July 23, 2009

Avoid getting Ripped off on eBay

The other day I wrote about how I narrowly avoided getting ripped off for $75 on eBay. While I've had many good experiences on eBay there are scammers out there and you do need to be wary of them.

eBay has a set of pages on Marketplace Safety with all sorts of tips on how to be a safe buyer. That site has a number of things you should do to help ensure a safe purchase on eBay. Key items include: Watching for spoof emails and websites, review feedback and item descriptions, avoid second chance offers, and avoid instant cash payments. Follow the Marketplace Safety link for all the details from eBay.

eBay also has a page about Avoiding Fraud. Their key safety tips are :

1. Learn as much as possible about the product and seller.
2. Understand the retailers' refund and return policies.
3. Use a secure checkout and payment process.
4. If an offer sounds highly suspicious or too good to be true, it probably is.

Those are all good overall tips. Again for the details read the page on eBay: Avoiding Fraud

Personally my process for being safe on eBay includes:

1. Reviewing seller feedback. I look for a seller with >95% feedback and at least 20 positive sales. Ideally a seller will have >1000 sales and a high >95% rating. The more positive sales the better. Someone is very unlikely to sell 2000 items on eBay and then wake up one day and become a thief. If a seller has 100% rating thats great but I don't expect perfect. The more sales someone has the more likely they are to drop into the 97-99% range. This is often not the sellers fault. Customers are not always right and if you sell 1000 things then theres going to be 1-10 people out there that will give you negative feedback through no fault of your own.

2. Read the item description carefully. I try and read the item very carefully to know exactly what I'm buying. If the description lacks key information then assume the worst. If they don't say an item works then don't assume it works. If there is no picture then its possible the item is in poor condition. There can also be key details in the description that are not obvious on first glance. For example if I search for "computer books" I might find an auction of a interesting sounding book. But the book could be an "ebook" which is a PDF file and that might be a detail that is not in the auction title and buried in the description. If an item is being sold "as is" or they note any defects then those are very important details to be aware of.

3. Be critical of payment options. I use Paypal. If the seller requires an unusual method of payment then I generally stay away. At this point I'm only buying items that I cay pay via Paypal. This gives me some added protection with Paypal's buyer protection for eBay purchases. Thankfully this is the key thing that saved me from being ripped off in my recent attempted purchase. If I'd went ahead and paid via Google checkout like the seller requested I'd likely be out the $75 now.

Remember that the vast majority of sellers and buyers on eBay are honest people and its just a few "rotten apples" that are the problem. If you are wary and careful on eBay you should be able to avoid most scams.


You may also be interested in the article that JD at Get Rich Slowly recently wrote about How Money-Transfer Scams Work.

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