Identified Scam:

Common Scam on eBay: False Advertising and Fake Products

Reading product descriptions when shopping on eBay is crucial, as scammers often hide important information in them that could make you think twice about buying.
Updated 3 September 2021
Common Scam on eBay: False Advertising and Fake Products
Identified Scam:
Key Finding

Sellers on eBay post misleading photos, titles, and descriptions of their products.

Key Risk

You end up with a product that is not what you expected. Unfortunately, you won't get a refund if the description had fine print telling you exactly what the product is.

Sections on this page
  1. What Is an eBay False Advertising Scam?
  2. How to Beat eBay False Advertising Scams
  3. Red Flags of eBay False Advertising
  4. Examples of eBay False Advertising Scams
  5. What to Do if You’ve Fallen for eBay False Advertisement Scams
  6. Frequently Asked Questions

Finding a great deal on a hard-to-find item is one of the top draws of eBay. Unfortunately, as one of the leading online marketplaces, the site also attracts its fair share of scammers, including those who trick you via eBay false advertising.

What Is an eBay False Advertising Scam?

eBay false advertising scams arise when the item you receive falls short of the seller’s description. The seller deliberately misrepresents the product's condition, quality, or legitimacy to scam you out of your money.

Read on to find out how the scam works.

Seller Posts Misleading Photos or Description

This scam can take several different forms. For example, the seller might post misleading photos or fail to disclose in the description that the item is broken, damaged, or in poor condition. The posting might even claim that the product is 100% genuine when it is actually counterfeit.

Example of False Advertising on eBay

Smart Watch for iPhone iOS Android Phone Bluetooth Waterproof Fitness Tracker

100% genuine smart watch compatible with iPhone iOS and Android, just like an Apple Watch and Samsung Watch. Great for fitness tracking, monitoring your sleep, caller ID, and more. 

Brand: Unbranded

The titles and description will usually use keywords, such as "100% genuine" or use well-known brand names to trick you into thinking it's the real deal. However, if you look closely, you'll be able to see the true brand. 

You Receive an Item That Is Not as Advertised

Based on the photos and descriptions, you decide to buy the item.

When the item arrives in the mail, you realize that it is not as described in the photos and description. The item could be broken, damaged, or counterfeit. You have been the victim of an eBay false advertising scam.

Huge savings on
Huge savings on
  • Products from well known brands
  • Buyer protection via PayPal
  • Extensive seller ratings & reviews

Great deals across a huge range of brands
Free shipping on many products

How to Beat eBay False Advertising Scams

False advertisement scams are all too common on eBay, but with the proper knowledge and use of best practices, you can both beat and avoid them altogether.

To beat these scams, always ensure you complete the transaction and pay for the item using eBay’s system. As long as you do this, your purchase will be protected under eBay’s Buyer Protection program, and you’re more likely to be able to get a refund.

To avoid being scammed in the first place, you should always:

  • Review the seller’s feedback
  • Inspect the photos in the listing carefully
  • Read the product description carefully
  • Request proof of authenticity

Review the Seller’s Feedback

If you’re concerned about the condition or legitimacy of an item, research the seller’s feedback and selling history. A seller might have thousands of reviews, but even a few negative ratings can be a red flag.

Inspect Pictures Carefully

Look at all the images the seller has uploaded and compare them to other photos of the item you’re interested in. For example, if you’re buying a bag, make sure the seams and patterns on the item match up perfectly with a manufacturer’s stock image. If you aren’t sure, ask the seller if the pictures on the listing are of the actual item you’re purchasing.

Don’t be afraid to ask for additional photos. If the seller balks at this request, they might have something to hide.

Read the Description in Full

The description is just as important as the photos. Sellers will often include important information regarding the condition or quality of the item, but you will have to scroll through the entire listing and read all the fine print to find it.

Importance of Reading the Description

If the product description includes fine print stating the product's true nature, then it may be more challenging, even impossible, for you to get a refund.

Request Proof of Authenticity

Especially when you’re purchasing an expensive item with a well-known brand name, ask the seller to provide you proof that it’s authentic. This could be a copy of the receipt from the store where the seller purchased it. Make sure the receipt is from a store that actually sells the item, or it could be a fake.

Red Flags of eBay False Advertising

When you’re combing through eBay listings, it can be difficult to figure out which listings are false advertisements and which are legitimate. Here’s what to look for:

  • A lower price than other listings for the same item: Scammers tend to heavily discount counterfeit, damaged, or broken items. If you find a product priced at an unusually low rate, it typically falls into the “too good to be true” category.
  • Use of stock images: Try downloading the photos and using Google’s reverse image search to see if the pictures came from another site. It’s a warning sign if the seller only includes a stock photo and no photos of the actual item being sold.
  • Negative reviews or no selling history: Look for mentions of broken, counterfeit, or damaged merchandise. If the seller doesn’t have any history at all, this is also a red flag.
  • Fake positive reviews: The seller might boast several glowing ratings, but the reviews could be fake. Be wary of reviews with poor grammar, repeated phrasing, and overly generic statements that could apply to any product, not necessarily the one you’re buying.
  • Long shipping times: Counterfeit items tend to come from international locations like China and take an extremely long time to ship.
  • Use of words like “factory second” or “replica”: The seller might use these words in its listing title or description. However, these are just another way to say “counterfeit.”

Examples of eBay False Advertising Scams

eBay false advertising scammers attempt to make their item look authentic but usually omit very obvious details that prove authenticity.

In this example, the item received does not have the text on the appropriate area, signifying that it’s a genuine item. The seller, however, attempted to pass this off as the brand name.

Example of eBay false advertising.
eBay scammers will use brand names in the title, but you may receive a completely different brand. (Source: eBay Community)

A lot of the false advertising on eBay is done via photos. Many sellers on eBay advertise something that looks like a designer or big brand item but will show a different brand within the description. 

Example of smart watch listing on eBay.
In this example, the item looks very similar to an Apple Watch, but looking at the description, it clearly isn't. (Source:

There have also been situations where scammers have advertised an expensive item, like a Macbook, then in the description clarified that they were selling the "Box Only." Unfortunate victims paid hundreds of dollars only to receive an empty box and no laptop.

What to Do if You’ve Fallen for eBay False Advertisement Scams

You have a good chance of getting your money back in an eBay false advertising scam as long as you promptly open up a case through eBay. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Contact the seller directly
  • Escalate the matter to eBay
  • Return the item
  • Open a dispute with your bank or financial institution
  • Report the scam

Contact the Seller

eBay directs buyers to first attempt to resolve the situation with the seller. You can contact the seller by opening a case in the eBay Resolution Center. Include photos of the item, and explain why you believe the item you received was not as described in the listing.

Escalate the Case to eBay

If you haven’t heard back from the seller or cannot reach a resolution after three business days, escalate your case to the Resolution Center. eBay will review the situation and respond to you within 48 hours. If eBay approves your claim, eBay will refund your full purchase price plus additional shipping.

Contact Details


Phone: 1-866-961-9253
Email: [email protected]

Verified Contact Details

It's important to verify links and contact details to beat imposters.

Return the Item to the Seller

Since you opened an “item not as described” case through eBay, you’ll need to return the item to the seller. Provide eBay with the shipping tracking number to receive your refund.

Open Up a Dispute With Your Financial Institution

If you do not win your eBay false advertising case, consider disputing the transaction with your credit card company or bank. You will likely need to provide documentation to show why you deserve a refund.

Report the Scam to the Authorities

If you cannot resolve the dispute via eBay or with the seller directly, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and even the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

You should do this if the eBay product description was indeed fraudulent, promising a completely different item from what was delivered.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if an eBay listing is real or misleading?

There are many red flags to look for when buying items on eBay, including a listing that uses a lot of stock images, reviews that don't seem genuine, and a lack of profile history.

Can I get a refund if I get an item that wasn't as it was advertised?

Yes, if the product listing was completely false and didn't explain the item's true nature, you can request a refund from the seller or file a complaint with eBay's Resolution Center. 

Are photos on eBay always genuine?

No. eBay does not check the photos that sellers use on their listings, so it's possible to see fake or misleading images.