Beat eBay Scams and Stay Safe When Shopping Online

Whether it's a counterfeit product, a sketchy seller, or a price too good to be true, eBay scams are widespread, so it's important to know how to protect yourself.


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Updated 18 May 2021
Beat eBay Scams and Stay Safe When Shopping Online
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Phishing Statistics 2021


90% of data breaches are caused by phishing
3.4 billion phishing emails are sent every day

1.4 million phishing websites are created every month

Source: Digital InTheRound, 2021

Sections on this page
  1. Best Practices When Using eBay
  2. Red Flags of eBay Scams
  3. Common eBay Scams to Watch Out For
  4. What Do You Do If You’ve Been Scammed on eBay?
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

Since eBay officially launched its auction-based online marketplace in September 1997, people from all walks of life have assembled to buy and sell new, used, antique, and refurbished products. Like most good things in life, scammers likely immediately set out to find ways to use good faith auctions to their advantage. They still do it today and aren’t likely to stop, but there are ways you can protect yourself and beat eBay scams.

Best Practices When Using eBay

While selling and bidding on eBay might feel like everyone participating has virtually gathered at the biggest online yard sale, there are some best practices both sellers and buyers should follow to stay safe:

  • Stay vigilant when checking your emails to avoid phishing scams that often feature subject lines promising deals too good to be true or containing unfamiliar links.
  • Close your browser if you see a pop-up asking you to verify your account information.
  • Allow your suspicion to take hold if you receive an email asking you to verify account information since eBay wouldn’t ask you to do this.
  • Delete unfamiliar text messages, particularly those asking for you to verify eBay account information.
  • Don’t respond to telephone-based verification requests via phone call, email, or text.
  • Read product descriptions thoroughly to avoid counterfeit products.
  • Look at the location where products are shipped from and confirm this is where it should have originated. 
  • Check seller and buyer profiles, especially when making your first transaction.
  • Scan buyer and seller feedback to find out what other eBay members are saying about the party you’re doing business with.
  • Double-check to ensure that the photograph of the product is for the full product or only a component of that product by reading the full product description and item specifics.
  • Don’t take your business off the eBay platform to try to negotiate a better deal, save on fees, or for any other reason.
  • Keep all delivery and shipment details handy as a seller in case the buyer claims they didn’t receive the product or they didn’t receive it on time.
  • Only pay using eBay’s payment system.

Red Flags of eBay Scams

The more experience you have using eBay, the more familiar you become with what’s right and what feels off. The key is to follow your instincts when something seems fishy about a buyer or seller.

Here are some of the most common red flags to watch out for:

  • Email inconsistencies, such as strange addresses, attachments, links, and poor grammar and spelling.
  • A deal too good to be true.
  • Links to eBay pages that don’t include “ebay.com” in the URL.
  • Links to sites that aren’t secured (i.e., http:// instead of https://).
  • Sketchy-looking photos on the product page.
  • Items featuring a lot of positive reviews even though the seller’s profile is relatively new.
  • A buyer asking for your PayPal email address instead of paying through the eBay system.
  • A buyer asking to complete the transaction outside of eBay’s system.
  • A seller with zero or very little feedback and with a relatively new account.
  • Buyer requesting you to send packages to an address not listed as theirs on their eBay account, even if they are asking to send the item as a gift to relatives and especially if the address is outside the country.

Common eBay Scams to Watch Out For

In order to beat eBay scams, it’s important to be aware of the different types of scams that target the site’s users. Here are some of the most common scams to watch out for.

The Empty Box Scam

This is probably one of the oldest eBay scams around. Sadly, it has caught many sellers off-guard and takes them for a lot of money since it often focuses on higher-value items, such as handbags and smartphones. Buyers (i.e., scammers) will buy and receive the goods, then file a claim saying they received an empty box. The scammers even send back the empty box and keep the items.

It’s recommended that you take photographs of every item shipped throughout the packing and shipping process so you can prove to eBay that you did send the product. It might seem like overkill, but it’s worth it to avoid falling victim to this scam.

Alternative Payment Method Scam

Sellers with bad intentions might request that you pay with an alternative or less monitored payment method, such as cash, check, money order, gift cards, or bank transfer.

Once the scammer has your payment via an untraceable option, they will cut off all communications, and you won’t receive your item. The worst part is that if you went off-script and used an alternative payment method, eBay will not assist you because it falls outside the purview of their buyer protection program.

Additional eBay Scams to Watch Out for

There are additional scams to keep an eye out for when conducting business on eBay, including those involving:

  • Fraudulent emails
  • Non-delivery of items
  • Incorrect addresses
  • Counterfeit goods
  • Hidden links in emails
  • In-person collection/pickups

What Do You Do If You’ve Been Scammed on eBay?

Scammers will keep coming up with scams you can’t possibly imagine as an honest buyer or seller. If you’re the unfortunate victim of a scam, it’s important to take the following steps:

  1. Try to contact the buyer or seller to resolve the issue since eBay will only step if there is no resolution within three business days.
  2. Report the scam to the eBay Security Center. You should also report the issue to your credit card company, PayPal, or bank, depending on how you paid or accepted payment.
  3. Report the listing and seller by clicking directly on the listing at the bottom of the page that reads “Report this listing” if it is still posted by the time you decide to report the incident. Retain copies of all correspondence and anything you have or can find on the user profile to support your case. Make sure you have the correct user name and reference number.
  4. Get your money back by going through all the preceding steps and waiting until the last estimated date for intended delivery if the product hasn’t yet been delivered, or until the delivery arrives and the product is not as described.
  5. Learn more about eBay’s protection for buyers and sellers. eBay's Buyer Protection allows you to open a case, escalate it, and ultimately have eBay review your case. eBay's Seller Protection allows you to report a buyer and helps resolve issues.

With these tips, you’ll find yourself better prepared to deal with eBay scams.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get scammed on eBay?

Yes, unfortunately, eBay scams are quite common, which is why it's important to use best practices and be on the lookout for red flags

Is eBay Motors a scam?

No. eBay Motors is a legitimate site to buy and sell auto parts and vehicles. There are, however, various eBay Motors scams to watch out for.

How do I not get scammed on eBay?

The best way to not get scammed on eBay is to follow the best practices while using the site and to be aware of the red flags of scams. Be sure to read the product description closely, only complete transactions within eBay's system, and remain cautious.

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