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Can you get scammed on eBay?

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  • 9 min read

EBay operates as an online marketplace for buying and selling goods and an online auction platform. Given the daily volume of transactions on the platform and the sheer number of sellers and buyers, it can become difficult to differentiate good deals from scams.

Yes, you can get scammed on eBay quite easily.

Like any other online marketplace, eBay has its fair share of scams on both the buying and selling end. This article covers various types of scams faced by buyers and sellers, what precautions to take to avoid getting scammed and what to do if you do get scammed on eBay. Here are the topics covered in this article.

Also read: Top 7 sites like eBay

6 common Buyer scams on eBay

Here are the six most common buyer scams on eBay that you must be aware of and avoid. These include counterfeit goods, shipping scams and phishing.

Counterfeit or knock-off goods

Fraudulent sellers post listings for high-priced items, especially luxury goods, usually at a price much cheaper than the market value. These often use stock images to make the product seem authentic. The product they ship is counterfeit or a knock-off of the original.

Box Only or Photo Only listings

Such listings are purposefully deceptive, where the seller makes it seem like it’s a listing for a product, for instance, a PlayStation console. The image accompanying the listing may showcase the product box and be hidden in the name of the listing, or the description will be the words ‘Box Only’. Similarly, the scammers can hide the disclaimer for ‘Photo Only’.

Such listings might have a heavy discount and a short bidding duration to entice buyers to purchase the products quickly without carefully reading the disclaimers. Once the product is bought, the buyer will only receive the product box or photo.

Non-delivery of purchased items

In this scam, the buyer never receives the product they purchased. Although eBay covers the non-delivery of items in their Money Back Guarantee, they have excluded certain items like digital content, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), websites, real estate, services, and travel tickets or vouchers. This list includes industrial equipment, heavy machinery, and vehicles.

However, they are covered through eBay Business Equipment Purchase Protection and eBay Vehicle Protection.

Shipping scams

Scammers use tactics such as using the wrong name or address to make it difficult for the buyers to claim a dispute in case of non-delivery of the purchased product.

  • Wrong Address – eBay requires each shipped item to have a tracking number. Scammers send a package to the wrong address so that when the buyers claim they didn’t receive their purchase, the fraudulent sellers can submit the tracking number as proof that the package was successfully delivered.
  • Wrong Name – Scammers intentionally address the package to the wrong name so that once the buyer receives it, they refuse it, thinking it isn’t for them. In such a case, the buyer isn’t eligible for a refund under eBay’s money-back guarantee because the buyer refuses or returns the package.

Third-party payments

As per eBay’s Payment methods policy, ‘Only payment methods offered at eBay checkout are allowed’. EBay’s money-back guarantee does not protect any payment methods used outside of the ones mentioned on eBay.

Scammers may insist on using third-party payment methods like peer-to-peer transfers, cheques, money wires, and so on because these methods are not protected under the money-back guarantee. Getting a refund via these methods is difficult in case of a fraudulent transaction.

eBay phishing scams

Fraudsters can use eBay as bait to phish users. They may email eBay customer service and ask you to fill in details like your credentials or financial details through a link to ‘resolve an issue’ with your account. In reality, they are looking to steal your personal information.

Also read: How to identify phishing scams?

2 common Seller scams on eBay

Here are two of the most common seller scams on eBay.

Overpayment scams

Sellers holding auctions on eBay may be targeted by this scam, where a buyer bids an amount much higher than the ask. In such cases, the buyer may ask to rush the shipping and insist on paying via alternative methods off the eBay platform, like Venmo or cheque. Once the item is shipped, the cheque would bounce, or the money paid would be charged back due to suspected fraud, deducting the money from the seller’s account.

Empty box or damaged goods claim

Like sellers scam buyers by sending just the box instead of the actual item, scammers posing as buyers can claim that they only received an empty box and ask for a refund. eBay will require them to ship back the product to receive the refund. They then keep the item and ship it back to the box. The seller has to pay a refund due to the false claim.

In false damaged goods claims, the fraudulent buyer fabricates pictures of the damaged product to receive a refund while keeping the original, undamaged product.

Also read: Can you get scammed on StubHub?

5 things to do if you get scammed on eBay

Here are five things you can do if someone scammed you on eBay.

Claim a refund

You can request a refund from the seller to resolve the issue. If the seller doesn’t respond within three business days or your returned item has been delivered — but a refund has not been processed — you can escalate the issue with eBay or report the seller.

Report to eBay

  • Report item – If you come across a suspicious listing with ‘Photo Only, or ‘Box Only’ mentions, you can report the listing. To do so, go to the listing on eBay. Scroll down to the description. Next, you will find the Report this item button. Once you click on it, you will be asked to file a report.
  • Report seller – eBay urges users to report a seller only if they violate user policies. To do so, go to eBay’s customer service page to report an issue with a seller. Scroll down until you spot the Report a seller button. Click on it and follow the onscreen instructions.
Report an item on eBay

Leave feedback

Buyers can leave feedback for sellers. In case you had a negative experience with a seller, do take the time to leave feedback or a review detailing the issue. This can help warn other buyers.

Dispute fraudulent charges

If you cannot receive a refund from the seller, you can dispute the charges with your bank or through the payment method you used to complete the transaction. The payment company will likely issue you a refund if you prove you were a fraud victim. Collect screenshots of communication with the scammer, photos of the damaged or fake product, and other evidence to make a case.

Report to local authorities

If you lose a large sum of money or suspect that the scam operates on a large scale, take it up with your local authorities. Collect as much evidence as possible in photos, screenshots and transaction proofs to appeal to the authorities.

Also read: Do the Police investigate Identity Theft?

How to avoid getting scammed on eBay?

For Buyers

Here are five ways buyers can avoid getting scammed on eBay.

Review the seller

Go through their ratings and feedback. Check their selling history to see what type of products they have sold.

Screenshot of Seller feedback and ratings

Read descriptions thoroughly

Sellers could sneakily add disclaimers hidden within the listing, either in the heading or within the description. Go through the heading, description and photos and contact the seller for additional information for further clarification. Look out for typos and grammatical errors.

Ask for proof when purchasing high-ticket items

Be more cautious than usual when purchasing expensive luxury goods like branded handbags and watches; rare to find items like exclusive vinyl records or antique goods. For luxury goods, most come with authenticity certifications with serial numbers.

  • Ask the seller to send you a certificate photo and check the serial number on a vetted website.
  • Perform a reverse search on the photos posted to check if they are stock photos or taken from other listings.
  • Ask for more photos to check the logos and other details to cross out the possibility of counterfeits.
  • Research to check the market value of the item. If the product is priced much lower than its market value, it could be a scam.

Don’t pay via third-party methods

If the seller insists on receiving the money via a method other than the eBay checkout, avoid transacting further, as those don’t come with eBay’s buyer protection.

Keep all communication on the app

Approach cautiously if a seller insists on taking the conversation off the website.

For Sellers

Here are three ways for sellers to avoid getting scammed on eBay.

Don’t accept overpayments

Any overpayment is almost always a scam. The buyer pays more than the advertised price, often through payment methods discouraged by the platform or through stolen credit cards. They then ask the seller to return the overpaid amount. Once the order is shipped and delivered, the seller discovers that the payment didn’t fall through, and they additionally lost the overpaid amount.

Take lots of pictures

To dispute claims of non-delivery or empty boxes, you should have taken pictures of the product in the box, the shipping label, and tracking details. Delivery address, tracking details, weight of the box and other such information can help you dispute a false claim made by a buyer trying to scam you.

Keep transactions on the app

Avoid receiving payments from any method other than eBay checkout, as eBay’s seller protection won’t apply to transactions outside the app. Avoid using alternative payment methods. In cases where you have to do so, wait until the payment has cleared before shipping the product.

Also read: 11 types of job scams threatening job seekers

Vanashree Chowdhury

Vanashree Chowdhury

Being a tech enthusiast, Vanashree enjoys writing about technology and cybersecurity. She is a designer and marketer by profession and is deeply passionate about working on campaigns for social issues. You can contact her here: