The computer helper: Sniff out eBay scams
By Jay Dougherty Apr 24, 2007, 7:07 GMT
Washington - eBay is a great place to find deals. Unfortunately, it's also a haven for scam artists. But does that mean you should avoid eBay at all costs? Probably not.
After all, there's no bigger marketplace if you have something to sell, and it's occasionally a great place to find good deals as a buyer. If you know what to watch out for, you can avoid the attempts to scam you out of your goods or money and walk away with a satisfying deal.
Q: I received a 'second chance' offer to buy an item I had not placed a bid on. However, I had placed a bid on a similar item some time ago. The offer seemed reasonable, but my attempts to contact the seller resulted in no response. Was this a scam?
A: Yes. eBay's 'second chance' system was put in place so that when the winner of a bid backs out and fails to pay, the seller can offer the item to the next highest bidder in the auction. However, sellers are only able to offer the item to those who have already bid on the item in the official auction. No others could legitimately be offered a 'second chance.'
Scammers have figured out ways to make it look as though you're being offered a second chance to buy something you may have expressed interest in or bid on in another auction. These scam second chance offers may be delivered through regular e-mail, not through eBay's own e-mail messaging system. Wherever they come from, don't fall for the ploy. Unless you bid specifically on the item for which a second chance offer is being given, consider the offer suspect, and move on.
Q: Should I accept money orders as a form of payment?
A: If the money order is from a reputable source, there's no reason not to. However, you should never ship out an item you've sold online until you receive the money order and have cashed it. Your buyer should be aware that you will send out the item only after the money order is received and deposited. Some sellers even specify that an item will be held a number of days after a check has been deposited to be sure that there is no issue with the funds actually being available.
Q: The seller of an item I'm interested in requires that payment be sent by Western Union. Should I be suspicious?
A: Yes. Sending money by Western Union is typically equivalent to wiring someone money. The trouble here is that many scammers on eBay request or require that money be sent by Western Union rather than a more secure means, such as PayPal. All kinds of reasons might be offered as to why Western Union is preferred. No matter what the reason, don't buy it. Flatly refuse to pay an auction seller by means of a money transfer of this type.
Q: If I require bidders to pay me by using PayPal, do I receive some kind of buyer fraud protection?
A: You do on one condition: You must require and ensure that your buyer has an address that is 'confirmed' by PayPal. Most of PayPal's protections for buyers are offered only when you deal with someone whose address PayPal has confirmed. On PayPal's end, the confirmation process involves obtaining some identification by fax that lists a person's address. PayPal also ensures that a person's billing address matches the shipping address. The PayPal confirmation process is described in greater detail on the PayPal Web site.
If you ship to a buyer whose address has not been confirmed and it later turns out that the buyer has been involved in fraud - such as using a stolen credit card, for example, PayPal is under no obligation to ensure that the money you received remains in your account. So by all means, if you're selling something of value, insist that the buyer get confirmed by the PayPal.
Q: I'm considering purchasing an expensive digital camera from a buyer who has many positive feedbacks. However, almost all of those feedbacks come from sales of very low-price items. Should I be worried?
A: You should be cautious. A common scammer's tactic on eBay is to 'pad' a feedback rating by selling dozens of items at a ridiculously low price to friends or others in on the scam, and then, once a feedback rating has been established, offer a high-priced item for sale. The item may or may not actually be in the seller's possession.
Carefully look over the feedback of a buyer or seller and look for telltale signs of fraud. These might include lots of low-priced items in the transaction list, as you've noted, or they could involve many feedback messages that contain largely the same words or the same phrasing. Also, check to see whether a seller has sold similar items before. Red flags might be raised if a seller who had previously sold only CD sleeves, for example, suddenly lists an expensive diamond ring.
- Have a computer question? Send it to the Computer Helper at email@example.com© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur