How do you tell the difference between a legitimate eBay seller and a shonky fly-by-night con artist?
There are basically three types of sellers on eBay - 'professional' sellers, 'garage-sale' sellers and 'one-off' sellers.
Professional Sellers - These are sellers who move a lot of product through eBay usually as their primary or secondary source of income. Some of these sellers also have other avenues to move their products usually shopfronts, websites or market stalls. Some 'professional' sellers are home based business's and sometimes the products that are sold are handmade 'cottage-industry' products.
However most 'professional' sellers run their eBay operations as a small part of their business model to provide an additional revenue stream. These are the safest sellers to use but usually their prices are the highest as often the products are new and the seller needs to make some profit to make the listing financially viable. Most professional sellers specialise in a specific niche area for example old books, tupperware or star wars collectables.
Garage Sale Sellers - You can tell a a garage sale seller by ithe tems they have listed. Usually an eclectic mix of odds and ends with no consistent theme. Some of these sellers border on professional sellers as they will pick up bits and pieces at opportunity shops, garage sales and sometimes even auctions to resell on eBay.
Other garage sale sellers are akin to one-off sellers as they may only have a handful of items and may not have been trading on eBay for long. You can usually pickup great bargains from this type of seller as often they are happy to make very little on an item as they were just going to throw it out anyway! Be careful about checking the condition of items through any pictures provided and you should feel free to use the contact member feature to ask any questions you may have about a product.
One-Off Sellers - These are perhaps the most dangerous sellers to deal with and they can be easily spotted by their low feedback ratings. Unfortunately there are many unscrupulous people out there and some of these people find their way on to eBay.
Beware sellers that will not let you pick up goods or people selling high cost products at exceptionally low prices. Remember the old saying "If something looks too good to be true it probably is!"
If you are suspicious of a sellers item it never hurts to contact the seller and sound them out a bit first before placing a bid. Generally the less flexible a seller is the more suspicious that you should be.
Spend some time looking into the feedback of any suspicious sellers even to the point of looking at the feedback of the people who have provided them with feedback. If all their feedback comes from other people with low feedback proceed with caution as clever con artists may use multiple eBay logins to give themselves false feedback and hence make themselves seem more legitimate.
eBay also offers a service called User ID which shows you previous 'handles' used by that member. If a member has more than 1 or 2 previous handles it is wise to be careful in dealing with them as they may have changed their name to avoid a bad reputation.
Never buy directly off a seller instead of going through the eBay channels as ebay offers limited protection against fraudulent listings. To find more about eBays polices in regards to fraudulent listings click here: eBay Buyer Protection Policy eBay Buyer Protection Policy