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In eBay's own words, "Shill bidding is bidding that artificially increases an item's price or apparent desirability", and it's just as common on eBay as it is in any motor auction room up and down the country. But just because that dodgy geezer in the sheepskin coat, upping the interest on that Mondeo, is all part of the "charm", it doesn't mean it's OK on eBay. In fact, it's a criminal offence and there have been several prosecutions, here in the UK. Not only that, but eBay's rules prevent you bidding on items being sold by your friends, family and (take note) your work colleagues! The only exceptions are purchases made using the "Buy it Now" option or fixed price listings. So how can you recognise if you're being taken to the cleaners? Well, this is one of the easiest frauds to carry out, so many shill bidders are going to leave some clues for you. Check the number of bid retractions a bidder has - we can all make mistakes, but could we really enter the "wrong amount" over and over again? See if the user IDs are in the same format, or look similar in more obscure ways. Look out for sellers who immediately relist an item - wouldn't you try to communicate with a non-paying bidder first, instead of arbitrarily relisting straight away? Although it's easy to manipulate, have a look at the location given by the IDs concerned, and remember that eBay's "distance from seller" feature can be used to weed out those sellers who deliberately enter the wrong location (see my other guides for details of how this feature can be used to your advantage). Does the pattern of bids look right? Finally, although I'm not allowed to provide a link, there is at least one on-line tool that allows you to enter the eBay IDs of both the seller, and the suspected shill bidder, to view the historical transactions between the two parties, but you'll have to do a search for that one.
Ever bid for an item and discovered an inflated postage charge? Well, so have I, even as a seasoned eBayer who should have checked first. If the seller is simply trying to avoid eBay fees, rather than conning you, then that's something between you (and your ability to assess the total cost of the item including shipping), the seller (and their ability to to assess how close they can push it before someone reports them) and eBay (and their ability to assess what they need to do to avoid any more adverse publicity). If the seller is trying to con you, then they will try to hide their shipping charges in the small print. If you haven't done it already, change your customised settings so that a postage column appears in all your searches, and allow yourself some investigative time for those impulse buys. One of my guides shows you how to set up your customised settings to show not just a postage column, but other useful data too.
Have you read official eBay press releases about how fraudulent sellers represent just a tiny fraction of all transactions? Have you also read comments to the effect that it's impossible to know just how many sellers on eBay are chomping at the bit to take you to the cleaners? Well, consider this. A recent report by the research group, IDC, shows that more than 50% of all Microsoft software sold on eBay globally is fake, and it has become such a problem that Microsoft have launched a global campaign to track down the culprits. That's right, more than 50%! And it's not just software either. Some of the "rare artifacts" turning up on a surprisingly regular basis are almost comical in their attempts to deceive, but others are much harder to spot. The other day, an eBayer posted a message on the chat boards, asking if it was OK to list "replica" **** trainers. Unbelievable! But it's a measure of the fact that some casual sellers do not realise that selling counterfeit items on eBay is naughty. At the other end of the scale, there are sellers whose activities are funding major organised crime. We are truly in a global market, where sellers' perceptions of legitimacy vary from country to country, and it's a shame we have to treat our on-line experiences with some circumspection. I won't insult your intelligence, you already know what to do, but remember that sellers can use special software that can create multiple eBay accounts, and the consequent interlinked positive feedbacks, faster than you could possibly imagine, so don't rely on sellers' feedback history. Have a look at my guide to feedback scamming, and how to avoid becoming a victim.And if you get the chance, have a look at my guide on how to roughly assess the level of fraud going on in the category of your choice, simply by using eBay's own search tools.
THE SECOND CHANCE OFFER
A bidder just gets pipped at the post, and ends up as the second highest bidder when the auction ends. A few days later the second highest bidder receives an email, ostensibly from the seller, saying that the original highest bidder has declined to pay and that the item is available if payment is sent. The email looks genuine and the buyer may not know much about how second chance offers work. With the increased awareness of other scams on eBay, the success rate for pulling off this type of fraud is much higher than it used to be. It has become such a problem that many experienced sellers take control of the situation by highlighting in their listings the fact that no second chance offers are made, and that the bidder should report any offer received to eBay. Always ascertain whether the second chance offer you have received is genuine, by contacting the buyer first, before parting with your hard earned cash.
Have you seen those listings, where the seller says, "this item is advertised elsewhere, so I reserve the right to withdraw this auction at any time"? Well, this may be a genuine account of the situation, but what if the seller plans to withdraw it if the bidding has stopped far short of expectations? Exactly, and it could well be a con. If you really want the item then ask the seller to substantiate the claim, or move on. Nothing is more frustrating than finding the item you have been bidding on removed, because the seller is using the "advertised elsewhere", and you will be potentially tied in to the bidding on a bogus auction when you could be bidding elsewhere. This has become such a problem that many sellers are highlighting the fact that their item is "NOT advertised elsewhere" as a selling feature in it's own right.
NOT AS DESCRIBED
How many times have you seen the phrase "I'm not an expert" in sellers' descriptions. Perhaps I'm being harsh here, but if you follow the feedback trails to these sellers you will often find comments to the effect that the item was not without fault. Sellers will feign ignorance to avoid declaring faults, and it's yet another con. Be prepared to ask questions if you anticipate that the seller's perception of an item's condition will differ from your own, but also be aware that some people will be downright dishonest with their descriptions. Try and get the seller to be more specific, if they are using vague terms such as "great", "lovely" or "fine", and remember that many buyers have inadvertently "won" an empty box and had no redress, simply because the seller has been clever with the wording of their listing. Know your rights, and remember that if the seller is selling for the purpose of making a profit then they are running a business in the eyes of the law.
"LOST IN THE POST"
So you've won the item of your dreams with a virgin bid. Fantastic, or at least it appeared to be, until the item ends up "lost in the post". Contrary to popular opinion, Royal Mail are pretty good, and it may just be that your item wasn't sent at all. Watch out for your lost item popping up again in a future auction, but probably with a higher starting price. After all, the seller doesn't want the same thing to happen again.
Did you know that a seller can gain ten thousand positive feedbacks in less time than it takes to get a reply from eBay customer services? If you type the words FEEDBACK and SCAM into a search engine you will see what I mean. With such a reliance on feedback, it's vital to check exactly how that feedback has been gained. Does it look as if the seller has been selling e-books prior to offering a plasma TV, for example? Is seller's feedback entirely from sellers, and this is the first item they are offering for sale? Do your homework, and read my guide to feedback scamming.
This is a only coffee-break guide, but a whole book could be written about this topic. Sellers can find themselves out of pocket if they're not careful. Buyers can buy items via Paypal, claim that the item was never received, and receive a Paypal refund. The seller is only protected if they have shipped to a confirmed address using a trackable service. Canny buyers will target sellers who just ship via untracked services. Ever received a parcel that you unexpectedly had to sign for? Well, it's highly likely that the seller paid the extra for recorded delivery simply because they were worried about being scammed, either with a chargeback or with a straightforward "I never received it" claim. For those sellers who are considering selling on eBay Express, you need to be aware that eBay require you to be willing to ship to unconfirmed addresses using Paypal, leaving yourself open to potential fraud, and a lot of sellers are uneasy about it. Sellers should scrutinise the buyer's feedback carefully, to see if there is any previous evidence of chargeback activity, before shipping high value items.
THE UK BUYER WHO WANTS YOU TO SHIP TO HIS RELATIVE IN *******
Count the stars and guess the country. That's right - got it in one! Such a common scam, that your auction for that mobile phone is quite likely to be targeted. The buyer claims to be in the UK, but wants the item to shipped to "you know where". Various methods are employed to try to get you to ship your item before you receive the payment. You can protect yourself to a certain extent by setting up your preferences so that your item can only be bid on by UK based sellers, an immediate Paypal payment is required (for Buy it Now items), by selecting Paypal as the only payment method allowed and, finally, making sure you never ever ship an item before you receive payment, no matter how much money is being offered.
And there you have it. If you've enjoyed reading my guide, and haven't put you off the idea of trading on eBay. Being aware of the tricks that scammers use is half the battle, and knowledge will help keep you safe. If you found my guide useful, and appreciate the fact that I didn't try to sell you anything (I did promise), then please give me the thumbs up by voting YES below. Thank you very much, and thanks for stopping by!