Buying things online is nothing new and has become a normal part of life. We make purchases on sites like eBay and Amazon all the time. It is convenient and often things can be found at a better price than local retail stores.
Selling online is nothing new either and many people are doing this to sell unwanted things that have value. eBay is one of the more popular sites that is used for people to make extra money by selling things.
If you have started reselling or you are thinking of it for a little extra money or even for a full-time income, the rewards can be great. But there are hazards you will encounter. In particular, there are scammers, fraudsters, and just plain old nasty people looking to take advantage of sellers online.
The fraudulent buyers like to take saving to a whole new level by getting things for free or asking for further discounts once they receive their purchase. There are things you can do to limit theft when selling on eBay, but you should be aware that using the platform you will be at a disadvantage from the start should you encounter fraud.
Why is it a disadvantage from the beginning when you sell on eBay?
Don’t get me wrong, eBay can be a great platform to sell things. I have been doing it for quite some time and have had much success in the past. It is not quite what it used to be, but still a viable option to sell things.
Just like most places you buy things, the old saying “The customer is always right” is also true on eBay a large majority of the time. This outlook is perfectly fine with large sellers and retailers that move a lot of inventory. They will often even side with the customer even when they know the customer may not be right and may be taking advantage of them.
Theft and fraud are a cost of doing business, unfortunately. Large online sellers and retailers build this loss into their budget. But for someone selling something here and there or even a small regular seller, you can lose money if you are not careful.
What are some of the top frauds people use on eBay to Steal and Scam?
1. I did not receive the item scam
- With this scam, a buyer receives the shipped item and then claims they never received it. This does legitimately happen from time to time where a package does not arrive. However, scammers use this rare occurrence to their advantage.
- When this happens, they will open a case on eBay for a refund. Most of the time eBay will refund the buyer. If you are able to plead your case the buyer can still file a chargeback claim if they used a credit card through PayPal.
- This scam is typically seen on higher value things.
2. Buyer claims they received a damaged shipment
- How this works is when the buyer receives the item, they send a picture showing a damaged item. This is often something they just wanted to replace and they are using the damaged one to show the issues.
- When this happens, it is often your word against the buyer. There is not much you can do and eBay will often refund the buyer. You can ask for the damaged thing you sold to be returned, but the postage cost you will have to pick up.
3. The empty box returns
- It is hard to believe that people actually pull this scam but they do. In this case, you sell something and the person wants to return it claiming the item was not described properly or not what they thought it was. They ship it back to you and the box is empty. As a result, they have a tracking number showing it was returned and want their refund. This can be your word against theirs and eBay will side with the buyer in most cases unless the buyer has a bad history.
4. The forwarding address
- This is not necessarily a scam, but a loophole international buyer’s use when you may not offer items to their country.
- This issue always seemed to come up for me personally from time to time. Some things I just do not like to ship out of the country because they are fragile or expensive. A buyer from Russia, for example, will use a U.S. forwarding address. When I ship the item to the address provided it is then shipped to Russia.
5. The buyer asks you to ship their purchase to another address other than the one on their account. Also, they may say that it is an old address and to use the one they send you.
- This issue I have come across several times. The buyer tries to get you to send it to the other address they provide. If you do this, they then claim they never received the package even though they did.
6. The PayPal refund scam
- This is set up by a buyer usually for a more expensive item and once they agree to meet you for local pickup. They pay through PayPal. You meet with them and then the following day the PayPal payment is reversed.
7. Buyer feedback hostage negotiation
- Having good feedback as a seller on eBay helps to make more sales. As a seller, you look more trustworthy and competent with great positive reviews. It can also save you money by lowering the fees to list on eBay and help the ranking of items being sold.
- Buyers know the importance of positive feedback and they will use this to their advantage. They do this by saying an item is not as described when they receive it. Claiming it has a flaw or was damaged asking for a partial refund.
- Issues do come up and there are times when a partial refund may be fair. However, the scammers use this one all the time to see how far they can get.
Just Some of the Scams
The above list is just some of the scam’s buyers will use on eBay. There are many more and new ones people come up with all the time.
What are some steps you can take to protect yourself when selling on eBay?
The first thing to remember when selling online through eBay is there is always the possibility you will have a loss of both the item and the money either you paid for it or the amount you hope to get for it. In addition, the amount you paid to ship an item if you shipped it to someone for free.
Why would you lose both the money and the thing you were selling?
- Packages get lost in the mail. You can buy insurance and even a small amount of insurance is often included with just the postage through the postal service, but claims can often be difficult to collect on or they may take some time to be resolved.
- Using other carriers other than the US Postal Service also have their pros and cons. UPS is a large national shipping company, but many of their local stores are individually owned and operated. If you read the fine print, it is often up to the local business owner to pay an insurance claim.
- I have had personal experience with UPS and an item that was both packed and shipped by them. Even though they advertise a pack and ship guarantee, it took almost a month to have them pay out a claim that was damaged in shipment. With their guarantee or your money back when they pack something and ship it there shouldn’t have been a long drawn out process. I was told there would need to be an investigation on how the item I sold was damaged in transit. My response was poor packing. Investigation solved! Yet, I still had to wait.
- Fraudulent buyers will sometimes claim they never received an item even though they did. This places the proof on you the seller to show that the item was delivered. You can pay extra with the postal service to have someone sign for the package, but this again does not guarantee a buyer will not get away with claiming they never received something. It does make it more difficult, but it is not absolute. Thus, you will need to file an insurance claim and hope it gets resolved.
- Things do break in the mail. It happens all the time and we all see the nightmares on the news of package handlers throwing things to the front porch. In addition, there are the porch pirates that take the opportunity to pick up a surprise box they can open at home.
It is up to you, but personally, I would not sell extremely expensive items through eBay
- If you can’t afford the monetary loss of selling something online, sell it someplace else. There are plenty of local ways to sell something of high value. The amount of high value is a personal decision, but for me, if it is more than say $500 dollars, I won’t sell it online unless I use the option for local pickup or meet the person and get cash only.
Restrict buyers from known countries to have problems with fraud
- There is nothing wrong with selling to international buyers on eBay. eBay has a great program to sell internationally. I have sold to people in Canada, England, Australia, and many other places. However, if you allow sales to third world countries you are asking for trouble. Make sure to set up the account restrictions to the places you sell. If you are hesitant of international sales, you can also set it up to only sell to people that reside in the country you live in.
Take only the best pictures and describe every detail you can on an item.
- Good photos and descriptions are invaluable on eBay listings. If something being sold has flaws be sure to point them out. One tip I learned the hard way is that if you have an item you are selling for parts only make sure to list it this way. Do not just say it does not work. Specifically say in the eBay listing for parts only not working.
Have a clear set of buyer terms in your listings
- This may not do much in the event that something happens, but it can persuade less than honest people. One thing I started to do was list some of the internet fraud laws and consequences in my listings.
Check the buyer and their feedback
- When an item is purchased on eBay, I always check the buyer’s feedback rating before sending their purchased item. If I am sending something over $100 to a buyer with low feedback, I will make sure to pay the extra few dollars for a signature guarantee. Anything over $200 automatically gets a signature guarantee added to the shipped item.
- When checking buyer feedback also look at other things like their email address. This will often show if the buyer is possibly using a forwarding address. If they have an email that has an extension of another country it could be a possibility. Forwarding addresses are one of the biggest loopholes on eBay when you do not want to sell to a certain destination.
- If the buyer has terrible feedback or mostly feedback as a seller for what may be low priced items, this should possibly raise a red flag. Especially if the item you are sending has a higher value.
Don’t leave large amounts of money in a PayPal account
- PayPal is the preferred payment method on eBay. They are not classified as a bank and they do not follow the same regulations. If you have not read the novel of their terms for using them, I highly recommend it if you are going to be selling on eBay.
- eBay and PayPal can reverse money out of your account for whatever reason they see fit to do so. Do not leave tens of thousands of dollars in your PayPal account. Your account can also be compromised from phishing scams or hacking.
- When you get paid for an item and it can no longer be returned, transfer and withdrawal the money from PayPal.
- eBay is looking into using another Payment provider and they have already started testing it. Hopefully, it will be better than PayPal.
Only ship to a verified PayPal address
- If a buyer says their address is incorrect and to ship to another one, do not do it. Only ship to the verified address.
If a more expensive item is returned, take video of it while opening the package
- This may help in the event the empty box return scam is used. It may not, but it will be the only proof you have.
If buyer feedback hostage negotiation occurs for a partial refund, notify eBay
- For lower priced items it is always best to just give a partial refund or full refund. Having good feedback on eBay is required to sell with any type of success. If you get a feeling the buyer is trying to just get a better deal, block them from buying from you again in the account settings.
- Always report hostage feedback negotiation to eBay. People that do this sometimes try to do it regularly and eBay will have a record of it so they can put a stop to it.
To Sum It All Up
eBay can be a good place to sell things as long as you are aware of the scammers. In my experience, it does not happen very often. There are good buyers on eBay. However, you should be aware of the scams that can and do take place. This will allow you to recognize possible issues and prevent them from happening.
The lists above are not the only scams occurring. The less than trustworthy people are always looking for a way to take advantage of the system and they are coming up with new methods every day.
If you are going to sell on eBay, it can be hard to learn all of the issues that may occur. Most things you will have to learn as you go. But, take the time to learn as much as you can. You will be at a disadvantage when you start selling, but with continued learning, you can hopefully sidestep any fraudsters and scammers that come along.