What it involves: Shill bidding is when someone artificially – and illegally - increases an item’s price. The seller may set up a second eBay (www.ebay.com) account to bid on items listed through the first account or get friends with eBay accounts to bump up a price. How to spot it: Check a seller’s feedback. Alarm bells should ring if a number of sold items are quickly relisted – this may imply that the auctions were won by someone who did not actually want the item but was only bidding to prevent the goods being sold at a low price. It has been harder to spot shill bidding since eBay introduced bidder anonymity but if you find that bidding on an item is going up in tiny increments or a seller appears to have lots of bid retractions, you should abandon the auction. Read eBay’s ‘Shill bidding policy’ for more information.
What it involves: Feedback scamming is a way of manipulating the positive feedback that makes potential buyers trusts a seller. It may entail a dodgy seller purchasing lots of cheap items in order to get positive feedback from other sellers or setting up multiple eBay accounts to give themselves a 100 per cent positive feedback record. How to spot it: Unscrupulous sellers will often end up abusing the trust of customers by ripping them off so it’s important to watch for the signs. Check if the feedback has been mostly gained for buying rather than selling, and if the person has never sold anything before, treat them as if they have no feedback. Take a close look at the finished auctions that got them positive feedback. Were they for low-value items? If so, should you still trust them to send that plasma TV you’re bidding for?
What it involves: Unscrupulous sellers will sometimes claim that goods have been posted but must have got lost in the post. You may then spot the item relisted at a higher price. How to spot it: This scam isn’t an easy one to avoid, although feedback may indicate that it’s not a one-off incident. Check if the seller has ever sold an identical item twice for different prices. If the seller refuses to refund you, report them to eBay. It could be that the seller considers the final sale price too low and decides to lie in order to get a better price later. Read eBay’s help page ‘I didn’t receive an item I paid for’ for further advice. The recently introduced eBay Buyer Protection policy covers payments made via PayPal.
What it involves: You may receive an email from someone pretending to be an auction’s seller, offering you the second chance to buy an item. This will be for an auction that you have just missed out on winning. How to spot it: If the email has not come through the official eBay channels, you should immediately be wary. If in doubt, contact the original seller through eBay. With bidder IDs now hidden, this scam has become less of a problem.
What it involves: You may be contacted by a buyer who wants you to send a high-value item you’re selling to another country. For some reason, this invariably seems to be Nigeria. How to spot it: Never send an item to a buyer before you receive any money. You should insist on being paid immediately via PayPal (www.paypal.com), which all sellers must now offer as a payment option. If you receive a check, have it analyzed by a bank before you send the goods. Also, avoid clicking links in the buyer’s email, which may take you to a fake PayPal or eBay page where they can ‘phish’ your details.
By: Francis David