How to Spot eBay Scams

The primary modus operandi of eBay scammers is exploiting the trust between buyers and sellers to gain money or goods without fulfilling their end of the deal. The malicious party poses as legitimate by following the platform’s rules initially. And when they are already operating within, that’s when they strike. Let’s find out how to spot them.

eBay is a popular online marketplace, but unfortunately, it’s also a common target for scammers.

While you may assume that it’s usually buyers who get scammed, the truth is, sellers can get scammed by scheming shoppers too. 

If you’re considering selling products on eBay, it’s important to be aware of the different types of scams on eBay and how they work. This way, you can easily identify and avoid them.

We’ll guide you through those topics in this article. We will also discuss whether eBay is a trusted site and what happens if you scam or get scammed on this marketplace.

Types of eBay Scams

How can you get scammed on eBay?

The following are the lists of the most common tricks done by eBay buyers and sellers. You should be aware that unscrupulous individuals continue to find new ways to commit fraud on the platform. So, consider these lists to be open-ended.

eBay Seller Scams

We aren’t suggesting that you are a scam seller, but it’s always good to know what scams are currently out there. 

1. The “phantom item” scam where the seller lists an item for sale but doesn’t actually have the item in their possession.

2. Misrepresenting their item as genuine.

3. Failing to deliver a product not covered by a money-back guarantee, then closing their account after receiving payment.

4. eBay shipping scams where the seller asks for additional shipping fees, uses a fake shipping company or intentionally ships to the wrong address to obtain a tracking ticket marked delivered.

5. Getting personal and financial information for phishing (identity theft).

6. Offering a discount in exchange for using irreversible payment systems like cryptocurrency or wire transfer.

Outside the platform, fraudulent car sellers use eBay’s name to trick shoppers. Known as an “eBay buyer protection scam,” it follows eBay’s standard procedure of insuring the online purchase with a deposit. That makes the transaction look legitimate, but the fact that it doesn’t happen on the platform indicates otherwise.

eBay Buyer Scams

If you are an eBay seller, be alert of deceitful shoppers who could cheat you out of a profit using these schemes:

1. Making false claims about an item, such as receiving an empty box or defective merchandise and demanding a refund.

2. Purchasing an item using a fraudulent gift card (one of many eBay gift card scams).

3. Returning an item after using it and expecting a refund.

4. Offering to pay using methods not accredited by eBay and sending the seller a fake electronic bank payment confirmation.

In addition, eBay gift card scams also happen outside the platform when buyers pay for services or purchase on other online marketplaces. 

MORE: How to sell on eBay and make money

How Do eBay Scams Work?

The primary modus operandi of eBay scammers is exploiting the trust between buyers and sellers to gain money or goods without fulfilling their end of the deal. The malicious party poses as legitimate by following the platform’s rules in the beginning. And when they are already operating within, that’s when they strike.

These scammers are very creative, so their hustles slightly differ from one another. Take the case of eBay gift card scams, which can happen even outside the platform in various ways:

  • Callers pretending to be agents from your utility company, a government institution, or your subscriptions (including eBay) that accepts eBay gift cards as payment.
  • Call or text informing you about winning a contest, then asking you for a fee (eBay gift card) to claim your prize.
  • Subscription offers with big discounts that accept only eBay gift cards as payment.

The reality is that no online platform is completely immune to scams. However, by staying aware and taking precautions, you can reduce the chances of getting scammed on eBay and ensure your transactions are safe.

How to Identify eBay Scams

How can you tell an eBay scammer? Below are the telltale signs.

Profile of Scam Sellers

Recognizing the scam sellers is important. Following are common traits and tactics used by these fraudulent sellers.

  • Low rating score 
  • Listings with unusually low prices,
  • Deals that seem too good to be true,
  • Offers to pay outside of eBay’s platform,
  • Product pages with no detailed descriptions or photos of the item,
  • Fake eBay emails or text messages asking for personal information or login details (Note: eBay will never do this.).

Profile of Scam Buyers

Scammers can create fake buyer accounts and trick sellers into sending items before receiving payment. They may also give negative feedback to either obtain a refund or avail of the money-back guarantee.

To determine whether a buyer’s account is authentic, check their profile for red flags such as a high number of refunds, returns, and negative feedback.

Additionally, if a buyer makes unreasonable requests or offers to pay outside of eBay’s system, they may be trying to scam you.

How to Not Get Scammed on Ebay 

You might be wondering by now, “Is eBay a trusted site?”

Yes. But like on any online marketplace, there is always a risk of being scammed when buying or selling on this platform. Here’s how to avoid eBay Scams:

Tips to Avoid eBay Seller Scams

  1. Check the seller’s feedback score and read through the reviews from other buyers. If there are multiple negative or suspiciously positive reviews, it may be best to steer clear of that seller.
  2. Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, as they almost always are. eBay scammers will try to lure you with an unusually low price compared to other similar items on the platform.
  3. Inspect a listing’s product images using a reverse-image search app to ensure they are not from other internet sites. Ask for additional photos as well. Sellers will not be able to provide those if their items are fake.
  4. Always pay through eBay’s official payment systems, such as PayPal and credit cards. This provides a level of protection against fraudulent transactions.
  5. Do not respond to emails with fake eBay logos and those sent from non-eBay official email addresses. Log in to your eBay account and conduct all your transactions there.
  6. Never share your personal and financial information with callers or texters.

MORE: How to set up eBay store

eBay logo

Make Money Selling on eBay!

Avoiding eBay Buyer Scams

  1. Verify the authenticity of a buyer’s account before making a transaction. Look at their feedback rating and read through their previous transactions. If they have a lot of negative feedback or only a few transactions, they may be fake accounts.
  2. Do not accept offers to pay outside the eBay platform just to avoid seller fees.
  3. If you opt to accept checks, wait for it to be cleared before shipping your item.
  4. Document every step of all transactions. Communicate with buyers only on eBay channels, and take photos or videos of your item being packed, labeled, and shipped.
  5. Use legitimate shipping companies that provide tracking.

eBay has implemented numerous security measures to protect both buyers and sellers, including identity verification and buyer protection programs. However, scammers are constantly coming up with new tactics to deceive users.

Be vigilant and take appropriate measures to protect yourself. Trust your gut instinct. If something feels off about a seller or buyer, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

MORE: Best international shipping companies

What to Do if You are Scammed?

Take immediate action to minimize any further damage. Follow these steps:

1. Contact eBay: As soon as you realize you have been scammed, contact eBay’s customer support team. Report the incident and provide all relevant details, including the seller’s or buyer’s username, the item in question, and any communication you had with them.

2. Keep all evidence: These include screenshots of the listing, payment receipts, and correspondence. This documentation will be crucial when filing a complaint and seeking a resolution.

3. Open a dispute: If you made or received payment through PayPal, file a complaint through their resolution center as well. Provide all the proof you have and explain the situation.

4. Contact your payment provider: If the payment was made by credit card or another payment method, contact the company immediately. They may be able to help you reverse the payment or provide advice on further steps to take.

5. Leave feedback and review: Once the situation is resolved, leave appropriate feedback and review for the seller on eBay’s platform. This will help other buyers to be cautious and aware of potential scams. Sellers cannot leave feedback on buyers but can give a neutral rating and block them.

MORE: eBay vacation mode

Key Takeaway

While eBay does take measures to prevent fake accounts and scamming, it’s not foolproof. To protect yourself as a buyer or seller, follow safe practices when using the platform.

By taking the above precautions, you can avoid getting scammed and ensure that your experience is safe and successful.

And if you are considering selling on eBay as an additional stream of income, don’t let the threat of scams deter you. They may be a risk, but with the right tools and due diligence, you can achieve your financial goals.

MORE: eBay seller help

Also see our eBay Calculator.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

You most probably won’t. However, legitimate sellers will issue a refund when you contact them directly and request for it. Make sure you provide a good reason, like an undelivered package or a defective item.

Not always. eBay provides buyer protection only on items covered by their money-back policy.

The existence of scammers on eBay doesn’t make the platform a scam. They are the exception rather than the rule, and they operate in other marketplaces as well.


Adaline Lefe Mary John

Adaline Lefe Mary John

A great researcher and creator, Adaline is responsible for planning and managing content for all our websites. She has over 10 years of experience in creating and managing content.

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