eBay

eBay In Depth

Sections on this page
  1. eBay Scams To Watch Out For
  2. How to Beat eBay Scams
  3. Protection Against eBay Scams

eBay was nearly an instant success, one of the biggest—and only—winners of the "dot-com" bubble of the 1990s. Started in San Jose, California, by Pierre Omidyar in 1995, the website is now a multi-billion dollar company, active in more than 32 countries with more than 182 million users.

The site's immediate and lasting popularity may have something to do with its unique-for-the-time (and now much-imitated) structure, allowing users to participate in online auctions, giving them the chance to score real deals on various items.

Products were originally more eclectic, posted primarily by regular people, with sellers charged listing fees and charged again once an item sells. But as the site expanded, many larger distributors began using its services to move more commercial goods. Today, you can find everything from laser pointers (the first item ever sold on eBay) to Lamborghinis on the site.

eBay itself has also expanded its services, now offering instant "Buy It Now" shopping options as well as online classified ads and ticket trading. And to help facilitate online payments, the site helped develop PayPal, a wholly-owned subsidiary of eBay, before being spun off in 2015.

Even after almost 30 years, eBay continues to be a leader in the online world, but unfortunately, its massive reach also makes it a leading target for scammers.

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Email: [email protected]

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

eBay Scams To Watch Out For

eBay's open market format is one of the best things about the website—and also one of its potentially biggest downfalls.

The free-for-all approach makes the site especially susceptible to scammers working on both sides of the transaction.

eBay Seller Scams

Let the buyer beware. These are some of the most common scams you can find on eBay when the scammer in question acts as the seller.

eBay Motors Scams

More than 5 million cars have successfully sold on eBay over the years, but there may be just as many attempts to sell fraudulent wheels as the real deal. The company is so aware of eBay motors scams that the high-ticket items have a dedicated security center on the site.

Some scammers sell cars outside of eBay but claim your purchase is protected by eBay's Vehicle Purchase Protection program. Do not fall for this scam! Only vehicles bought and paid for using eBay's system are covered.

Possible scams range from something as pedestrian as selling an old lemon for more than it's worth, selling a stolen car, or something as elaborate as creating fake escrow companies to steal your money. Many vehicles are also sold before they're fully paid off, with the new owners unknowingly taking on any related debt or trouble with collectors.

Example of eBay Motors scam.
Be on the lookout for red flags of eBay Motors scams, including a request for payment via gift cards.

eBay Gift Card Scams

Several different scams on the site revolve around the use of eBay gift cards. Typically, this involves a scammer asking you to purchase several eBay gift cards and pay by sending them the gift card PINs. Sometimes, scammers will offer some limited-time discount to sweeten the offer and put on the pressure.

Of course, once they have the PIN, the scammer then walks away with access to your gift card balance, and you never receive the item you bought and paid for.

Example of eBay gift card scam.
Don't ever pay someone you don't know in eBay gift cards. (Source: Michigan Department of Attorney General)

eBay Non-Delivery Scams

Indeed, not making good on the seller's part of the bargain is one of the most popular types of eBay scams.

While the company has a money-back guarantee for most products sold on the site, a few items don't appear on that list, meaning a scammer can take your money and never deliver, leaving you with no recourse.

In particular, you should be extra wary of this eBay scam when dealing with:

  • Certain types of vehicles
  • Real estate
  • Websites for sale
  • Some categories of business equipment
  • Items sold through classified ads
  • Items sold through Sotheby's

eBay False Advertisements

Some scammers will post fake pictures or use brand names in the product title to trick you into buying cheap counterfeits. Some scammers will even sell you empty boxes, using fine print to get around eBay's protection policies. There are several different ways sellers can trick you using false advertising

eBay Buyer Scams

Believe it or not, even potential customers aren't always what they seem on eBay. Plenty of scammers have figured out how to get around the system by posing as a buyer.

Overpayment or Cashier's Check Scam

One of the most classic scams out there in general, this trick revolves around a "buyer" paying with a faulty check—whether the check eventually bounces or is a fake from the start.

A twist on this scam is for scammers to "accidentally" pay you too much with a cashier's check. They'll then ask you to pay for the difference, getting both your item and a little extra money on the side.

False Accusations After Shipping

Another way scammers posing as buyers rig the game is by making false claims after receiving their wares to get their money back. This can include anything from saying the item was broken when they received it to saying they never received it at all.

In the worst-case scenario, eBay will award them their money back—by taking it away from you—while the scammer can not only keep the item but give you a bad review to boot. Since most online marketplaces tend to provide more protection to buyers, these eBay scams are pretty common.

eBay PayPal Scams

Sometimes after winning an auction, buyers will ask for your email address to pay you on PayPal.

Attempting to pay for the item outside of eBay should always be a red flag, but this scam, particularly, leaves you vulnerable to receiving fraudulent emails from the scammer. Often, these include fake payment notices, which may pressure you to ship the item before you've been paid.

Example of fake PayPal email about eBay transaction
Only accept payment via eBay's system—scammers can create fake PayPal emails to trick you into thinking they transferred money to you. (Source: ThreatPost)

How to Beat eBay Scams

Still, there are a few ways to fight back in these scenarios.

Your best bet for beating eBay scams is to look out for classic scammer signs, including:

  • Bad grammar
  • Pushy sellers (or buyers)
  • Over-the-top sob stories
  • Suggesting unusual ways for shipping or picking up an item
  • Buyers offering to pay more than you're selling an item for
  • Talking about using an escrow account
  • Emphasizing the "eBay payment guarantee"
  • Asking you to pay outside of eBay or using unorthodox methods, including money wires, Western Union, or gift cards

If you spot any of these tactics at play, you might want to pay extra attention; there's a good chance you're dealing with a scammer.

Ultimately, though, beating eBay scams isn't unlike beating other types of scams. The most important factor is to stay wary and trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, don't do it.

Protection Against eBay Scams

On top of your observations and instincts, there are a few more official ways to protect yourself from eBay scams.

eBay Motors Protection

As previously noted, eBay motors, where cars and car parts are listed for sale, has a security center offering specific help with spotting eBay motors scams and details on a Vehicle Purchase Protection program that will guarantee protection against certain losses up to $100,000. (Not all vehicles are covered, and you should read the terms and conditions for complete details.)

Product Authentication

For some luxury goods, including expensive watches, eBay also offers professional authentication services. And for nearly all goods sold on the site, eBay offers a money-back guarantee, which will make you whole for an unsatisfactory purchase if you can't settle things with the seller in three days. (The guarantee does not apply to all items on the site, however.)

eBay also has a Customer Service and Resolution Center, where you can:

  • Lodge complaints against listings or users
  • Ask for help getting your money back
  • Get help with any issues you may encounter while using the website

Perhaps another key to its longevity, eBay offers a robust number of actions you can take to protect yourself from scams. But, like with all other online marketplace websites, your best first line of defense is your own best judgment.

Scams Impacting eBay

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Common Scam on eBay: False Advertising and Fake Products
3 September 2021 |

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.

Red Flags of Fake PayPal Emails About Your eBay Transactions
21 August 2021 |

Red Flags of Fake PayPal Emails About Your eBay Transactions

Fake PayPal emails regarding your eBay transactions are sent by scammers to fake payments and steal your information.

Avoid Imposters Stealing Your Money via eBay Gift Card Scams
4 August 2021 |

Avoid Imposters Stealing Your Money via eBay Gift Card Scams

Don't trust anyone who asks for payment via eBay gift cards, even if they claim they are from a legitimate company or government agency.

Brushing Scams: Receiving Packages You Didn't Order
12 July 2021 |

Brushing Scams: Receiving Packages You Didn't Order

Although somewhat harmless, being a target of a brushing scam can mean your information is compromised and could lead to more harmful scams.

How to Avoid Fake Tickets to Events, Flights, and More
7 July 2021 |

How to Avoid Fake Tickets to Events, Flights, and More

Buying tickets via sites like Craigslist and Facebook may be the cheaper option, but you also risk buying a fake ticket that won't get you anywhere.

eBay Vehicle Purchase Protection Scam: Check Before You Buy
10 June 2021 |

eBay Vehicle Purchase Protection Scam: Check Before You Buy

When buying a car via eBay, make sure you complete the purchase using eBay's system, or it won't be protected and you could lose thousands.

Top Tips to Avoid eBay Motors Stolen Vehicles & Red Flags
9 June 2021 |

Top Tips to Avoid eBay Motors Stolen Vehicles & Red Flags

Not all vehicles are what they seem on eBay—make sure you check the vehicle's background and mechanics before you buy or you could put yourself in hot water.

eBay Empty Box Scam: Check The Fine Print Before You Buy
2 June 2021 |

eBay Empty Box Scam: Check The Fine Print Before You Buy

When buying on eBay always read the product description carefully. Scammers are using deceptive tactics to trick you into paying for an empty box.

eBay Photo Scams: How to Avoid Buying Fake Products

eBay Photo Scams: How to Avoid Buying Fake Products

Don't believe everything you see. Online listings have become a playground for scammers using fake photos to win your business.

eBay Local Pickup Scam: Why You Should Always Send Packages
2 June 2021 |

eBay Local Pickup Scam: Why You Should Always Send Packages

Although a local pickup may seem more convenient, beware of buyers who are just trying to scam you and get your item for free.

Guides To Protect Against Online & Digital Scams

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Beat eBay Scams and Stay Safe When Shopping Online

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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The Most Common Facebook Messenger Scams To Watch Out For

The Most Common Facebook Messenger Scams To Watch Out For

With every Facebook Messenger scam, the attacker is trying to steal from you—whether they’re after money, login credentials, or other personal information.

Beat OfferUp Scams and Stay Safe When Buying or Selling
8 May 2021 |

Beat OfferUp Scams and Stay Safe When Buying or Selling

One of the fastest-growing retail channels, OfferUp is a prime target for scammers, taking advantage of private sellers and buyers.

How to Beat Facebook Scams and Keep Your Money and Info Safe
1 May 2021 |

How to Beat Facebook Scams and Keep Your Money and Info Safe

With more than 2.7 billion Facebook users worldwide, the social media platform has become a playground for scammers who target unsuspecting users.

How to Report Craigslist Scams and Protect Your Money
26 April 2021 |

How to Report Craigslist Scams and Protect Your Money

Craigslist scams are more common than we'd like, but there are steps to take to help keep yourself (and others) safe.

News About Online & Digital Scams

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News in Other Categories...
N.J. Man Pleads Guilty to SIM Swapping Conspiracy Stealing Over $500k From Victims
5 October 2021 |

N.J. Man Pleads Guilty to SIM Swapping Conspiracy Stealing Over $500k From Victims

This case shows just why you need to be aware of SIM swapping and how to protect your cell phone number from criminals like this.

Student Loan Scammers Arrested After Stealing $6.1 Million
22 September 2021 |

Student Loan Scammers Arrested After Stealing $6.1 Million

After a 3-year long scam, Angela Mirabella and six others have been indicted on several charges, including grand theft.

FBI Warns Fake COVID Vaccine Cards Could Lead to Prison Time
14 September 2021 |

FBI Warns Fake COVID Vaccine Cards Could Lead to Prison Time

Taking a chance on a fake COVID-19 vaccination card seems like an easy way to get around requirements, but think again before you land yourself in prison.

Beware of this New Scam Involving A Fake Call from CBP
10 September 2021 |

Beware of this New Scam Involving A Fake Call from CBP

Sometimes it just safer not to pick up calls from unknown phone numbers.

Nike Teams Up with U.S. Customs to Stop Counterfeiters
23 August 2021 |

Nike Teams Up with U.S. Customs to Stop Counterfeiters

Nike is taking a stand against counterfeiters and stopping fake products before they hit U.S. soil.