5 eBay Scams To Be Aware Of

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Ebay Scams Intro   5 eBay Scams To Be Aware OfBeing scammed sucks, especially on eBay. You invest all of that time into selling a particular product or you spend a lot of time researching the perfect item, complete the transaction, and then… nothing. The buyer never pays up. The seller never ships your item. Some Ebay scams are obvious, but others are subtle and manipulative. Do you know when you’re being scammed?

The nature of a scam is seated in deception. People who are being deceived don’t know they’re being deceived – after all, that’s the definition of the word. So the only way to protect yourself from being scammed is to catch the deception before it catches you. This can be tough on eBay because you don’t have face-to-face interactions.

But there’s still hope. Read up on the following 5 scams that are common on eBay. Learn them, memorize them, and always keep an eye out for them. Once you can spot these from a mile away, you’ll never fall prey to them again.

The Overpaying Buyer

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The Scam: When you’re selling an item, the buyer actually offers to pay you more money than the agreed price. At the time of transaction, they’ll send a cashier’s check (a real one) that has no monetary value tied to it. Or they’ll send a faked Paypal email that requires you to show a “shipping/tracking number” before the funds are transferred. By the time you’ve sent the item, it’s too late.

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How It Gets You: Honestly, greed. You put up your old iPhone 4S on Ebay for $200 but a buyer says he wants to give you $350 for it. That promise of extra money is extremely enticing, which automatically shuts off the reasoning centers of the brain in favor of “I’m going to be rich!”

How to Avoid It: Never, never, never, ever send out any items until you have the cold hard cash in your hands. Once you lose possession of the item, you no longer have any leverage with the buyer. Always wait until payments are cleared first.

The Let’s-Finish-This-Elsewhere

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The Scam: A potential buyer will contact you and offer to make an immediate payment if you settle the transaction outside of eBay. The transaction will go smoothly, until they contact you afterwards and complain of a defective product / false advertisement / dishonest eBay listing. They’ll blackmail you into paying them or else they’ll contact eBay and get you banned.

How It Gets You: The promise of guaranteed money, as opposed to potential money from an auction, can sweep you off your guard. Plus, these people are going out of their way to pay real money and make this transaction happen. They couldn’t possibly be con artists, right? Wrong.

How to Avoid It: The reason scammers want to settle outside of eBay is because eBay won’t help you if you do that. eBay is only responsible for transactions that occur entirely through their system. Therefore, if you want eBay’s protection, never agree to settle elsewhere.

The Bait-and-Switch Refund

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The Scam: In this Ebay scam, everything goes according to plan. You put up an item for sale, a buyer bids on it (or Buys It Now if you allowed it), you receive payment, you send the item, done! However, before he bought your item, he also bought a broken version of the same exact item. They use this to blackmail you into giving them a full refund or else they’ll report you to eBay.

How It Gets You: When something like this happens, it’s easy to feel helpless. You feel like they outsmarted you, you have no evidence that your item was functional, you can’t prove that they’re lying. In order to mitigate your losses, you agree to the full refund and move on while the scammer just got a free item from you.

How to Avoid It: Sadly, this scam is a little harder to avoid. You have two options. One, you can require your buyers to purchase shipping insurance to protect yourself against this kind of thing. Two, you can state on your eBay listings that there are NO REFUNDS on your items.

The Vanishing Cash

ebay scam 4   5 eBay Scams To Be Aware Of

The Scam: The scammer sets up an eBay listing that looks entirely legitimate. The deal is finalized and you send in your payment… and receive nothing. They basically run away with your money. This scam occurs most often with vehicle sales and real estate sales on eBay.

How It Gets You: Normally, this sort of scam is prevented by eBay’s Buyer Protection Policy. In that case, if the seller doesn’t ship their listed item, eBay helps to resolve the dispute. However, items in the Vehicle and Real Estate sections of eBay are excluded from the Buyer Protection Policy.

How to Avoid It: The best preventative measure is to avoid buying vehicles and real estate on eBay. Go through more reputable and more secure channels for those kind of transactions.

The eBay Phishing Email

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The Scam: Scammers send you emails disguised as official eBay notices. The email will contain a link to eBay and will often ask you to click on the link to log into your account, secure your passwords, review payment details, or whatever else. What they really want is for you to click that link, which takes you to an imitation eBay website where you enter your login details. Next thing you know, they have your login info and steal your eBay account.

How It Gets You: Because eBay emails are automated, it’s easy to deconstruct them and replicate them. Counterfeit eBay notices are therefore easy to make and send out en masse. The level of detail is usually so high that only a trained eye can spot a fake email from the real deal.

How to Avoid It: Never, ever click on links in emails, whether they claim to come from a trusted source or not. This applies to services other than eBay, too. Never, ever click email links! Always type the address into your browser and log in manually.


Even if you don’t use eBay, knowing about these scam tactics can help protect you against scammers in other areas of life. However, if you do use eBay, then you should be aware of these Ebay scams and always keep your eyes peeled for shady people. Being scammed is never fun so be diligent and stay safe.

Image Credits: Burglar Via Shutterstock, Broken Tablet Via Shutterstock, Cash Bags Via Shutterstock, Scam Sign Via Shutterstock

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42 Comments - Write a Comment


Sashritha Peiris

Although I do not use ebay thanks for the tip. Especially the last one.


druv vb

Its good to know that these scams exist. And am sure everybody will read this article and will take note. But these scammers are really good at thier job that most people end up being trapped.
As a general rule for me, I always contact the seller or client to ask them lots of details about the items listed. And to always check for feedback about them.
The only rule is to log on Ebay manually and double check your PayPal manually.
If something is wrong, cancel that credit card.

Joel Lee

Asking a lot of questions can be a lot of work if you buy a lot of stuff but it’s a good habit to get into. It’s not a guarantee that you won’t be scammed but it does help to establish a rapport with the seller and you can pick up clues as to whether or not they’re trying to scam you. Nice!


Sean Ang

This is informative. Have to really be aware of some of these tactics….



Never knew that such varied scams happens, last one is very common and frequent happening .


Andy Liu

I found that the best method for shopping on ebay is to buy from reputable sellers with loads of stars!



I’ve had more trouble with Craigslist and the fake pay-pal is the most common. Don’t ship anything on Craigslist.


Venkateswara Swamy Swarna

I buy on the Indian site of eBay (www.ebay.in) and did not face any problems so far as a buyer as far as non-receipt of items. I did face some problem with a seller when the emergency lamp that he sent me became defective in a few days. After complaints, he did send me a replacement.

I bought another item, not very expensive where the seller’s description was found to be at variance when the product (some software loaded on a usb drive) came. I did complain to him but did not pursue it further considering the rather small amount involved.

I am not a seller anyway.

I did not face any issues with clicking on the links from the genuine emails that I get from eBay.


Noy Sobu

Everyone who wants to transact on Ebay should read this first. Very informative.


Marc Couture

I often buy/sell on eBay, and the worse thing is when someone buys your item and then tries to wiggle out of paying, or tries to have you ship your item to some far away land, etc. Very annoying.




Daniel Dorilas

Thanks a lot for this great information, i would like to read a post about when ask you to sell item for them on ebay.


Daniel Dorilas @iJailbreakphone.com


Florin Ardelian

The “Vanishing Cash” always happens when they ask for payment in advance, but sometimes if they can’t get you to pay all the amount they’ll be happy even with a few hundred bucks. It’s usually done by asking for cash using Western Union, MoneyGram or similar services.

In the “Over Paying Buyer” you also said that the seller shouldn’t ship the item until he sees the money. I’m not an expert, but I know there’s a service called COD (“Cash On Delivery”) so if you agree with the buy that he should pay cash, I don’t see why this isn’t a viable option (**please correct me if I’m wrong!**)

Joel Lee

I’m not entirely familiar with the Cash On Delivery service so I can’t endorse it, though I can’t exactly condemn it either. However, I think eBay’s terms of service require all buyers and sellers to make their transactions through the site ONLY. Does eBay offer a COD option? If not, I would avoid it.


I think you took the comment “cash in hand” a little too literally.


Chris Flinn

The best way to avoid the bait and switch is to get the buyer to acknowledge you are sending them a working device but unless they purchase insurance you are not responsible for shipping damage. Then DO NOT seal the box prior to dropping it off. Have the people at the shipping office sign a notice of working order and drop it in the box.

I sold a phone on ebay a few years back and did this. Most of the time it the shipping companies have no problem saying yes we seen it working when he dropped it off to us as long as they know they will not be responsible if no insurance is purchased.

Joel Lee

Most people will just ignore your advice because it adds more work, but I think it’s good. Thanks for sharing!


saw it working*


Gideon Pioneer

In regards to bait and switch: the no refunds comment in your listing is useless. Buyers are covered by eBay’s Buyer Protection Policy regardless of what you put in the listing, and saying no refunds does not weasel a seller out of any responsibility. Otherwise you could do the opposite, send out a ton of broken items out and get money.

eBay and PayPal are very buyer-friendly to the point where I’m afraid to list things and always try to sell locally through Craigslist first.

For example, I’m very OCD with electronics and need them to be in perfect condition. Often times when I used to still play video games in the past I would go on eBay to buy PS2 games or whatever and would send the buyer a message asking “is the box and CD absolutely scratch proof and in brand new condition? I’m a collector and need it to be 100% like new”. They would most often times say yes, and I’d buy. Then the item would arrive and the box would have poorly peeled off stickers, and a scratched up CD. I’d be pretty upset and contact eBay (after sellers always telling me to ship it back to him on my own expense…) and state that I want a refund and it’s ridiculous that the seller expects me to pay to ship it back to him due to his lies. And eBay would promptly take the money away from the seller and refund me the money without me needing to ship the item back or provide any sort of proof.

This happened quite a few times with video games and electronics for me in the past and I just avoid eBay now as a seller as much as possible out of fear somebody will do the same to me with something expensive

Shane Fromaggio

“the box would have poorly peeled off stickers.”

“And eBay would promptly take the money away from the seller and refund me the money without me needing to ship the item back or provide any sort of proof.”

So, basically, you are saying you are/were one of the scammers the article is referring to…


Sounds more like a scam to get free games and rip off the seller.


Scott Macmillan

I don’t use Ebay much but I really appreciate the info.


David Maxwell

There are more interesting scams going, which eBay refused to tell me how it is done. We purchased an item for $800 from a perfectly reputable individual. We then received an email, ostensibly from the seller, asking us to send payment by Western Union rather than Paypal. We didn’t. But my question is how the scammers got ahold of the record of the transaction to permit their creating scam emails.

Joel Lee

Any time a buyer or seller wants to make a transaction outside of eBay using other methods, that should be an immediate red flag. You were correct in not sending any money. I’m not sure how that particular scam would work, but you surely dodged a bullet there.


Krist Bussart

on the The Bait-and-Switch Refund scam, another way to beat this scam and get law enforcement involved is to take a picture of the device and one of any serial number or other identification number (such as cell phone IMEI number.) Then if the buyer tries this scam ask them to confirm the number before replacement/refund. If it does not match call law enforcement, it is now fraud and (at least in the states if across state lines) a federal offense.

Joel Lee

Ha, good idea. That’ll catch them with their pants down! I love it. :D



Most of these ar SO obvious that they are easy to not get caught in.

Anyone getting caught in them is a moron and has set themselves up for the scam.

The “switch” one and the plain “no item” one are the two exceptions – it’s almost impossible not to get slapped with them and no amount of self-control and common sense will prevent them.

The others – the “overpay”, the “elsewhere”, and the “email” scams are just the greedy seller being an arse and catching themselves in the scam, hence they are morons!


Dee Wheat

I have had only one problem on Ebay, and that was a seller who did not ship the item. That, however, happened years ago and I think Ebay has made many, many changes since then because they have realized that their buyers are their true lifeblood. Without buyers, a seller will take their goods, and seller fees, elsewhere. I do know they’re much more responsive to issues now than they were in their early days, which is nice.

Joel Lee

Yeah, I do believe that eBay is more buyer-friendly than they were years ago. You are absolutely correct: without buyers, sellers will disappear, too. It’s in eBay’s best interest to be as helpful to buyers as possible, so hopefully these scams will disappear in the future.

Dee Wheat

Sadly, as soon as they do someone will think up another one! The irony is that if these folks spent as much time and energy on a job as they do on their scams, they wouldn’t need to scam people!


Sara Camarillo

As a new seller I find this list daunting and helpful. I’ll definitely keep my eyes out for scammers.


Keith Swartz

eBay buyers BEWARE!


Philip Cohen

And the ugly reality for consumers dealing with the clunky, unscrupulous eBay/PayPal complex …
“Shill Bidding Fraud on eBay: Case Study #5″ … http://bit.ly/11F2eas


harley bellwood

I haven’t used eBay a lot but I still get nervous when I do use it. Any shopping on line scares me.


Ryan G.

Another possible scam that I’m currently trying to deal with: item pre-sales. Ebay will allow listing of pre-sale items, say: a new game console that comes out next month, a designer dress that won’t be released for 5 weeks. I used to like to use eBay to lock in prices for some things that I expect will get hyped after it hits the market.

The problem is that the buyer protection only extends 45 days from the date of PAYMENT, not SHIPMENT. That means that once those 45 days have passed, the seller can just walk away with your money and give you the finger. This isn’t just academic: I had eBay turn down a claim against a fraudulent seller where everything in the transaction was perfect: communications through eBay, payment through PayPal, listing was shown as protected, etc…

I guess the only way to protect yourself from that is to either avoid pre-sale auctions altogether or to file prophylactic buyer protection claims in advance of the shipping date and keep it open until the item actually ships. But wow, I wish eBay had made this clear before I lost a lot of money on this.


TJ Clayton

How about when EBay/PayPal scams the purchaser? I’ve had a PayPal account linked to one of my credit cards since 2005 and now I can’t use it anymore cause I’ve hit a “sending limit”. Mind you I’ve spent over $4000 with no problems what so ever and have a100% positive feedback rating on EBay. The only option given me by PayPal is to link MY personal bank account number to PayPal or to apply for THEIR credit card – NOW WHO IS BEING SCAMMED?



Hi Everyone,

I am selling on ebay, and Mr. Lee is 100% right about fraud and theft involved on ebay.

Tip: The best way to find out about fake ebay emails is;
1. open the email (but don’t click the links in it)
2. Click Reply (as we reply common emails to friends or families)
3. check if the sender’s email is 100% from ebay (ebay@ebay.co.uk OR ebay@ebay.com)
4. carefully check the spelling of email, migt be something different (ebye@ebye.co.uk or something like that)
5. Never ever send emails to buyers from your yahoo/gmail/hotmail etc..
6. communicate with your byers/sellers through ebay messaging or Resolution center.

Best of Luck

Joel Lee

Nice advice, Nisar! Communicating through Ebay ONLY is very important. Ebay won’t help you at all if you perform any transactions or communications outside of their system (since only Ebay messages are tracked on their system).



Keep in mind!
ebay gives buyers the highest priority, making a very tiny mistake will put the seller in a big trouble



You might avoid the swich scam by marking high value items with a UV pen before you send them. Make it clear the item us marked with one in the decription and that you will prosecute scamers.

Also report scams if you have been a victim to the police. There is a special UK site just for reporting fraud: http://actionfraud.org.uk/

I was a victim of fraud where I sold a high vaule item through ebay, sent it off no problems recived payment; then the buyer informed her credit card company that her card was used without her autherisation. Paypal took back my money and even though I proved the item had been delivered to the address, I lost my ÂŁ200 and teh xbox. I have reported this to the police but I hold out little hope of getting my money back.



has anyone heard of 3747electronic.com



Be careful with craiglist car sellers. There is a scam going on with a seller who advertising cars bellow market values and then they say they do payment with ebay. They give you a sad story why they are selling the car. They tell you to pay with green dot cards and they will ship you the car free of charge. They tell you that you have 10 days to return the car back to the seller free of charge. If you don’t like the car they will refund the money. The problem is you never get the car. You never talk to the seller, its all done by email. Don’t fall for this scam.

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