ebay scams

How to Avoid eBay Scams in 2024

Last update: April 7, 2023

To avoid scams as an eBay buyer, ask questions to double-check your purchase and never shop in areas not covered by the money-back guarantee. As a seller, never send the item until you’ve received money, and always keep records of every transaction.

eBay is a great place to find bargains, but it’s also a great place for scammers to find victims. Scams are part of online life; you have to know the warning signs if you’re going to catch the most common eBay scams. 

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People will try their best to trick you into buying something that you don’t want or sending money for nothing in return. Keep reading to equip yourself with the knowledge to stay safe. Be sure to read the internet scam statistics guide to learn more about online shopping scams.

eBay Scams as a Buyer

eBay buyers can run into a scam regularly if they don’t keep an eye out for the warning signs. Here are some of the most common and major eBay scams you might encounter as a buyer on the platform. 

Taking Your Money Without Shipping the Item

The great thing about eBay is that it gives buyers the advantage. The company’s money-back guarantee means that you can buy with confidence: If the item you buy isn’t as described, you get your money refunded back to your bank account.

But there are a few products you might buy on eBay that aren’t covered by the guarantee, including vehicles, businesses and real estate (link to the full list below). In these cases, sellers can take your money and run.

eBay vehicle scams run on this fact. The cost of cars, boats and motorcycles is not covered by the guarantee, so scammers can sell victims nonexistent vehicles and laugh all the way to the bank.

When buying these types of products, take a few extra precautions to protect yourself. Before buying, look up the seller online to see whether they have had previous problems with eBay buyers. If they have, it doesn’t necessarily confirm they are a scammer, but it may be safer not to do business with them. 

For extra precaution (and good sense), you should always verify the product that’s being listed by seeing it for yourself. Even if the seller is legit, there can be differences in quality from what’s being shown online versus the real product. 

Shipping Items With the Wrong Name

Imagine yourself as a buyer. You received the item you ordered, and it’s been delivered to your address, but with the incorrect name. You go, “I’ll just take it back to the post office and give it to them. I’ll contact the seller and tell them it was misdelivered.”

The scammers anticipate your action and already have a plan in place to counter your move. They know that the eBay money-back guarantee won’t apply here, since you technically “refused to accept” the product. In this case, sellers aren’t obligated to refund your money.

eBay’s money-back guarantee (MBG) system can check the tracking numbers of delivered items, but doesn’t verify the address’s accuracy. Hence, eBay might end up closing the dispute in favor of the seller. 

Sellers take advantage of this often and end up repeating the whole eBay scam over again with other customers. Friend, at this point, reality should be hitting: You’ve been taken advantage of. 

Selling an Empty Box

One of my friends has a saying: “You get what you pay for. If you pay nothing, you get nothing.” Scammers selling an empty box see things the same way. 

In this eBay scam, the seller will post a listing claiming that the box has a popular item associated with it, such as a rare classic video game or celebrity-autographed merchandise. But it will be phrased in an intentionally misleading way, making your brain leap to conclusions that the item is inside the box.

You get the box, and lo and behold, you find only cardboard and packing peanuts — or sometimes just an image of the item. You’ll naturally have no other choice but to report an “item not as described” claim against the seller through your eBay account, but that’s not enough. 

Sellers take advantage of the loophole here as they are technically still selling exactly what they promised you — a box — making it harder for you to prove your case.

Before engaging in any business transaction, ask for more proof of the final item. Read every eBay listing thoroughly before you bid or buy.

Take some inspiration from the movie Se7en and ask the seller before the purchase: “What’s in the box?”

Selling Knock-Off Goods

eBay has attracted a lot of scammers who sell fake or cheap versions of branded products.

Pro-tip: If you want something expensive, don’t buy it secondhand. Be very wary of a purchase price that seems too good to be true. That “great bargain” may be a scammer trying to make a sale under the guise of a branded product.

If you want to buy a branded item from a non-trusted eBay seller, check the brand of the product. If it is a cheap imitation, it can be easy to see in some cases if their quality is below standard. Sometimes, the logo will be missing or not as clear as usual.

To avoid this happening, you can take the following precautions:

Be suspicious of any seller with a five-star rating that’s only existed for a few days. Also, avoid buying anything from eBay’s list of prohibited goods. They’re banned for a reason. 

Requesting Payment Outside eBay

Many scammers will offer popular items for a great price if you pay them through another channel. They might say they accept checks, cash, credit card or Bitcoin instead of PayPal. After paying through their link, you never see the seller again. 

If you try reporting this, the odds won’t be in your favor either. eBay’s money-back guarantee only protects you if you pay within their platform.

eBay buyer scams where payment occurs on another site rarely end with you getting your money back. Avoid the temptation to click on different payment links and be suspicious of any sale that specifically requests that. 

eBay Scams as a Seller

Buyers aren’t the only ones encountering scams on eBay. Sellers can send items in good faith, only to get the short end of the stick. Here are some common eBay seller scams to know.

Offering Too Much Money

The scam is pretty simple. Someone who outwardly might seem like a legitimate eBay buyer offers you a ridiculously high price for something you’re selling, so you send the merchandise over.

A day or two later, a check arrives in the mail. It looks real, and you cash it…or try to. The check bounces, you don’t get a penny of payment for the item you just sold and the scammer’s already got your item in their pocket.

Asking to Pay Outside eBay

In this scam, the buyer asks to pay outside eBay, then goes to eBay and disputes the transaction as illegitimate. Usually, they claim that the auction doesn’t exist or never took place, but sometimes they say they were defrauded by a fake seller.

Remember, if the buyer refuses to use eBay’s system, do not sell to them. Don’t even be tempted by the guarantee of Paypal seller protection. 

Phony Fraud Charges

Some unscrupulous buyers make fake fraud charges against eBay sellers or obtain free merchandise. They contact eBay and say they were a victim of one of the above scams — they received an empty box, the item never arrived or was a knock-off, etc.

Looking at your buyer’s feedback does not necessarily tell you whether or not they will file a phony fraud claim against you. Document everything you think is important and keep it handy. Should the need arise, you can bring up a buyer filing false reports of policy violations as per eBay’s guidelines on the issue.

Six Tips on How to Avoid eBay Scams

Shopping scams are on the rise, and it’s your responsibility to know how to protect yourself. Make sure you keep these pointers in mind when you head over to eBay.

1. Double-Check Everything Before Buying

Ask the seller questions about the item and its condition before making a purchase. A seller who is serious about selling their item will answer all your questions honestly, providing details about the condition of the product and the shipping fees involved.

2. Don’t Shop in Categories Not Covered by The Money-Back Guarantee

Don’t be afraid to buy and sell on eBay, but if you use it for valuables, don’t forget that the guarantee won’t protect you against a determined scammer.

The guarantee excludes the following items:

So if you’re in the market for any of the above, it’s best to keep an eye out instead of throwing caution to the eWinds.

3. Open Any Package With the Correct Address

If the address is right, and you’re expecting a package, it’s almost certainly correct. But what if it isn’t? Here’s how you can tackle the wrong-address scam I mentioned earlier. 

There are two options. Firstly, mark the item as “not as described.” According to eBay’s policies, the seller may be obligated to refund you for the product if you do this. 

Secondly, if eBay sides with the seller, you can file an appeal to them. Head on over to your local post office and make sure you can prove you were the recipient, such as by providing the eBay order details with the tracking number displayed. 

The post office can write a note confirming that the shipping label doesn’t match your given address. You can use this information in your appeal to eBay.

It’s also important to check the name and address where the package was sent. Is it not the seller you ordered from?

If you are suspicious about any package or envelope, call or email the seller and ask what should be done with your order if it hasn’t arrived by a certain date.

4. Only Send or Receive Money Through eBay Itself

eBay transactions are only safe when you handle them through the eBay platform. If a seller refuses to sell to you because you won’t pay outside eBay, walk away from the deal.

The same goes for sellers interacting with buyers. Always stick to eBay transactions to protect yourself from being scammed.

5. Don’t Ship the Item Until You Have the Money

Sellers should avoid shipping any item until they receive money from the buyer. This helps avoid the overpayment scam and grants the seller enough time to check the buyer isn’t paying via bogus means.

It’s also a good idea to always ship with tracking and require a signature so that you can provide proof of delivery.

6. Always Maintain a Paper Trail

If you’re selling on eBay, maintain a paper trail for your transactions. This can help if you want to dispute a chargeback or fraud claim. The more documentation you collect, the less likely it is that you’ll be held responsible for the actions of a dishonest buyer.

This includes providing tracking information for shipping purposes, photographing the items before dispatching them, recording any specific details and information to distinguish the items, and keeping copies of all communication with the buyer.

If you’re buying on eBay, documenting the transaction can also help prove your case against a dishonest seller.

Conclusion: eBay Scam

Being scammed is a bummer. 

I’ve been scammed before on the eBay website. Beyond being an unpleasant experience, it’s also a headache to follow up on. The best way to protect yourself when buying or using auction services is to build your awareness.

Make sure to check out our other common internet scam guides:

Over to you — have you been scammed on eBay before? If yes, how did you handle the issue? What are common eBay scams you’ve heard of? Let me know in the comments! 

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