Scammed on eBay

How to Avoid Being Scammed on eBay

Selling on eBay is an important source of income for many people. Although big companies can afford to occasionally absorb a few losses from unscrupulous buyers, eBay scams can be devastating for small businesses and individuals looking to sell their old stuff. However, you can stay safe from thieves if you know what to look out for. Here is a look at how eBay sellers can protect themselves from scams.

Taking Photographs and Documenting Your Sales

When it comes to proving your case in eBay disputes, photos are key. Many dishonest buyers will try to swap out your good item for a defective item and then make a return. Having a photograph of a serial number will go a long way in proving that you’ve in fact been scammed. You should also take photographs of any identifying marks.

Furthermore, you should fully document any damage or wear on your item before you sell it. Although clear photos of damage might make your item harder to sell, they will ensure that the buyer gets exactly what he or she ordered and will save you from headaches in the future.

Local Pick-Ups

Certain items are too heavy or inconvenient to ship. For this reason, eBay allows sellers to arrange local pickups with buyers. You should never accept PayPal payments for a local pickup. PayPal uses tracking numbers to determine whether or not a buyer actually received his or her item. Since there is no tracking number for an item that has been picked up from your location, PayPal will basically allow shady buyers to force a refund from your account. Although you can prove that the buyer received an item by having him or her sign a receipt, overturning such a PayPal dispute takes time. You will not have access to your money until the case is resolved.

You should only accept cash for pickups. If you are selling an expensive item in person, you should also purchase a counterfeit detection pen or UV emitter to make sure that you are receiving real currency.

Fake Addresses

Some buyers will try to trick you into sending your item to an address or P.O. box that is different from the one listed on their accounts. They would do that if, for example, they are using a fake account with a stolen credit card to purchase goods, and then they have you ship them to a 3rd party P.O. Box that they somehow have access to. Once they receive your item, they turn around and resell it under another account or on another marketplace.

You should never mail anything to an unverified address that is not linked to the account that you are dealing with. If you send a package to such a location, your seller protection will be voided. You should also beware of freight companies who send packages overseas. Although many honest people use these companies to buy items from the US, these companies are also commonly used in scams. If you have a problem with such a buyer, get eBay’s customer service involved as soon as possible. You are only responsible for making sure that your package makes it to its initial destination.

Feedback Extortion

If you intend to be a long-term seller on eBay, negative feedback will take money out of your pocket. You will lose discounts and buyers will have a harder time finding your products through the eBay search engine. Many sellers allow themselves to be bullied into partial refunds or unwarranted returns because they are afraid of receiving negative feedback. It is important to know what your rights as a seller are. If a buyer ever threatens you with negative feedback, immediately report them to eBay’s customer service. Feedback extortion is heavily frowned upon by eBay and will often result in the banning of the buyer’s account.

The IMEI Scam – Selling Phones on eBay

If you sell phones on eBay, be aware of the IMEI scam. This actually happened to me, but I luckily caught it before it became a problem. Many others were not so lucky. When I listed a phone for sale on eBay, I received a message asking me for the IMEI number of the phone. If you are unfamiliar, the IMEI number is a 15-digit number on the back of your phone (usually under the battery) that the carriers use to connect and otherwise service your phone. If you report your phone stolen, for example, your IMEI will be blacklisted, so that nobody can connect your stolen phone to an account. A shady buyer would want your IMEI number, so that he or she can quickly clone it onto another (usually stolen or shadily obtained) phone, activate it and quickly flip it before someone catches on. The message I received was something along the lines of: “Hey, I just wanted to make sure that the phone you are selling has not been blacklisted. I was going to call Verizon and quickly verify that your phone is legit.” I almost fell for it when it happened to me! Never give out your IMEI number to anyone. They will get it when they receive the phone.


In conclusion, when selling on eBay, it is important to remember that most buyers are honest, ordinary people who are looking for good deals and hard-to-find products. Even though most people on eBay are unverified, don’t allow the several thousand scammers to ruin your perception of the site’s culture. However, you also shouldn’t let yourself be scammed. Assume the best of everyone, but be prepared for the worst.

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