EBay Feedback Scam
EBay traders rely not only on their goods, but their feedback reputation. Those are the comments both buyers and sellers leave on the transaction. The better your feedback reputation - which is divided into positive, neutral and negative - the more people will trust you as a buyer and seller. On the surface it's straightforward enough. But unscrupulous dealers manipulate their feedback to gain trust before ripping off trusting buyers and sellers on high-end goods.
How They Do It
- Feedback fraud. A person will set up multiple EBay accounts, buying and selling items between his identities, and leaving positive feedback to make himself look trustworthy.
- Purchasing feedback. EBay has cracked down on this, but a simple search shows it still goes on. A buyer purchases a cheap item (under £1) in return for positive feedback to build up their rating. Some sellers even market this as a way to gain positive feedback. Additionally, sellers are also auctioning books on how to gain a 100+ positive feedback rating in seven days.
- Stealing feedback. It's not simply the feedback that's stolen, though. An unscrupulous dealer will hijack an account, and use its good reputation to scam others. This usually happens after someone has been tricked into entering their password at a counterfeit EBay site following a "phishing" e-mail.
How To Avoid Being ScammedOne of the most important things you can do in any EBay transaction is to check a other party's feedback. Obviously, you should avoid doing business with anyone who has a large negative, or even neutral, feedback rating. These days, however, you even need to delve beyond the positive feedback rating, especially if it involves an expensive item. These are the things you should look for:
- Check the IDs. Were many from the same person? If excessively so (more than three or four times in a row, for example) that should raise a red flag that the person might be purchasing feedback.
- What items are the feedback for? If it's all been for very low-priced items and suddenly the person is selling laptops, for example, you should be very suspicious. You can check by clicking on the item link, which will show you the auction and winning bid price within the last couple of months. Pay attention to both.
- Is the feedback for buying or selling (you can tell by the S or B)? If everything has been for buying items and suddenly the person is selling, remember, they're a novice seller, and should be treated like someone with zero feedback - cautiously.
- Beware of private feedback. An EBay trader should be proud of his feedback, if it's good, not trying to hide it. Think twice before proceeding. The same applies if the history includes a lot of private auctions.
- Look for the Buy Safe seal. That means the seller has been vetted and approved by an independent company called Buy Safe. However, even many legitimate sellers don't use this.
What To Do If You're ScammedThe first thing is to report the incident to EBay itself, and also to Paypal, if you paid through their service. That offers you some recourse, and means you can file an insurance claim through them. Ultimately, however, online auctions are like car boot sales - it's a case of caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. EBay will suspend accounts where feedback manipulation is obvious, but has admitted it's a "grey area." You can use SquareTrade, a mediation service, to try and resolve buyer/seller problems but in the case of a scam, that's obviously not going to work.
According to EBay, only 0.01% of the transactions on its site are scams, and they do their best to police those. Certainly, the vast majority of people experience no problems. But always do your homework before bidding on an item, especially a high-end one.