Despite high profile and embarrassing security breaches, EBay remains very popular: its potential is great – for both good and bad. Of course all that junk you’re storing somewhere can fetch big bucks and all you need to do is take a few photos and add a nifty description. But it’s also a big target for fraudulent activity.
It’s not just criminals you need to worry about. You can be ripped off simply by a false description or an untrustworthy image.
Here are some very simple ways of reducing the risk of being a victim when buying items, not just on eBay but other auction sites too, including Gumtree (although not the rather ridiculous MadBid, which we would advise you just avoid).
1. Vet the Seller
The easiest way of checking how genuine and reliable a seller is on eBay is through the site’s Seller Information, located to the right of the page. The positive feedback is typically a good indication: generally, those ranking above 90% can be trusted, and most get higher than 97%. Unfortunately, that statistic can be skewed, though eBay is cracking down on this.
Click on the seller and you’ll get more detailed feedback on accuracy of descriptions, postage, and communication. The amount of time they’ve been a member of the site is also a positive sign of trustworthiness.
You can do more than this, however: copy the username (or email if it’s readily available) into Google. You might find nothing; you might find several “don’t trust this seller” forum posts…
2. Beware Stock Photos
You might think images of items framed by naff carpet looks tacky, but it can be reassuring too.
Stock photos give you absolutely no impression of the item’s condition. Descriptions should list any faults or imperfects, but if an item arrives through the post damaged, you can check whether it was like that before by comparing it to the seller’s own picture.
Stores selling comics and books en masse are especially guilty of using stock photos, often from publishers’ sites. You can understand why they do this, but comic collectors are particularly after best condition issues, so are more likely to trust photos of the actual item.
3. Check Postage
Say you’ve found a really cheap item, something you’ve been seeking out for a little while that’s at a more than reasonable price. This is an offer too good to let up.
Scroll right to the bottom and look at postage rates. Some sellers might bump up the price of an item by charging inflated prices for postage and packaging. Obviously bigger products will be more costly, as will items from abroad, but be careful it’s not extortionate.
4. Look For A Seller’s Returns Policy
Each seller’s Returns Policy is listed to the right of the product image, just below payment methods. Sometimes, it’s rather pointless: even though every seller must advertise a return’s policy, that could be “no returns accepted” – in which case, be suspicious.
It is concerning, isn’t it? Why aren’t sellers confident enough in their items? Are the description and photo misleading? Just imagine the product turning up at your house, completely wrecked, or not genuine even!
Many abide by standard policy:
“Sellers who accept returns will be required to a minimum 14-day return policy and offer a money-back option.”
If you’ve never worked in a shop, you’d be surprised by the number of people who ask if they can return whatever they’ve purchased within a set time period if they’ve got a receipt. People like that reassurance. The same goes for online.
5. Stay Skeptical of Emails and Webpages
Be cautious of emails from eBay, especially those with generic messages. Spotting a fake email is an art in itself, and both this auction site and PayPal (currently owned by eBay) are frequently used by scammers to obtain account information. These emails almost always sound very urgent, often stating a limited amount of time to respond or do something about a supposed fraudulent transaction or bid.
If you get an email telling you a bid you didn’t make has been successful, report it or at the very least ignore it.
There are numerous things banks will never ask you online; the same applies to eBay and PayPal. They won’t need any confidential information, including password.
To check out genuine emails, log in to eBay (making sure it’s the genuine website), into My eBay, and check out My Messages. Definitely don’t click on links in emails. Even though the sites they go to may look like eBay, scammers can clone such a service – and even ‘tailor-made’ delivery – with surprising ease. Just look how real this phishing scam looks.
Look at the address bar, and if it has additional characters after .com or .co.uk, but before the forward-slash, even if these are merely numbers, this is a fake.
6. Second Chances?
You’ve found an item you’d love to own – but your bid wasn’t high enough. Maybe someone successfully sniped it from you. That’s it. It’s gone.
No – hang on! That bid apparently fell through, and you’ve received a Second Chance Offer! Fantastic, right? It might not be as good as it sounds.
Offering another chance to buyers is really handy for both buyers and sellers, but scammers have latched onto this last hope. By posing as another seller, fraudsters can glean personal details or even payment for an item that was never theirs to sell!
7. Ask Questions!
So many people are unsure of doing this, often because they think it’s a dumb question. But don’t back down: find out what you need to know.
If you’re worried about whether something’s real, try to find out where the seller got it from. Autographs are nightmares to verify, but that’s not the sole worry: ask how it’s backed. What’s it on? How’s it secured? Sellotape and glue sealants taint a signature, degrade them, wear them out easily.
Plenty still do ask questions so look out for the answers nearer the bottom of the product’s page. If you’ve not found an answer, it’s easy to pose a question:
Ask A Question > Find Answers > [Select a Topic]
Suggested questions appear, but simply find Did you find your answer? and click No, I want to contact the seller and then Continue.
Sure, they could lie. But liars often trip themselves up, and if something doesn’t ring true, it might give you further cause to investigate.
8. Is it too Good to be True?
Fantastic! You’ve found a Rolex really cheap! But wait. This might not be the deal it’s cracked up to be.
Take a look at where it’s shipping from – because it might just be a fake designer item. These are frequently very poor quality, and nothing like the promotional image. According to research from fashion retailer, Crossroads Trading, surveying 1,000 Americans, one in three have accidentally ordered counterfeit items online, notably handbags, sunglasses, watches, and purses or wallets.
This is what it all boils down to. Look at the deal, and consider if it’s simply too good to be true. As the saying goes, you don’t get something for nothing. Equally, you don’t get a Rolex for $50.
What does the buyer have to gain, really?
Don’t let the worry of missing out on a bargain force you into doing something you’ll regret. Common sense: that’s all you need. Awareness of the latest scams also helps, naturally!
What other tips do you have for buyers? How about for sellers? Do you trust eBay?
Image Credits: eBay store by Jérémi Joslin; 225/365 – Scam by B Rosen; MWC Barcelona by K?rlis Dambr?ns; Square Peg, Round Hold by David Goehring; FAQ by photosteve101; and eBay Yard Sale by Sam Howzit.