Discover eBay scam / account takeover
Discover eBay scam / account takeover
A guide for the clever buyer
Summary: eBay is a wonderful place to trade but unfortunately it also being used by thieves that tries to steal your money and deceive you as a buyer. Most of those scams are done by taking over an existing account of a user that was naive enough to reveal his password to a spoof message. After taking over the account, the thief will usually list items for sell that looks as a legitimate auction.
In this guide I’ll show you how to detect those scams so you’ll be able to avoid it and save yourself a lot of trouble.
About the author: Avi Schneor, B.Sc. TE with Teaching diploma. eBay member since 1999, eBay coach with proven record in selling and buying. Author of eCommerce, How-To and modding articles and guides.
So, let’s assume you look for an item such as a brand new camera that is priced at ~$2,400 in well known online stores and you found an eBay auction that looks as a bargain.
Auction is about to end in a few hours, its current price is less than $100 and all looks as a bargain.
Let’s examine this auction for possible signs/alerts of a scam:
- Auction ends VERY soon, usually in few hours or a day / two and the auction duration is of 1 or 2 days. Time is crucial to scammers and puts pressure on buyers to act fast.
- Price is VERY low, usually items of high price will not be left low so soon to auction end.
- Seller and item locations are not consistence. For example seller is in USA and item is in UK
- Seller asks you to contact him directly (see images below), this will always be to a free service email server such as Yahoo, Gmail, Aol etc. This might appear in different styles and designs including a form or not, but the request purpose is always similar: “…contact me outside eBay…”
- Description of the items is a cut and paste info. Spending some time on manufacturer or other stores sites will show you quickly the source.
- Images are from manufacturer site or taken from other legit auctions. Searching other similar auctions will soon show you the source. Usually images are not of the described items, for example image does not show the lenses offered in the description.
- Look for mistakes. It might be mistakes in description content or of items spec. you should read carefully the description, after all that’s what you are being offered.
- This is too good to be true. If seller offers a camera body + 2 lenses + 4GB card + more in a very low price than it should suggest you to be very careful and alerted.
- Shipping is free or unreasonably low (what a great deal isn’t it?)
- Seller will accept payment only with services such as Western Union etc and will not accept PayPal. Although PayPal might appear in the auction details, once you’ll contact the seller he’ll ask for a direct transfer.
- Page design is different than seller previous auctions. If you have few alert signs so far than you should investigate further. With advance search you should locate older auctions of this seller and compare its design to the one in doubt. Different designs might indicate different author.
- Area of expertise Look for seller ‘View seller’s other items’ and compare it to his previous ended auctions. You should be alerted if completed auctions of the seller were all of shoes and now you find high-end cameras, computers etc.
- Review seller’s other auctions. Most scammers will offer few items simultaneously (I even saw some 60 auctions listed), all will be of high-end / expansive items and will have the same mentioned alert points.
- Review seller’s feedback history. This you should do for every purchase but in this case you should do it more carefully. Usually scammers take over an account with 100% positive feedbacks but I already found scammers that did so well that they started to collect negative feedback in their recent activity.
- Review seller activity. Find out when did this seller had his last activity. Usually scammers take over accounts with no activity in recent period.
- When reviewing seller activity look carefully at the auctions he purchased.
There are scammers that instead of account takeover they use an account opened by them.
To gain high feedback rate they usually will buy a lot of 1 cent items. You should be able to locate this kind of scammer by just reviewing his activity as a buyer.
- Search for similar auctions. Sometimes you’ll find similar auctions for the same item and with the same alert characteristics but from different sellers. Pay attention to the seller email request, in most cases it will lead to the same email address of the scammer.
Questions and Answers :
1. What should I do if the auction I found has all or some of the alert characteristics you mentioned?
a. Don’t bid, Don’t buy and avoid it. There will always be another similar auction, hopefully a legit one.
b. Report it to Trust and Safety. They will probably investigate it and will let you know if it is legitimate auction or a fraud.
2. I already placed a bid, what should I do?
a. You can always retract your bid and run away from this fishy auction.
b. Don’t reply to emails from this seller and don’t be tempted to possible second chance offer you might get for it.
c. Report it to Trust and Safety. They will probably investigate it and will let you know if it is legitimate auction or a fraud.
3. Is it really necessary to invest so much time in auction reviewing?
Well, this is your decision and eventually your money .
My only suggestion will be that if you find few alert points in an auction, either review it deeply or leave it right away.
– If it is too good to be true, than it is NOT !
– You should be alerted, at least be cautious though not all auctions that has some of the above alerts are scams.
– Follow your instincts. If you feel the slightest doubt, leave it. eBay will soon offer you another auction.
– Last issue is for you sellers, check you account frequently. If you see unfamiliar activity in it or auctions you didn’t published, check it carefully, your account might have been taken over.
NEVER reply with your user ID / Password to requests coming from anyone, and I mean anyone!
Have fun and keep safe.
eBay is a wonderful place to shop, but ONLY if you are careful!
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