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Recognize Common eBay Scams Against Sellers

When you see signs of any of these scams, it's time to take evasive action

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Recognize Common eBay Scams Against Sellers

eBay scams aren't particularly common, but they are out there, and you don't want to be a victim. Learn to recognize the signs.

Photo: Madartists / Dreamstime

Getting "scammed" on eBay is not nearly as common as some make it out to be, but the scams that do occur repeatedly are generally easy to recognize and describe. Here are some common scams that affect eBay sellers and what to look for in order to help you to recognize them.

  • The "do you ship to my country" scam. In some cases, when buyers ask this it's a legitimate question, but most buyers understand that if the item isn't listed on their local eBay site and/or your listing doesn't offer shipping to them, then the item isn't available to them. When this is a scam, the question is generally paired with offers of overpayment or alternate forms of payment, both of which will prove, once you have shipped the item, to be fraudulent—either fake (in the case of a draft of some kind) or based on stolen accounts/cards (in the case of an electronic payment of some kind). Basically, if you haven't already offered to ship to that country as you created your listing, don't say "yes" to anyone with the gall to ask, since the people that will do so are usually up to no good.

  • The "item arrived broken" scam. With this scam, the transaction seems fine until the buyer contacts the seller a week or more after the sale to let the seller know that the item arrived broken and/or broke during the first several days of use, usually to much surprise on the seller's part, since the item was new and/or in perfect condition and original packaging. In fact, what is going on is that the buyer has received a working item and will now attempt to return an identical broken one for a refund, with the seller eating the cost. For this reason, many sellers either take down the serial numbers of all the items they sell (and check that item serial matches box serial in the case of returns) or make non-removable marks of some kind on the item so that the originals can be recognized when returned.

  • The "I changed my mind" or "item wasn't compatible" scam. Buyer buys item, has it delivered, and then a week or two later says that they've changed their mind or that the item wasn't compatible with their equipment. Often what this means is that the buyer bought the item, used it for the intended purpose and event, and now that the event is over, is returning it for a refund. This is the modern eBay equivalent of the old "buy the prom dress, wear the prom dress to the prom, return the pristine prom dress for a refund" cheat. For this reason many sellers now specifically state in their return policies that returns are allowed for defective items only, and that only exchanges (not refunds) are offered to buyers returning items.

  • The "partial refund" scam. There is a population of buyers out there that ask for partial refunds for items as a matter of course, whether the item arrived quickly, intact, and as expected or not. This kind of buyer is simply out for what they can get—and too often, congenial, customer-oriented sellers give it to them. Rather than accepting partial refund requests, require buyers to return the item to you, and only for a complete refund upon inspection, if this is in keeping with the terms for your listings. Above-board buyers with real complaints will return the item and accept a refund or exchange. Scammy buyers will keep trying to negotiate for other terms and/or realize that they're not getting something for nothing from you as a seller and move on.

  • The "please refund...to my other account" scam. Payments that arrive in your PayPal account outside of the eBay checkout process (having been sent directly to your email address) and that ask for a refund to be sent to their other account (whether a partial refund, to rectify "overpayment," or for complete refund before shipment, perhaps with the explanation that "I paid from the wrong account") are actually using you to "launder" money. The funds that they've sent you are coming from a stolen account or stolen credit card. By "refunding" to another account, you're basically cleaning the money up. When the charges get reversed because the account was stolen, there's a good chance that you'll be left holding the bag, while the money that you sent the "other" account is free and clear for them to use.

Never seen any signs of these in your trading life? Hopefully you never will—but you're not done yet; this is only the first of three pages. Read on for the next third of the list of the most common scams encountered by eBay sellers.

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