Scammers will use any available platform to trick innocent people out of their money or goods, and eBay is no exception. The online auction site launched in 1995, and scammers have used it ever since. eBay involves a lot of trust on behalf of the buyer and the seller, but it’s relatively easy for that trust to be exploited. The company has put in some safeguards, but you can do a lot to protect yourself as an eBay user.
This guide will tell you about the most common eBay scams, what to look for, and how to protect yourself. Some are targeted at buyers, others at sellers. If you have been scammed, we’ll show you the steps you can take to report it.
eBay buyer scam examples
Buying products through eBay is usually straightforward, but some scammers work to defraud innocent people who are just trying to get a good deal. Remember that if an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Here are some of the most common eBay scams for eBay buyers:
1. Non-delivery scam
An eBay money-back guarantee protects buyers from fraudulent sellers, save for some exclusions. The following is a list of items that are not covered, which means the seller can accept payment, fail to send the item, and then you as the buyer have no recourse through the eBay website. Be cautious when purchasing items from the following list:
- Businesses for sale
- Some categories of business equipment
- Websites for sale
- Real estate
- Items sold by Sotheby’s
- Classified ads
2. Seller ships with deliberately incorrect name on label
This scam is clever because the deceit occurs offline after the eBay transaction is complete. After completing the sale normally, the seller will post the package with the correct address but the wrong name. This leads you as the buyer to think you’ve received someone else’s parcel by mistake, and you return it or take it back to the post office. The eBay transaction is listed as refused or returned, the seller gets the product back and keeps the payment, too. There is no way to dispute a transaction once it’s finalized in this way.
3. The empty box scam
This is a scam to watch for if you are looking for a highly popular item that is generating a lot of media attention, has a limited release, or is difficult to get elsewhere. You may see a coveted item for sale and quickly purchase it, sometimes paying above market price to secure it. Sadly, in the rush, you may have failed to notice that the listing only specified the box the item came in, not the item itself. You end up owning expensive packaging, without the desired product.
4. Counterfeit goods
The downside of buying online is that there is no way to verify the authenticity of the goods before you buy them. Scammers know this and will sometimes offer high quality, brand-name items for sale at a very attractive price. Unfortunately, the items are affordable because they are counterfeit, or ‘knock-off’ replicas.
5. Payment outside of eBay
eBay’s security systems can only protect buyers and sellers when transactions occur directly on the website. Illegitimate sellers may offer an item for sale but then request that the payment is sent outside of the platform. For example, they may ask for cash, bank transfer, check, money order or even gift cards. Once the scammer has your money through untraceable means, they will stop communicating with you and will not send the item. eBay will not assist with a transaction that occurred beyond its purview.
6. Fake customer service
Similar to the above scam, a fraudulent seller can place a fake Ebay customer service number on their profile or product page. When a problem with your order occurs—it doesn’t arrive or is the wrong item—the victim calls this number. The scammer pretends to be Ebay customer service and convinces the victim to hand over money or sensitive information. In some cases, the scammer will tell the victim that the former needs access to the latter’s bank account in order to process a refund.
7. Gift card scam
Gift card scammers reach out to victims by phone, email, or social media. They offer some sort of limited-time discount in order to create a sense of urgency. The scammer will ask for the victim’s gift card number to use as payment. Once they have the code, they disappear and make off with your gift card balance.
In one example scammers contacted AT&T customers and told them eBay would pay half of their cable bill if they paid six months upfront using eBay gift cards. In another version, scammers ask to confirm payment in advance with a gift card, perhaps in return for faster shipping or a discount.
eBay seller scam examples
It might come as a surprise, but many eBay scams are not targeted at innocent buyers looking for a good deal. Scammers will often pose as buyers and use consumer protection measures to help them defraud honest sellers.
Here are some of the most common ways eBay sellers are scammed.
1. Private deal offered outside of eBay
A buyer may see your item and offer to pay for it privately rather than using eBay’s official payment channels. They may reason that when sales are conducted offsite the seller (you) can avoid paying transaction fees. You close the listing and send the item, but either they don’t pay, or they dispute the transaction with eBay, claiming the item was broken or that the listing was a fake.
2. Overpayment offer
If you have an item for sale, a potential buyer may contact you and offer to pay over the asking price for it. At first, it might seem foolish to pass up a generous offer, but often it’s a trap. The buyer will pay with a fraudulent check. You send the item promptly but days later you find that the check bounces, leaving you with nothing.
3. Changed address
This scam is a new twist on the offer of overpayment. A buyer will offer to purchase your item and send a larger payment than required. They say it’s to cover additional shipping costs, as they suddenly need it sent to a foreign country (often Nigeria, although not always). The scammers will also ask for your PayPal email address. Soon afterward, you’ll be contacted by scammers pretending to be from PayPal, asking for postal tracking numbers. The email will state that the payment will be released to you once you have proven that the goods have been sent. If you’re a trusting person, you may send the item in good faith, assuming the email is authentic. As it’s a scam, you will never see your money or your items again.
4. Empty box claim
In this case, the purchase may be completed without flaw. The buyer pays quickly, and you send the item without concern. The buyer receives the item but claims you sent an empty box – in other words, accuses you of fraud. eBay will demand a return and the buyer sends the empty box back to you, keeping the item and the money as it’s refunded.
5. Buyer claims the item wasn’t received
PayPal Seller Protection exists to help sellers trade confidently on eBay. In order for it to work, sellers must provide proof of item delivery. If the shipped item was sold for under $750, delivery notification is adequate proof. If the item is sold for more than $750 the item must have signature delivery proof. Experienced scammers know this and may take advantage of sellers that are unaware of this additional burden of proof requirement. They can claim the item was not received, claim a refund and make off with the expensive item.
6. Broken replica scam
A buyer happily purchases your item. Once payment is confirmed you ship it promptly. In this scam, the buyer then accuses you of sending a damaged item. They may even provide photos of the broken item. Unfortunately for you, the item is a replica of the one you sent. The buyer can report the item as damaged to eBay and get a refund, leaving you without your item or the payment.
7. Unwarranted chargeback
A scammer doesn’t have to try very hard to steal your money, as most transaction sites are built to protect the buyer. If you successfully complete a transaction and the buyer pays with a credit card or PayPal, they can easily contact the provider and cancel the transaction. The money will be recovered from you and you will be charged an additional chargeback fee (that’s $20 for PayPal, individual credit card companies vary). The scammer only needs to say they suspect something was wrong and most institutions will chargeback straightaway, regardless of whether they already have the item or what condition it’s in. Disputing the chargeback can take a lot of time and hassle on your behalf.
8. Feedback extortion
Because eBay functions as an intermediary between private buyers and sellers, the idea of building an online reputation on the site is pretty important. Each transaction creates the opportunity for both buyers and sellers to leave public feedback about the experience. It’s usually not a good idea to trade with accounts that have bad feedback. Knowing this, some scammers will buy from you and then demand money be sent through private means so that negative feedback won’t be left on your account. This is a type of blackmail. As completed feedback can’t be disputed, it places some people in a position where they feel they must comply or risk the integrity of their account.
How to avoid eBay scams
This looks like a long list but it’s important to be very diligent when buying or selling on the eBay platform. Some of this advice may be second nature to you, or may not apply to all sales. Be aware and act cautiously as financial dealings online can be risky no matter how careful you are.
Here’s how to avoid eBay scams:
- Never accept checks as payment. It’s very risky as they are often a target for fraud. If you do accept checks, wait until they clear. After you deposit a check, the balance will show in your account, but it can take a week or two to verify. If you send the parcel before the check clears it could leave you with an empty bank account and no item. Always use approved eBay payment methods.
- Always complete transactions through eBay’s official channels. Communicate using the service provided. eBay cannot follow up deals made outside of the platform and cannot verify communications or agreements made on private channels. Give yourself every chance of protection by showing eBay you’ve acted in good faith.
- Document everything. Make an effort to record the packing and posting of every item, including any tracking numbers used. This will help protect you against baseless fraud claims. eBay will typically side with the buyer, so dispute any claims you think are untrue and back them up with your photographic evidence.
- Along with photographing everything, try to record any identifying details about the item. Particularly if the item is expensive, popular, or desirable (such as new cell phones or gaming consoles). Record any serial numbers or unique codes.
- Always arrange for a tracking number for any deliveries you send. If the item is worth more than $750, arrange for signature on delivery. This helps to cover you for PayPal Seller Protection (but not necessarily other payment methods available through eBay). Use the highest security tracking you think is appropriate for the value of the item you send. Remember that the more proof you can arrange, the more secure your transaction will be in the case of a fraudulent dispute.
- You should be able to dispute a chargeback with the bank if you think it’s fraudulent but be prepared to provide proof. PayPal Seller Protection also has mechanisms to protect against spurious chargebacks, so don’t hesitate to challenge one if you think it’s incorrect. It can also be smart to issue a refund if you have an unhappy customer. It will only cost you the amount of the item, rather than the additional costs of chargeback fees if the customer takes the matter up with their financial institution.
- Check to see if the image used to show the item is being used on other listings as well, or if it’s a stock image from the web. If it is, and the seller is unwilling to send other photos or information about the item, it could be a scam and should be avoided.
- Compare the price to other similar items. If it’s heavily discounted without good reason (like listed damage for example) it may be a scam or even stolen property. Steer clear.
- Investigate the feedback page. If the good feedback is all from sellers for low-priced items, it may be strategic to make the profile look genuine. It may also be an inexperienced seller, so don’t hesitate to open up a conversation about the item within eBay’s messaging system.
- There is little you can do to protect yourself if the item isn’t covered by the money-back guarantee, so investigate the seller profile in detail first, and act cautiously if the item is very expensive and outside the protection of the policy.
- If you receive a parcel that is not addressed to you, think carefully. Are you expecting a parcel around this time? Check for any shipping numbers or transaction codes you can use to verify that it’s your package. If every detail matches up except the name, you may choose to open it to verify that your goods are there.
- Never rush to purchase an item on eBay. Read the listing carefully. If the item is listed as the box only in the title of the listing or clearly in the description, there will be little you can do to dispute a transaction, as the information presented was true and correct.
What to do if you’ve been scammed on eBay
eBay is very aware that scams occur on the website. They readily cooperate with law enforcement and encourage scammed users to make a police report with their local authorities. If you want to understand the process of reporting a scam to police and how eBay is involved, visit the eBay Security Center.
You can report an issue with a seller to eBay directly here.
If you find an item on eBay that you think is fraudulent, report the listing directly.
Report a buyer if you think they have acted illegally or fraudulently here.
As much money as eBay is making off us sellers they should not make us cover a refund when a buyer says they never received their product or it is damaged due to shipping or them not telling the truth. I always get a receipt of postage but buyers don’t want to pay for tracking which is from $4.50 on up on a cheaper item and especially when the item costs less than the tracking shipping. So in order to sell my stuff I have to offer just regular shipping which doesn’t come with tracking. Than I have gotten some buyers who claim to not have received their orders so I end up having to refund them cause I only have the receipt of the postage and picture I took of their order before shipping and eBay won’t cover it when you don’t have tracking. It’s unfair that I have to lose money from this happening and this past month way to much due to possible scammers or I guess USPS losing my orders. It’s disturbing to me and I don’t even know how long I am going to sell on eBay now because of this happening when I send my orders out every time I get an order.
another scam they will say they are selling a item say half price then you purchase that item i e cost 500 you pay 200 secondhand they then will sell the item to you hoping the money will be released from e bay say they sent via e bay with a tracking number your then thinking well giving me details been honest saying that in box this not in box all week messaging this person wheres my item so convincing they said they sent without something or no its not that type so in your head your believing be here soon then you see a tracking number type it in its actually e bay standard royal mail 5 days later no item then they start saying wont come any quicker, well my advice open case instantly as 9/10 of time no tracking the buyer will reward not to get black mark against there name and tell you its ok ill sort it sorry did not come the scam they borrow your money for a week never sent a item soon as open case instantly refund loan of a few hundred quid no interest they borrowed of you perfect for people who e bay trust be careful as in meantime your waiting to open a case and hoping you lose they win either way win with borrowing money of you interest free as skint for week even better if you lose they get to keep your money please be aware of this scam happened to i was refunded by them or e bay not sure 5 days later though either way very devious.
QUOTE “eBay is very aware that scams occur on the website. They readily cooperate with law enforcement”
No they don’t. They’ll tell you to file a report with the police and then wash their hands of the matter. eBay are only concerned with issues that affect their own profit margins.
e-bay couldn’t give two hoots for sellers as long as they are making money
I agree with that. I have had a few people say they didn’t receive their orders when I know I sent out to all of them. I ended up having to give a refund in fear the buyer is going to give me bad feedback. I have 100% seller feedback. I really feel like I am not getting any protection from scammer buyers on eBay. It’s unfair they side with the buyers all the time.
Buyer pretended the item/ring was not as listed. She got her full refund back and kept the ring! Loophole on eBay! I have to take her to court!
I purchased and sent $1000 for an item from a seller on eBay then the seller said I need to send another $1000 for the insurance then the shipment was stopped in Arkansas border and needed to send $800 to get it from Arkansas border the item supposed to been delivered February 25,2022 to me here it is March 17,2022 and I still haven’t received it after paying $2800 to get the item to me through eBay I was scammed by this seller that used eBay because they got my money and I got no item I paid for I’m disputing it now through my bank and it’s under investigation they robbed me of $2800
There is one more scam that I have had to deal with. A buyer from Europe orders at item and pays for it. I then pack it and send it to E bays Global Shipping in Kentucky and send the tracking number to the buyer. He immediately cancels the order and requests a refund. Luckily I was able to contact the Global center and stop the item from shipping to the buyer. The buyer then tried to repeat that same scam several times. Another issue that is unfair to sellers is when eBay calculates the exact shipping costs, but still takes a fee, leaving the seller to make up that loss. E bay is now forcing sellers to buy their shipping labels at a higher cost and still making a lot of money from it. E bay in many cases are making more profit than the sellers. All such complaints from sellers are simply ignored, as profit takes precedence over reason.
A buyer tried to scam me out of a pair of boots, Ebay alerted me that someone purchased my boots, and I was excited, so I checked to see if Ebay sent another alert stating the item was paid, and ship It. So, I purchased the shipping label the cost was13.34 which was taken out of my Personal Banking Account but that never happen before, and no total was given me of the balance left from the sale of the boots. Zero money was left over. Ebay always takes out the fees and send the remaining money to the Bank on file. So, I cancel the order and sent in a statement.
Other platforms I never had a problem with over 6 years. Please Help! There is so much scamming going on Ebay, Sellers don’t have a chance.
I saw a car in craigslist and when I contacted the seller she made a very heartfelt story that her husband passed away in COVID and she is selling his car very cheap 2011 Honda CRV for $1000. Dollars. She is moving to Chicago to avoid painful memories and she put the car in ebay motors they will contact me.. just give me your full name, email and phone number.She has free shipping as part of the deal. Now I received eBay buyers protection plan email and they are asking me to go buy multiple eBay gift cards to pay for it.I feel suspicious now.
Omg I JUST heard that same story!!!! It’s the reason I’m looking into EBay Protection Program right now. Thank you sooo much for putting your story on here.
I have been talking to someone with same story I’m trying to buy a car
This sounds exactly like the issue I’m having! I’m concerned this is a scam. The only difference between your story and mine is instead of a car it’s a 4 wheeler, and her husband died of a heart attack.
DON’T DO IT! This is a well known scam!
I just lost 900 dollars,because the person that said he was from ebay ,was truly a fraud..2/122
i have been an ebay seller for over 20 years and am being scammed more and more by buyers for so called ” damaged goods i always pack carefully and send tracked most of the time i believe they just have changed their mind but do not want to pay the return postage or they are looking for a discount so dame the item because they know ebay will refund them and since buyers had the right to leave a negative for buyers to warn other sellers it has become rife
I was going to purchase a car I found a 2006 nissan maxima for 800 they said they would ship it after I sent the pin numbers to as many ebay cards I need to make up 800 they said I would have 5 days to make up my mind if I want to keep the car they sent an invoice with the sellers name and my name I’ve never used internet to buy a car I don’t know if it’s a scam
Cheaper seller scam:
I have multiple people selling my exclusive product for less that I sell it for on Ebay. I manufacture them myself and sell for only one price. I know the cheaper sellers are scammers because I do not sell wholesale or at any cheaper price. How do they sell my exclusive manufactured trademarked product for lees than I do??
They receive an eBay order for my product, selling at a discount to undercut me, and receive payment. They then go to Etsy and order the item from me at full price using a suspect credit card number. Etsy then accepts payment at full price and authorizes the order, then pays me the full price and I ship the order. The scammer eBay seller keeps the eBay payment, I get full payment from Etsy and the buyer get’s his product. Everyone is covered except the credit card holder, whoever that is.
Anderson Maria is an eBay seller trying to tell me that eBay is trying to contact me through my email to confirm a payment with a gift card in advance to ship n deliver a motorcycle that I’m interested in purchasing is this a scam? Please help…
Very true happen a few times to myself ebay is a scammers’ paradise and ebay don’t care
Definitely a scam, happened to me
did said person say they woud send you the motorcycle and the title and then you would have to pay? i think someone is trying to scam me like this to.
almost certainly a scam