Outsmarting the eBay Scammer: Proven Strategies to Protect Your Purchases

Click on the image of an upset woman on a laptop - Ebay Scammer

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Falling victim to an eBay scammer can be a frustrating and costly experience. If you’re seeking practical advice on how to spot, avoid, and respond to eBay scams, you’re in the right place. This article equips you with essential insights to recognise common scam tactics, identifies red flags in listings, and provides actionable strategies to protect yourself and your transactions on eBay.

Key Takeaways

  • Users must be vigilant against common eBay scams, such as the overpayment ruse, false non-delivery claims, and manipulations of eBay’s Money Back Guarantee.

  • Spotting red flags can help prevent fraud, including scrutinising seller profiles, listing inconsistencies, and anomalies in payment and shipping methods.

  • Protecting one’s eBay account involves practicing secure communication, protecting financial information, and enabling two-factor authentication along with understanding actions to take when encountering scams.

Decoding eBay Scammer Tactics

Illustration of a person receiving a suspicious message on eBay

Scammers on eBay have devised an array of strategies to defraud both buyers and sellers, often referred to as the most common eBay scams. From overpayment ruse to false claims of non-delivery and manipulation of eBay’s Money Back Guarantee, these tactics prey on the unsuspecting and the uninformed, making it crucial for users to be vigilant in protecting their eBay money.

However, knowledge is power, and understanding these common scams is your first line of defence against fraudsters.

The Overpayment Ruse

The overpayment ruse is a common scam that targets eBay sellers. The scammer offers to pay more than the asking price, often using fraudulent checks that ultimately do not clear. This ostensible generosity is a psychological manipulation designed to create a false sense of trust and compel sellers to act on these fake payment confirmations.

In the end, the seller not only loses the shipped item but can also be duped into refunding the buyer’s purported overpaid amount, thus incurring double losses.

False Claims of Non-Delivery

False claims of non-delivery are another way scammers exploit eBay’s trust-based system. In this scam, the fraudster claims not to have received the item even when delivery confirmation is available. Some even go as far as providing a tracking number and details for packages sent to the wrong addresses to create the illusion of delivery.

To protect against such scams, sellers should use valid trackable shipping methods and keep detailed records of tracking information.

Manipulating eBay’s Money Back Guarantee

Scammers also exploit eBay’s Money Back Guarantee to defraud buyers. Unlisted exclusions within the guarantee are manipulated to avoid scenarios where scammers would need to return funds. One common practice is the ‘empty box claim’, scam, where scammers:

  • Claim to receive an empty box

  • Demand a refund

  • When provided with a return label, send back an empty box to the seller while keeping the item and the money.

Identifying Red Flags in eBay Listings

Illustration of a person examining a seller's profile

Having unraveled the most common ebay scams and scammer tactics, we should now turn our attention to spotting red flags in eBay listings. Recognising these warning signs can help prevent falling prey to ebay scams.

Suspicious seller profiles, inconsistencies in listings, and anomalies in payment and shipping are all red flags that need your attention.

Suspicious Seller Profiles

Seller profiles can offer a wealth of information about the legitimacy of a seller’s feedback. Here are some red flags to watch out for:

  • A seller with 20 or less feedback

  • A sudden influx of complaints about items not being shipped or received

  • A seller with a history of selling low-priced items who suddenly lists an expensive product

These signs could indicate that you are dealing with a fraudulent seller who is not trustworthy and may be trying to defraud buyers.

Listing Inconsistencies

Inconsistencies in listings are another red flag. Beware of listings that:

  • Use stock or stolen images instead of actual photos of the item for sale

  • Have prices that seem too good to be true for high-demand items

  • Have variations between listed item versions or models that resemble each other, combined with missing details about function

These inconsistencies can reveal a potential scam.

Payment and Shipping Anomalies

Payment and shipping anomalies are often telltale signs of a scam. If the seller insists on using payment methods outside of eBay’s platform, it may be a fraudulent listing designed to bypass eBay’s protection systems.

Similarly, longer than normal estimated delivery dates can suggest a fake seller, as legitimate online sellers typically offer shipping times that align with standard practices of a shipping company.

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Safeguarding Your eBay Account

Equipped with knowledge of scammer tactics and red flags, it’s essential to adopt proactive measures for securing your eBay account.

By using secure communication practices, protecting your financial information, and enabling two-factor authentication, you can significantly minimize the risk of falling victim to scams.

Secure Communication Practices

First and foremost, always use eBay’s messaging system for all communications on the eBay website. This system not only allows eBay to monitor for suspicious activity but also protects users from phishing attempts. Never click on unsolicited links in emails claiming to be from eBay. Instead, manually type eBay’s URL or use your bookmarks for safety.

Protecting Financial Information

Protecting your personal or financial information, including your bank account, is just as crucial. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Always use strong, unique passwords and regularly update them.

  • Avoid storing sensitive financial information on your devices.

  • Avoid sending sensitive financial information through email.

Also, be sure to enable two-factor authentication on your eBay account for an added layer of protection.

Responding to Suspected eBay Scams

Illustration of a person reporting a suspected eBay scam

Even with diligent precautions, it’s possible to encounter scams occasionally. But don’t fret! If you suspect a scam, there are steps you can take to respond effectively. This includes documenting the transaction, contacting eBay support, and initiating a refund request, if necessary.

Documenting the Transaction

Start by documenting all aspects of the transaction. Save all correspondence with the seller and keep records of the transaction details, such as the item description, auction number, and any tracking numbers provided. For sellers, it’s also crucial to document everything related to the shipment of an item, including the packing process and posting the item.

Contacting eBay Support

Next, reach out to eBay’s Customer Service team. You can access eBay’s Help & Contact page for assistance with scam-related inquiries. Remember to report suspicious listings and sellers to eBay to help protect the community.

Initiating a Refund Request

If you’re a buyer and the order is cancelled due to seller concerns, you can request a refund through eBay’s resolution centre. Make sure to use the order number and provide detailed item descriptions to facilitate a timely and efficient resolution.

Protect yourself from scammers on Etsy, learn how by reading our informative Blogpost.

Preventative Measures for eBay Transactions

Illustration of a person verifying buyer/seller legitimacy

Let’s now examine some of the measures you can implement to prevent falling victim to eBay scams. This includes verifying the identity legitimacy of a buyer or seller, using PayPal’s Seller Protection, and following eBay’s guidelines.

Verifying Buyer/Seller Legitimacy

When transacting on eBay, always verify the legitimacy of the seller. For sellers, this means scrutinising eBay buyers’ past transactions for any red flags or suspicious activity. As an eBay seller, always communicate with buyers through eBay’s messaging system and never agree to settle an eBay transaction outside of eBay.

Using PayPal Seller Protection

PayPal’s Seller Protection Programme is designed to protect sellers from the two primary hazards of online sales: ‘Unauthorised Transactions’ and ‘Item Not Received’ claims by buyers. When you sell an item and receive payment through PayPal, you may be covered for the full amount of the sale, provided you meet the eligibility requirements set forth by PayPal.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for Seller Protection in the UK, sellers must adhere to the following criteria:

  • Ensure the transaction is marked as eligible or partially eligible for Seller Protection on your account’s Transaction Details page.
  • Ship to the address on the Transaction Details page. This ensures that the transaction is documented and verifiable.
  • Keep proof of shipment or delivery. For items delivered in person (by the seller), a signature from the buyer acknowledging receipt, or a photpgraph (from a smartphone) can serve as proof.

Coverage Provided

Seller Protection covers you in the event of:

  • Unauthorised Transactions: If someone claims that they didn’t authorise the payment made to you.
  • Item Not Received: If a buyer claims they didn’t receive the item they purchased from you.

Remember, in the dynamic landscape of online sales, being proactive about protection is key to ensuring a successful and secure selling experience.

Advanced Strategies Against eBay Scam Buyers

Illustration of a person dealing with feedback extortion

We should further explore advanced strategies to shield yourself from eBay scam buyers. These strategies include counteracting the empty box claim and dealing with feedback extortion.

Counteracting the Empty Box Claim

The empty box claim can be a tricky scam to deal with. However, there are several ways to counteract it. For instance, using video recordings of the packing and shipping process can serve as evidence.

Maintaining a detailed log of an item’s serial numbers or tracking number and unique identifiers before shipment can also provide crucial evidence in case of an empty box scam claim.

Dealing with Feedback Extortion

Feedback extortion is another common issue that sellers face on eBay. In such cases, buyers threaten to leave negative feedback, or low ratings to obtain goods, services, or refunds not included in the original listing. If you encounter such behaviour, immediately report it to eBay.

Remember, eBay has policies in place to protect sellers from unjust feedback, so if needed, don’t hesitate to contact eBay for assistance, especially when dealing with eBay gift cards.

Recognising and Avoiding eBay Motors Scams

Moving forward, we need to address scams associated with eBay Motors. eBay Motors is a popular platform for buying and selling vehicles. However, it’s also a common target for scammers due to the high-value nature of transactions and the lack of coverage under eBay’s Money Back Guarantee for vehicles.

Spotting Fake Vehicle Listings

Fraudulent eBay Motors listings often feature vehicles at unusually low prices, alongside compelling stories designed to entice buyers into quick sales. Be cautious of listings that use stock or stolen images instead of actual photos of the vehicle for sale, and always be suspicious if the seller insists on using payment methods outside of eBay’s platform.

Preventing Triangulation Fraud

Triangulation fraud is another prevalent scam on eBay Motors. Triangulation Fraud is a sophisticated scam that involves three parties: the unsuspecting buyer, the scammer, and the legitimate online retailer. Here’s how it typically unfolds:

  1. The Scammer’s Setup: The scammer sets up an eBay listing for a high-demand item (car), often at a price lower than what’s available elsewhere, making it an attractive deal for shoppers.
  2. The Purchase: When an unsuspecting buyer purchases the item from the eBay listing, they pay the scammer directly.
  3. The Legitimate Purchase: The scammer then uses stolen credit card information to buy the item from a legitimate online retailer at full price.
  4. The Delivery: The legitimate retailer ships the item directly to the buyer, unaware that the transaction is fraudulent. The buyer receives their item, thinking everything is fine.
  5. The Fallout: Eventually, the stolen credit card’s rightful owner notices the unauthorised transaction and reports it, leading to a chargeback. The online retailer is then out the cost of the item and shipping, and the scammer has the buyer’s money. The buyer, while they may have received the item, is implicated in a chain of fraudulent activities without their knowledge.

This scam is particularly insidious because it leaves the buyer and the legitimate retailer as victims, with the scammer profiting at their expense. It can be difficult to detect until after the fraudulent activities have taken place. Buyers can protect themselves by being wary of deals that seem too good to be true, checking seller feedback, and being cautious with sellers who have newly created accounts or those who insist on unconventional payment methods.

Smart Shopping: Assessing eBay Deals

Lastly, astute shopping and thorough assessment of deals and shady sellers are indispensable for every eBay user. This involves comparing the purchase price to the typical market value and evaluating the seller’s motives behind the listing.

Market Value Comparison

When shopping on eBay, always compare the purchase price to the item’s typical market value. Pricing that significantly deviates from the established, market price or value should raise suspicion of fraudulent sellers and prompt further investigation.

Evaluating Seller Motives

Understanding the seller’s motives behind a listing can also help you determine its credibility. For instance, if a seller is willing to accept payment outside of eBay or is offering an item at a significantly lower price than its market value, it may indicate a potential scam.


To summarise, protecting yourself from scams on eBay involves a combination of understanding common scammer tactics, identifying red flags in listings, safeguarding your eBay account, and responding effectively to suspected scams.

Additionally, it’s crucial to take preventative measures, employ advanced strategies against scam buyers, and shop smartly by assessing eBay deals thoroughly. Remember, vigilance is your best defence against scams. Stay alert, stay informed, and happy shopping!

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you tell a eBay scammer?

If a buyer has high numbers of refunds, returns, or negative feedback, or makes unreasonable requests or offers to pay outside of eBay’s system, they may be trying to scam you. Be cautious of both buyers and sellers who ask to pay outside of eBay, offer much more than the listed price, purchase high-ticket items as new buyers, or ask to change their shipping address to a foreign country.

Will eBay refund me if I get scammed?

Yes, eBay offers a Money Back Guarantee to protect buyers from fraud and ensure a safe shopping experience. If you buy an item on eBay and it doesn’t arrive, or it’s not as described in the listing, eBay’s Money Back Guarantee typically covers you, and you can get your money back.

This policy covers most transactions on the platform, including cases where:

The item you received was different from the description in the listing.
You paid for an item but didn’t receive it.
The item you received was damaged during shipping.
The item you received was counterfeit.

To take advantage of this guarantee, you usually need to contact the seller first and try to resolve the issue. If the seller doesn’t respond or you can’t reach an agreement, you can then ask eBay to step in and help within a certain timeframe, typically 30 days from the estimated delivery date or from when you noticed the issue with the item

How do you know if a buyer is scamming you?

If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is a scam. Protect yourself from an eBay scammer by watching out for pressure tactics, unusual payment methods, incomplete profiles, and avoiding face-to-face meetings. Be cautious and trust your instincts when dealing with potential scams.

What is the most common scam on eBay?

The most common scams on eBay include false claims of non-delivery, the overpayment ruse, and manipulation of eBay’s Money Back Guarantee. Be cautious when encountering these tactics to protect yourself from potential fraud.

What should I do if I suspect a scam on eBay?

If you suspect a scam on eBay, document the transaction, contact eBay’s Customer Service team, and initiate a refund request if necessary.

How can you tell if an eBay seller is legit?

Identifying a legitimate seller on eBay is crucial to ensuring a safe and satisfying shopping experience. While eBay offers various protections for buyers, being able to assess a seller’s legitimacy before making a purchase can save you time and potential hassle. Here are key indicators to help you determine if an eBay seller is legitimate:

1. Feedback Score and History
Look at the Feedback Score: A higher feedback score is generally a good sign. Sellers with thousands of positive feedback ratings are often more reliable.
Read the Feedback Comments: Beyond the score, read through the feedback comments from previous buyers to get a sense of their experiences.

2. Seller Ratings and Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs)
eBay provides Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs), which include aspects like item description accuracy, communication, shipping time, and shipping cost. Sellers with high ratings across these areas are usually trustworthy.

3. Length of Time on eBay
Check how long the seller has been active on eBay. Sellers who have been on the platform for several years and maintain positive feedback are generally more reliable than newly created accounts.

4. Item Description Clarity
Legitimate sellers typically provide detailed, clear, and honest descriptions of their items. Look for listings that include comprehensive information about the item’s condition, specifications, and any return policies.

5. Quality and Authenticity of Photos
Authentic sellers often use their own photos of the item instead of stock images. This shows they have the item in their possession and are presenting its actual condition.

6. Communication
A legitimate seller is usually prompt and professional in their communication. Before purchasing, consider asking the seller a question about the item to gauge their responsiveness and willingness to provide information.

7. Shipping and Returns Policy
Review the seller’s shipping and returns policy. Legitimate sellers typically have clear and reasonable policies. Be wary of sellers with overly strict policies or those who do not offer any form of return.

8. Price Comparison
If the price seems too good to be true, it might be a red flag. Compare the price of the item with other listings on eBay and other platforms to ensure it’s in a reasonable range.

9. Payment Methods
eBay protects buyers who use approved payment methods, including PayPal. Be cautious of sellers who insist on using non-protected payment methods or ask for payment outside the eBay platform.

10. Seller Guarantees
Look for any guarantees or warranties offered by the seller. Legitimate sellers often offer some form of guarantee to assure buyers of their commitment to quality and service.

Useful External Reference Websites

  1. Action Fraud (actionfraud.police.uk)
    • The UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. Provides a platform for reporting fraud, including online scams, and offers advice on protection against them.
  2. Citizens Advice (citizensadvice.org.uk)
    • Offers comprehensive guidance on how to deal with scams, including those on eBay, and advice on consumer rights and how to get your money back after a scam.
  3. Financial Conduct Authority (fca.org.uk)
    • The UK’s financial regulatory body provides information on financial fraud and scams, including how to avoid them and what to do if you fall victim.
  4. Trading Standards (tradingstandards.uk)
    • Provides consumer protection information, including how to report scams and fraud in the UK.
  5. National Cyber Security Centre (ncsc.gov.uk)
    • Offers guidance on how to stay secure online, including how to protect yourself from phishing scams and other forms of cybercrime.
  6. Royal Mail (royalmail.com)
    • While primarily a postal service, Royal Mail offers advice on how to deal with postal scams, which can be relevant for goods shipped through eBay.
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With over three decades of experience in the heart of London’s financial sector, I have dedicated my career to the pursuit of robust cybersecurity practices and IT leadership. As a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Chief Information Security Officer (C|CISO), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI), I bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table.

My journey in the field of cybersecurity has not only been about personal growth but also about sharing my insights with others. As an international speaker, I have had the privilege of addressing audiences worldwide, discussing the importance of cybersecurity in today’s digital age. My passion for knowledge sharing extends to my work as an author and blogger, where I delve into the complexities of cybersecurity, offering practical advice and thought leadership.

In my role as a CISO and Head of IT, I have overseen the development and implementation of comprehensive information security and IT strategies. My focus has always been on creating resilient systems capable of withstanding the evolving landscape of cyber threats.

My Master’s degree in Cybersecurity has provided a solid academic foundation, which, when combined with my practical experience, allows me to approach cybersecurity from a holistic perspective.

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