15 Common eBay Scams and How to Avoid Them (With Screenshots!)


eBay is a great place for buying and selling stuff and we are all grateful for its existence. But as with any online markets, you are at a risk of getting scammed by the sellers. There are many ways in which you can get scammed on eBay. Even if you are a frequent buyer or seller on the site, there are many ways through which you can get scammed – from the classic bait and switch to buying highly discounted items that are actually counterfeits.

That being said, these scams happen frequently. In fact, they happen so much that they can be usually generalized and are thus getting very easy to recognize and avoid. As a buyer, sometimes you may want something that is only available in eBay and you won’t have a choice to but use it. Here we are covering the most common eBay scams and ways on how to avoid them and luckily with these insights, you will be able to get what you are looking for without being cheated on.

15 Most Common eBay Scams to Avoid:

1. Fake PayPal Accounts

Fake PayPal Accounts on ebay can be tricky to spot for the untrained eyes. Some of the buyers on the site will set up a fake PayPal account or will show a fake PayPal confirmation email they have with them which will trick you into thinking that they have paid for the item that you have sold when in reality they actually haven’t. So you will end up dutifully sending them the goods even though you have no money in your account.

fake paypal account on ebay

You can easily avoid this scam by checking your PayPal balance instead of believing your buyer. Also, refrain from clicking the links in the fake email. Instead, visit PayPal separately. Also, make sure that the PayPal email doesn’t arrive before you get the eBay notification of making a sale. eBay’s message should always come through first. Finally, read through the emails and the sender’s address carefully for any signs of duplications. Fake PayPal payment scam.

2. Seller Runs Off With Your Money

For most of the products on eBay, the buyers are protected by the Money Back Guarantee if the seller actually never ships the item to you. But there are many categories of items that aren’t covered by this guarantee like vehicles, websites and businesses for sale, classified ads, real estate, items sold by Sotheby’s etc. These also don’t apply to many of the best selling items on eBay. These usually are high value transactions in the range of thousands of dollars so eBay makes exceptions for these items.

fake seller on ebay

The scam is very straightforward, you will make payment but nothing will happen and you won’t get what you paid for, literally. Even if you check the seller’s profiles and feedback and everything there is convincingly positive, you can never be sure that those items aren’t scams. They might be building up a good rating over a lot of tiny transactions and then scamming you out of this one big transaction. So, avoid shopping in categories that aren’t covered by eBay’s Money Back Guarantee to stay safe from this scam. Seller Runs of with money.

3. Counterfeited or Steeply Discounted Items

This is another scam that is also very popular everywhere online and eBay certainly is no exception. eBay is certainly used extensively by the counterfeit industry. It is generally known that buying directly from manufacturers can help you save money but you need to be cautious on eBay when you see high-end brand products being sold with 60 or 80 percent off the normal price.

fake discounts on ebay

If that is the case, you are likely getting low priced counterfeits and if you are especially unlucky, you might even get nothing for the price you paid. The best idea is to buy brand products from sellers that you trust or has a good rating. When you buy something, make sure that the product is legitimate and that the seller is not a scammer.

4. Bait and Switch

Bait and Switch is one of the trickiest ebay scams to spot and avoid. This is very frustrating for the sellers as they lose money and product. Here, the buyer will purchase your product (which will usually be something expensive like an iPhone or electronic goods of some kind) and pay for it and you will send the product responsibly. Everything will be very normal until the buyer receives it. Once they get their product, they will complain about a cracked screen or broken part and will file a complaint with eBay under the Buyer Protection Plan and will have you refund them.

ebay protection to buyers

This scam is very difficult to avoid and if you are hit by it. The best thing you can do is to make sure that you ship valuable items with insurance that the buyer pays for. You can also list the product with ‘no refunds’ but it may deter the interest of authentic customers. You can also record unique details of the item before you ship, for example, the serial number, IME number etc whenever possible.

5. Buyers Claim ‘Item Not Received’ to PayPal

When you are selling something with PayPal, you will be covered by the PayPal Seller Protection but to be protected, you need proof of delivery for all the items. For transactions that are under $750, delivery confirmation will do. But over $750, you also need the signature confirmation of delivery. This is a pretty unaware fact among non-business sellers on eBay and the scammer will utilize this to cheat the seller.

false scams on ebay

Scammers will purchase an item worth more than $750 through PayPal and then claim that they didn’t receive the item. If that happens and you can’t provide the signature confirmation of delivery, then you have no protection and you will be in trouble. The best way to avoid this scam is to track your shipments with vigor and make sure that you always get signature confirmation of delivery for products worth over $750.

6. Phishing Emails from eBay

This is one of the more common kinds of scam which is pretty hard to identify and distinguish. The pretenses can vary from offers on special deals to references to the last transaction you made through the site. These emails will look very much like they are from eBay and will ask you to do something like to click on a link that sends you to a safe looking fake eBay or PayPal or may ask you for some private information or to update your password etc. If you indulge these emails, you will end up losing either your money or your identity.

phishing email on ebay

This technique of impersonating a website and getting you to give up your login credentials or other information is called phishing. You can learn how to spot a phishing email so that you won’t fall prey to one of these ever again as they all have some telling characteristics. Also, never click on the links in these emails even though they look legitimate. Fake links are easy to generate. To be safe, make sure you type the URLs by hand. Also, don’t provide your banking details without thoroughly verifying.

7. Seller Uses Incorrect Name

Even though we may assume from the name what this scam is all about, this is a rather tricky one and quite frustrating too. In this ebay fraud, the seller will list a normal item and usually with a ‘buy now’ option and once you purchase the item and pay them, the seller will ship it to you but with a fake name. They will spell your name incorrectly or wrongly enough so that you may think it was meant for someone else but was sent to you accidentally. So the buyer will likely return it back thinking it isn’t theirs and it will get marked as ‘refused’ or ‘returned’ which will cut you off from the option of eBay’s ‘money back guarantee’.

ebay seller uses fake names

Thus the scammer will have succeeded in getting your cash while retaining their product and you won’t be able to even leave any feedbacks since the transaction will be considered as a resolved dispute. There are actually no really good ways to avoid this one besides being a bit morally blind. You can choose to open all the packages that come to your house as long as you are expecting a package if the address matches and the tracking says ‘delivered’. Then it is probably your package after all.

8. Missing Transactions or Fake Second Chances

This scam happens to buyers who are pursuing an item and bidding on it when the item suddenly disappears on ebay. But later, the seller will contact you to tell you that the item had to be removed due to some technical issues with eBay or that you were the highest bidder and you got the item. He will later give you information on how you can purchase the item.

fraud listing on ebay

But the reality is that the seller was either removed by eBay and is trying to scam you without the protection of eBay’s guidelines. The best way to avoid this problem is to move on. If you get an email like this from a seller, then just ignore it. Ignore any items that are no longer listed and save yourself from being scammed.

9. Buyer Offers to Pay More Than You are Asking For

Sometimes, the buyer may contact and offer to pay a lot more money than listed price. They will send you an empty cashier’s cheque or a fake cheque which will not clear. But by then it will be too late as you may have already sent them the item. This scam is easy to fall in as we are all tempted by the prospect of more money than expected and it is too hard to resist. You can avoid falling into this trap by sending your products only after you are sure that the money is in your hands or in your bank.

suspicious offer on ebay

When you deposit a cheque, it may appear in your bank account right away but it can take up to two weeks to be marked as bounced. So, wait until you know for sure before you ship your item. Better yet, never accept cheques of any kind on eBay. Most of the time someone wants to send you more money and requests something back for it, it is probably bogus and won’t clear. So be wary, even outside of eBay.

10. Buyer Wants to Settle Outside eBay

If you are listing your product up for auction, you may find a buyer who offers to pay an immediate amount as long as you close the listing and settle the transaction outside of eBay. If you oblige to this demand, you will probably find yourself getting scammed. The buyer will then report you to eBay that your item was defective or non-existent. Even if you try to dispute it, eBay won’t help you as they don’t know anything that happened outside of eBay.

Buyer Wants to Settle Outside eBay

They will only help you if the transaction and communication happened through eBay. The way to avoid this scam is very simple. Just don’t agree to move your transactions and communication outside of eBay, no matter how tiny the transaction is. This way, you will always be protected by eBay and there is no way of this scam happening. Always make use of eBay’s communication channels for talking with buyers.

11. Buyer Issues a Fake Chargeback

The buyer can always reverse a transaction using chargeback whether using a credit card or PayPal. A chargeback is something like a forced refund. Here, the bank or PayPal cancels the transaction and takes the money back from the seller and return it to the buyer. On top of this, you will get hit with a chargeback fee and in the US, PayPal’s chargeback fee is $20 per transaction and banks usually charge between $15 and $25 as chargeback per transaction.

fake ebay chargebacks

Chargebacks are extremely easy to invoke as the buyer only needs to raise the suspicion that you have done something sinister and most of the banks and PayPal will go through with it, no questions asked. PayPal Seller Protection guards you against chargebacks as long as you make sure to stick to all their rules and regulations. And all the banks follow up chargebacks with an investigation and if you have documented proof that the transaction was valid, you will be able to overturn the chargeback.

12. Buying an Expensive Photograph

This ebay scam may sound silly but it has in fact made headlines in the UK twice in last year. This frustrating and unbelievable scam is done by sellers who list high demand items that are trending like an iPhone or an Xbox One. The unsuspecting buyer will win the auction and the seller will send him the photograph of the item, claiming that technically that was the listing all along.

Expensive Photograph scam

To avoid this scam, read the listing thoroughly and be wary of anything that sees you landing yourself a brand new technology for less than you expected. Also, check out the seller and if their other listings and history are blank. they may have just signed up to pull off this scam. But luckily enough, victims of these kinds of scams have been refunded by eBay so far but don’t test your luck.

13. Buyer Claims You Shipped an Empty Box

The buyer will purchase one of the listings you offer as usual and you ship the item to the buyer as expected. But when the buyer receives the item, he will open an eBay dispute and claim that you actually sent an empty box. eBay will force a return and the buyer will ship back the empty box and keeps the item that was inside and you will lose your money and the product.

empty box claim

If you find yourself in the middle of this unfortunate incident, check the buyer’s feedback history which will indicate some problems. Contact eBay and they will ask you to file a dispute. You will need some kind of evidence to show that you actually shipped the item and anything less than a solid proof will rule in the buyer’s favor. To avoid this scam, always make sure that you photograph the entire process of packing and shipping every item you sell through eBay. The better your proof is, the safer you are.

14. The Phone Call Collection

This ebay fraud is difficult to escape from when done correctly. You have sold an item to a buyer with shipping but later you get a call from the person saying he or she would rather collect the item in person as they will be in the area. And they pay the full amount via PayPal and you agree to deduct the postage costs when you meet. Days after you exchange the product, the buyer will file for a refund saying they haven’t received the item. Because eBay and PayPal have a record of the transaction with the postage, they need proof that you sent the item in the mail.

Of course, you won’t be able to provide that and you will have to refund the buyer his or her money and the shipping charge too, which they never paid. You can easily avoid this scam by sticking to the usual way of posting the item as planned. Even if you do an in person transaction, make sure that you have a written record of your arrangement to meet up and maybe take a photograph with them with the item once the sale is concluded.

15. Secret or Special Information for Sale

This scam may seem lame to the critical buyer but it does happen a lot. You will see a lot of special information for sale within the site and this information will be something along the lines of where you can get some kind of product for free to crazy instant weight loss claims. It may even claim to help you to earn six figured amount a month. This information almost always is way over the top and if it seems like it is true good to be true, then it almost always is.

Don’t let your common sense be squished by your heart’s desire and stay clear of these claims. The information that they claim to have is usually freely available. If someone has an idea to earn six figured amount every month, then why wouldn’t they use it to earn that kind of money but instead sell it for peanuts in eBay? Common sense does go a long way here.


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