistake and ask you refund the difference to a different PayPal or bank account. So, you send out the item and send off the overpayment.

But what you’ll often find is that the payment was made using a stolen credit card, and PayPal will eventually reverse the payment once the credit card company gets in touch with PayPal. This means the seller is out of the overpayment amount as well as the item. This is why you should cancel any transaction that includes an overpayment because it is not a mistake, it is an elaborate scam.

Phishing emails

Fraudsters send out spoofed emails that mimic eBay support emails to fool you into thinking that you’re getting an official email from eBay. As with other phishing emails, these bogus emails will contain a malicious link that looks like a legitimate eBay address.

If you click the link, it will take you to a spoofed webpage that mimics the eBay official website where you’ll be prompted to sign in and submit personal and financial information. Alternately, you may be taken to an infected website that downloads malware to your device. If you receive a phishing email, forward the message as an attachment to eBay at spoof@ebay.co.uk and delete the message from your device. 

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