Shill bidding

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Let me tell you a story about how I avoided being scammed!  User IDs in this story are fictitious.

The Search

I was on the hunt for....oh, let's say, a pair of silver boots, size 6.  In any case, it was an item that was in fairly limited supply so searches only turned up only a few.
I had been watching similar auctions and knew what a fair price was.  I found the perfect pair....Silver boots, Size 6.  There was a photo and the description from ...oh, let's call her shoegirl.....said, "Great condition.  Only worn a few times before my daughter grew out of them." So I bid on them.  Someone else was also bidding.  I ended up going $20 higher than intended but was still beaten.  The item ended at 11 pm.  Within a minute of the auction ending I had a second chance offer!

The Sting

I may have been new to eBay but I wasn't fooled.  I knew that second chance offers are only made if the winning bidder can't complete the transaction or the seller has an identical item for sale.  I reasoned that it would take more than a minute to decide that the winner, let's call her shilly was a non-paying bidder and the odds of someone having 2 of such an obscure item were minute.
I investigated further.  I checked shilly's feedback and noticed that several weeks previously she had negative feedback,  something like..."Very poor condition.  I am returning the item."  When I looked at the item, there were the exact same silver boots, same photo, same description.  How was another seller selling them and, more importantly, why then would she want to buy them?
Curiouser and curiouser....both shoegirl and shilly were located in the same town.  I became suspicious that shoegirl and shilly may be involved in a scam to list items and then have the other push up the bidding.  When the item ended, the seller could make a second chance offer to the poor unsuspecting second place getter who would be paying far more than he or she should have.
I contacted eBay but there was not enough evidence of shill bidding.....yet!

Caught

Over the next few days I watched the "silver boots" auctions and, sure enough, there they were, this time listed by newgirl (a new seller) with bids from random (someone not involved at all).  I alerted eBay to the "same item, same photo, same town" scenario & watched over the next few days.  The price kept rising with bids from, you guessed it, shoegirl and shilly!  Within a few days the auction disappeared and the users were all listed as "no longer registered".  I guess eBay got their proof!

Moral

Do a bit of detective work if you suspect things aren't above board and let eBay know!

P.S. Since I wrote this, EBay has made changes to userIDs being displayed so it is harder to do the detective work.  I think it still helps to understand how prices can be pushed up and the second chance item system abused!

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