For online merchants, face-to-face transactions are rare. This has given rise to all sorts of new online payment-processing methods — and new scams to exploit them. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself.
A buyer’s feedback is your first clue to their trustworthiness. Sellers and buyers submit feedback on their experiences with other users, either helping or hindering their user ratings. Beware of new users and buyers with excessive negative feedback.
Not all new members pose a risk; after all, you were a new user once, too. But new users are unfamiliar with the eBay process, which may lead to misunderstandings. Also, a “new” eBayer may not be new at all — scammers routinely open new accounts once their old usernames begin to amass negative feedback. Buyers and sellers on eBay assess negative feedback very reluctantly, so if negative feedback accounts for more than a small fraction of a user’s total feedback score, proceed with caution.
Also be wary of overseas buyers. Certain countries, like Indonesia and Nigeria, are known havens for scammers. But don’t paint all users (or countries) with the same brush. The vast majority of international eBayers are honest.
There are a couple of popular scams to be on the lookout for, one old and one new. The first is the classic “advance fee” fraud, and the other is known as “phishing.”
In the former, a user will propose to send you a cashier’s check for far more than the price of the item you are selling. The “buyer” will claim to be a broker for a third party, and will promise to pay you an exorbitant sum for your item if you will advance the broker his or her commission (which is allegedly included in the money you will be paid later). It sounds outrageous, but this scam is common, and it continues to reel in unsuspecting sellers.
Phishing attempts to trick users into revealing their private information. In this scenario, you will receive an email that appears to be from eBay or PayPal asking you to update or verify your account information. If you submit your information, it goes directly to the scammer, who will use it to make purchases on your account. Neither eBay nor PayPal will ever request information in this manner, so be wary.
If you receive scam solicitations like the ones described above, or if you even suspect you may be the target of fraud, forward the suspicious email to eBay or PayPal right away.
Above all, rely on your instincts. If something seems too good to be true, chances are, it probably is. Scammers will always operate on eBay, but the number of upstanding eBay members greatly outnumber the bad. Be cautious, but try to balance that with giving your buyers the benefit of the doubt.