5 eBay Scams To Be Aware Of

Ads by Google

ebay scamsBeing 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

ebay scams

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.

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!”

Ads by Google

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

avoiding ebay scams

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

avoiding ebay scams

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

avoiding ebay scams

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

ebay scams

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

Join live MakeUseOf Groups on Grouvi App Join live Groups on Grouvi
Awesome Websites
Awesome Websites
424 Members
Best Anonymity Tools
Best Anonymity Tools
298 Members
Deep Web Communities
Deep Web Communities
259 Members
Tips for Privacy Obsessed
Tips for Privacy Obsessed
159 Members
Online Security Tips
Online Security Tips
150 Members
Best Music Services
Best Music Services
116 Members
Parental Control Tools
Parental Control Tools
51 Members
Comments (93)
  • Jonathan Anthony

    To avoid the bait and switch scam, could you take a picture of your sold item before you ship it out? Or would that not help?

    • Lloydee Banks

      Or note down any serial numbers before you send. That’s what I do to make sure I get the same unit back

    • Wing Leong Au-Yeung

      But can’t they just say “The seller didn’t send the item with that serial number.”

    • Steve Joseph

      Not if the serial number is recorded by a third party.

      1. Never EVER remove a serial number or any details specific to a device from a place like Apple ID. This is the very reason why I have not removed a single device from mine, even devices that were sold years ago. They can send me back the switched out device with the different serial number and unknowingly they would have just provided the first piece of evidence my lawyer will use if eBay and Paypal sides with the scammer, which they probably will.

      2. “But what if I don’t have an Apple Device?” Most sites/brands today allow the ability to register a device for warranty purposes etc. Always register your devices. You’re not only making it easier to receive warranty information and help but you’re creating a “history” and record of the item with that unique serial number.

    • crbarnes001

      you could take a picture of the item and the serial number but its unlikely that it will stop ebay from refunding them. The person would just say that’s not the item i received.

      Now anything that can be broken I will only sell for cash on collection. They can see it working and have to return it to me if there is any problem and i get to decide whether to refund them or not, if something genuinely doesn’t work I’m always happy to refund, but not when I’ve been scammed.

      Also when demonstrating the item I take a photo of the serial number with them there so they know I’m doing it and have a record.

      Alas this is becoming more and more common as ebay keep siding with the buyer and although you can report a buyer there is nothing to stop them creating a new account and doing the same thing over again with a clean record.

      Someone once said to me only sell on ebay what you can afford to lose, especially now that there you must offer returns saying no returns means nothing ebay will still now refund and you have to pay the return postage now.

      I rarely use ebay now, facebook have some great groups that are free to buy and sell so i make my money from them now no hassle.

      I really don’t get why ebay seem to be able to play god. they are an advertising board only, no different to a newspaper.

  • James Roy

    There is no protection for the seller if a buyers account is hacked! I understand Ebay and PayPal protecting the buyer’s money if someone hacks a buyers account, but I sold a legit iTunes gift card/code — had the cash in my bank account, and because they buyer was hacked, PayPal took the money back after the code was already given out and USED. So I am out $100 – Neither PayPal nor Ebay will reimburse ME for MY loss, even though all the correspondence with the ‘buyer’ was through the Ebay messaging system that was compromised! So much for “Seller’s Protection”!

  • Nana

    Really interesting. I purchased for an item on ebay but didn’t get it. Then wrote about it to the seller but seller wrote that my name wasn’t on his/her list. And actually I bought it as a guest but also I got email about my order which is the proof that I purchased it. Could you please help me.

  • Phil

    Great point here, thanks for the effort.
    One idea:
    The Bait-and-Switch Refund
    To avoid being scammed here: be prepared and write down the serial number, IMEI or use a non-visible marker and mark the item. Take pictures of it and save it until the deal has gone through (feed back received).
    The Phishing email
    Simply, change your setting in your email client from: show email in html TO show as text. This will show you where the link/graphic is linked to and the standard: Don’t download anything from someone you don’t know.

    Common sense and keeping in mind, if it sounds too good to be true…..: like this one here:
    *He/She’s got no feedback.
    *Sells expensive make-up significantly cheaper than the average.
    * Seller registered in Israel, item location is London, UK. (No sales on ebay but has a warehouse in London, UK)
    * BIN Price $49.00 Free shipping world wide
    * He/she’s got another item on ebay Poland with the location somewhere in Israel

    Just by the looks of the above, I think it is more likely to see the number 42 black-red-green on the roulette wheel than getting the actual item.

    Maybe it helps.

    • Labhrás Labhrás Kiely

      This doesn’t really help. The buyer often has a bashed up old phone and claims that this is the one you sent him. The fact that you marked the phone and recorded the IMEI doesn’t help.

  • cj

    My niece ordered a pair of shoes. She got a package with a tracking number from the US Post Office. Inside the box was an ink pen. She tried to get her money back and they said the package was delivered and tracking number verified delivery.

    I ordered a collectible toy tractor and it was shipped with a tracking number thru the US Post Office. The tracking number showed delivery to our local post office. Package was never delivered to our PO Box. Post office said “it was delivered to your box” It wasn’t. Either delivered to someone else’s box, or employee stole it. I lost my money.

    I ordered something that took a while to come and there were several emails between me and seller documenting the difficulty. However, by the time it played out, it was too late to file a dispute. ALWAYS FILE A DISPUTE AS SOON AS THERE IS A POSSIBLE QUESTION.

    In the beginning I ordered a box of upholstery fabric samples and didn’t read the shipping costs before agreeing to the sale. It turned out to be $50. WATCH THOSE SHIPPING CHARGES.

    Otherwise, I’ve found eBay to be satisfactory. Just beware.

Load 10 more
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
New comment

Please login to avoid entering captcha

Log In