(Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado)
eBay can be a great place to buy and sell items online. However, as with other money-making opportunities, there are unscrupulous people that will use the site to take advantage of consumers. It’s important to know what to watch out for. Here is a list of unethical tactics mentioned on eBay’s website:
“Shill Bidding”: This is when a seller has multiple accounts or a group of friends who deceitfully make higher and higher bids to increase the seller’s overall profit margin.
“Bid Shielding”: In this scenario, the buyer with the multiple accounts or group of friend bidders will keep upping their bids but then retract them. This process is used to scare off other bidders. Then, the bidder with the lowest bid gets the item for bottom-dollar price.
“Switch and Return”: A buyer will purchase an item from you and return it. The catch – the item they return is not what you sold them; it’s a fake.
“Fakes and Reproductions”: Sellers may provide fraudulent certificates of authenticity on collectors’ items. This may be done on rare items billed as being in “mint condition.” Watch out for wording such as “to my knowledge” or “I think.” Be especially aware of counterfeit trading cards.
There are some precautions consumers can take to predict and prevent internet crime.
· Know who you are dealing with! Find out a seller’s information. Do this by placing a low bid on an item and go to http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQtZvbQQsofindtypeZ9. Enter in “the seller’s name and item number”. eBay will send you the contact information. Then, call this person. Look up the phone number online at www.free411.com and verify their address if provided. If the phone number does not work, that is a red flag.
· C.O.D. and escrow.com are ideal payment methods, although they are somewhat expensive. PayPal is also acceptable, although unless specifically stated, it does not provide you with $2000 coverage protection. If PayPal is used, it’s recommended that you use a credit card. Credit card companies will refund your money if the seller fails to provide the merchandise. Avoid money transfers. Typically, a scammer uses money transfers to hide their identity, so law enforcement cannot track them down, especially if they reside in a foreign country, where American laws will not protect you. Checks are also not a secure method of payment.
· Be wary of fake eBay and PayPal sites. If a link is listed, place your cursor over it and look at the URL on the bottom. If the two do not match up, there is a problem. Also, if there is no “s” in the “https:” web address, the link is not a secure site. DO NOT add your personal information here. This is how scammers get a hold of your eBay ID and password, credit card, and other personal information.
· If a person only wants to deal with you through e-mail, that is a red flag. It is likely the account is stolen, especially if they are asking for payment via money transfer. Money transfers have to be requested via e-mail because eBay will not publish these types of requests on their site.
· Other red flags eBay tells you to watch out for are auctions which hide the bidders, sloppy English, the product is in a different location from the seller, the eBay “buy-it-now” button is missing, a product is in the wrong category.
· Keep your password and account secure. Ignore pop-ups that may request personal information. Make sure your computer is protected by updated anti-virus and firewall software. Set your security options in your web browser to alert you when a website is unsafe. Always type out URL addresses provided by eBay and PayPal to ensure that you do not click on malware. Never send your personal information via email. E-mail is not secure. Be careful about opening attachments, which may also contain malware.
· Be familiar with the product you are buying to ensure you don’t purchase imitations. Consult with the experts. Observe whether the picture looks like it was personally taken or copied from the Internet.
· Be leery of quick-sell auctions. Opportunists will always pressure you into buying but won’t always deliver.
· Another tip: pay the extra money to the post office to get a tracking number. A postal receipt means nothing without a tracking number, and without this the post office cannot help you locate your purchased item.
If you educate yourself and are aware of and avoid potential scams that are out there, you can have a very positive experience on eBay.
If you believe you have been the victim of fraud, you file a report by going to http://pages.ebay.com/securitycenter/reportproblem.html.