eBay is the flea market of the web. It’s an amazing site full of potential treasure, whether you’re searching for a hard-to-find video game or Justin Timberlake’s half-eaten French toast.
Unfortunately, it is also full of scammers looking to make a quick buck. Though eBay has strong buyer protections in place, you need to be wary as you navigate this online bazaar.
Being forewarned is forearmed. Know which eBay scams to look out for and you can better protect yourself against malicious elements that want to make a living off your dime.
eBay Seller Scams to Avoid
Stay alert for any of the following seller scams on eBay.
Incorrect Name on Shipping Label
Most people throw away any mail they received that is not addressed to them. Most people won’t open it, especially if it is a package. Instead, they mark it as wrongly delivered. Scammers take advantage of this and send a package with the correct address, but the wrong name on the label. Because most people return the package, the scammer can resell it.
If an eBay package is returned or refused, the seller is able to keep the money and the product–only to turn around and sell it again to someone else. Once a transaction is finalized like this, the buyer can’t dispute it, and therefore has no recourse to get their money back.
Watch Out for Empty Boxes
It seems that every year, there’s a particular item that’s in high-demand. Years ago, it was the Furby. A few Christmases back, it was the Pie Face Board Game. The “empty box” scam is when a seller places an item for sale that’s in high demand. Since so many people want it, most will buy it right away without reading the description.
The item will be listed at or above market value, only for the buyer to find out the box is simply that: an empty box. Unfortunately, if the description clearly stated the product was nothing more than a box, there is nothing the buyer can do. Make sure to thoroughly read the description before you buy, no matter how much you may want something.
Beware of “Untested” Items
It’s a common scam that sellers will post a valuable item for sale at retail price, but list it as “untested.” In most circumstances, it’s simple enough to test a product before you sell it. An item listed as “untested” means the seller is, at the very least, too lazy to put in the effort.
On the other hand, there are legitimate instances where an untested product may be a quality find. The problem is that it’s hard to tell for sure. When you encounter this, look at the seller’s profile. If they have a low feedback score, steer clear. You should also look at their sales history.
Many scammers buy and sell products to themselves through secondary accounts to keep their feedback percentages high enough to trick buyers into thinking they’re legitimate. In cases like this, there will likely be a high number of small purchases and sales.
eBay Buyer Scams to Avoid
Be aware of any of the following buyer scams on eBay.
Buyer Claims You Only Sent an Empty Box
Unlike the seller scam that involves empty boxes, this one you can fight back against. Make sure to take photographic evidence (with metadata enabled on your camera) to document the entire packing and shipping process, each and every time.
The way this scam works is that the buyer will accuse you of fraud and claim you only sent an empty box. You can contact eBay and appeal the dispute, but if you do not have absolutely every step of the process documented, eBay will rule in the buyer’s favor. eBay is a pro-buyer company, and this scam takes advantage of that fact.
Buyer Claims They Never Received the Item
Due to eBay’s purchase protection policies, it’s incredibly easy for someone to claim they never received the package and force you to issue a refund. However, you can request a signature upon delivery. This is actually required for any purchase over $750, but many sellers are not aware of this fact.
Make sure to track every shipment all the way up to delivery and keep documentation showing when it arrives. If you’re shipping something worth more than $750 like a computer or gaming console, make sure to require a signature upon delivery. If the person signs for the package, then they can’t claim it wasn’t delivered.
Buyer Refunds Package with a Broken Item
This scam is all too common. Someone will purchase an item like an iPhone and then claim it was broken upon delivery. They’ll ship it back with a broken iPhone inside, but it won’t be the one you sent–it will be a phone they had lying around for this exact purpose. They keep the phone and get their money back.
The best way to avoid this scam is to document everything you can about the item you’re selling. Look for specific serial numbers, IME numbers, and even markings on the item itself or the box. Take pictures. Have all of this information ready in case you need to dispute a refund with eBay. While it isn’t a guarantee, it gives you a better chance to fight the scammer.