Common eBay Scams Against Sellers

eBay scam
The designer handbag switcheroo is a common eBay scam. Getty Images

​As the world's largest marketplace, eBay is a place to make money selling just about anything including clothing, collectibles, baby and children's items, books, kitchen items - the list is really endless. New and experienced sellers should educate themselves about scams against sellers. eBay can only do so much to screen out undesirable buyers and police other members. Here are a few examples of common eBay scams that are targeted against sellers.

Western Union Scams

Whenever Western Union is mentioned, either on or off eBay, it is usually a scam. eBay purchases can be made only by Paypal. Back when eBay first started, and was a fledgling trading marketplace, it was perfectly safe to accept checks, money orders, or even cash in the mail. But online payment systems have come an incredibly long way since eBay's beginnings and there is no need for anyone to pay any other way than with Paypal. If a buyer offers to pay by Western Union, this is a red flag and you should block them so they can't buy from you. In fact, the Western Union website states

 

"In the internet purchase scam, criminals prey on victims who bid on items using an online auction website or service."

Iphone Scam

New eBay sellers often start with selling electronics, and being a newbie, they can fall prey to the tried and true iPhone scam. Here is now it works. A dishonest buyer searches for iPhones for sale on eBay, specifically looking for a seller with little or no feedback.

Remember, an eBay profile with little or no feedback indicates an inexperienced seller which translates to an easy victim. After purchasing and receiving the iPhone, the buyer will claim it is defected, or isn't correctly described in the listing, which results in an INAD (Item Not As Described) case.

The buyer then promptly opens a return case. Next, the  phone will be shipped back to the sellers but it may not be the exact same phone the seller originally sent. Even worse, it could just be a shell of a phone and the buyer has taken the electronic parts out to sell on the streets or take to those "We Buy Gold" shops. (Some of the parts are made of gold.) The iPhone scam is common. Best rule of thumb: Don't sell expensive electronics on eBay. There are many other trade-in programs such as Apple Trade-In, Gazelle, or even Walmart. 

Designer Handbag Switcheroo

Besides the fact that they can be fake or counterfeit, the switcheroo scam is another reason not to sell designer handbags on eBay. Some handbag afficiandos have perfected this scam and it runs like a well-oiled machine. The buyer may already have a Coach, Vuitton, or Chanel handbag that is worn, beat up, dirty, stained, defective, or a knock-off. The buyer will search eBay for an exact match and purchase it.

Before the return period has elapsed, the buyer will open a return case for any reason allowed such as wrong color, not as described, or didn't like. Then they buyer returns their old, dirty, fake, or damaged bag. The seller receives a handbag similar to the one they shipped, but the buyer has switched out their old bag for the newer one.

To protect yourself from this scam, always take the maximum of 12 photos of the designer handbag before listing it on eBay. Take care and time to show details such as tassels, straps, buckles, hardware, inside pockets, and all sides of the bag. If the buyer returns a bag that does not match the one you sent, you can appeal the return case. eBay is aware of this scam as it happens frequently. 

Offers to Trade Outside of eBay

eBay policy strictly states it is a violation to solicit off-site sales. Some buyers will do it anyway. Buyers may not know it is against eBay policy or may not care. They may just want to get you to reduce the price since an off-site sale won't include any fees. eBay's exact policy states:

"We don't allow our members to use eBay to contact each other to make offers to buy or sell items outside of eBay. Also, members can't use information obtained from eBay to contact each other about buying or selling outside of eBay. If you receive an offer to buy or sell outside eBay, please report it.

Make sure you follow these guidelines. If you don't, you may be subject to a range of actions, including limits of your buying and selling privileges and suspension of your account."

Just don't do it. eBay can read all of your messages and these types of solicitations are easily flagged by computer software. It isn't worth risking your account.

Stay safe on eBay, think through what you are listing, and avoid selling any high risk items. There are plenty of other low-risk items that you can sell with no problems. Use common sense and if you ever have any questions, call eBay for guidance.

 

Updated by Suzanne Wells, 7/30/17.