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Ebay: How to Detect Scams and Other Useful Tips

Softonic Editorial Team


Ebay is a true paradise for collectors and compulsive shoppers who love to snag the most unlikely items for the lowest prices. This online marketplace was not only a pioneer, the first of its kind on the internet, but also allows any user to seamlessly purchase or sell whatever they desire. However, in this wonderful environment of free buying and selling around the globe, there is always some scammer waiting patiently for unsuspecting users to fall into their web of deceit.

No doubt you have seen more than a few ads offering the latest Samsung Galaxy, brand new, for half the price it sells for in other online stores. There’s only one unit left, and the ad urges you to act fast or risk losing your new phone. Believing yourself to be the luckiest person alive, you purchase the phone and can’t wait to enjoy your new Samsung. But when your package finally arrives in the mail, inside is just a photo of the phone. You’ve been scammed!

These kinds of situations and many others happen on Ebay on a daily basis. And although the website normally works like a charm, con artists keep finding new methods and tricks to avoid being caught. Don’t be fooled, and make sure to protect yourself from their scams!

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To save you and your wallet from more than one unpleasant experience, in today’s article, we’re going to tell you about the most common scams on Ebay, how to sniff them out, and of course, what to do if you’ve been ripped off. We hope you find them helpful!

The most common scams on Ebay

Since it’s an extremely popular platform, a large number of scams are circulating on Ebay with the sole objective of stealing your money. Keep reading to learn about the ones that have been the most prolific in recent years.

The photo scam

This con is intended to trick anyone who visits Ebay to buy expensive products, such as a TV, gaming console, laptop or high-end phone. The Ebay ad seems reliable and shows you the exact product you want for a great price. After you make the purchase, the scammer prints out a photo of your item and mails it to you. So instead of a half-price iPhone 11, you receive a photo of the phone.

The fake PayPal payment

Instead of targeting Ebay buyers, this scam is directed at sellers. As you probably know, when an article is sold to a buyer using PayPal, the seller receives an email confirming payment and asking for the product to be shipped. In this scam, a fake email, supposedly from PayPal, is sent to announce the payment and request shipment of the item. However, the payment was never made, so the seller ends up sending the scammer an expensive item for free.

Fraudulent car sales

You can find anything on Ebay these days, even used cars. In this type of scam, the con artist will copy a real used-car ad and post it on Ebay. When you purchase the vehicle, the scammer will ask you to pay them outside of the platform (big mistake!) to make everything easier. Once you’ve paid thousands of euros and go to pick up your car, the real seller obviously won’t give you anything, since you were never really in contact with him or her. What’s more, Ebay doesn’t insure car sales, so the scammer will have made off with your money, and you won’t be able to do anything about it.

The item that supposedly arrives in bad condition

This is another scam targeting Ebay sellers. This time, the con artist will look for an expensive item (normally high-end phones) and purchase it for any price you ask for. Once he or she receives the purchase, the scammer will contact you with a photo of the supposedly broken item and ask Ebay for a refund. If it’s the first time, and the platform has no reason not to trust the buyer, Ebay will take the scammer’s side and require you to return their money. As you can imagine, the hustler already owns a broken copy of the stolen item, and he or she gets a new one completely free at your expense.

Payment through a stolen PayPal account

This scam is impossible to detect, but fortunately, it will only affect you if a payment is made outside of the platform. The scammer goes to buy an article using a PayPal account stolen from another user. Obviously, the payment will be reversed, because PayPal will detect that the transaction was fraudulent, so you’ll lose the money they paid.

The “chargeback scam”

In this type of scheme, the buyer purchases a product, and after receiving it, requests a refund by supposedly returning the product. But the scammer sends back an empty box or an item that’s completely different from the one purchased, so the seller will not only lose their money, but also the product they sold.

How to avoid scams on Ebay

After reading the above, you are likely terrified of buying anything on Ebay again. Don’t worry, because even though there are scams and dishonest users ready to steal your wallet, the platform is generally safe. That said, here are some tips to give you peace of mind the next time you buy something on Ebay:

Always do research on a potential buyer or seller

Fortunately, Ebay uses a reputation system through which both buyers and sellers can leave reviews of the transaction and the condition of the item received. Before making any payment or selling any item, make sure the other person has a good reputation on the platform.

Carefully read the description of the item you’re going to buy

To avoid any kind of scam, for instance, buying a photo, make sure to carefully read the description of the item. If you find the description very vague, or the specifications or condition of the item you are going to buy are never mentioned, it’s probably a con. To clear up any doubts, it’s best to send a message to the seller asking explicitly about the item. That way, if it’s a scam, you can use this message to file a claim with Ebay and recover your money.

If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is

When searching on Ebay, you’ve likely found high-end products for very cheap, when they’re usually sold for high prices. Don’t trust these ads, and don’t click the buy button just yet, because you could end up disappointed. Read the seller’s reviews, and never buy anything from a seller who just registered on the platform.

Don’t agree to complete transactions outside of the platform

Often buyers can be annoying for whatever reason and insist on paying you outside of the Ebay platform. Never accept that. If you sell an item without Ebay’s system, you’re giving up all the sales protection offered by the platform. That way, if you end up being the victim of a scan, you can’t open a dispute or ask for your money back.

Confirm any email from PayPal 

Since PayPal is the most commonly used and secure payment method for buying anything online, it’s also the one that scammers use the most to steal your money or items with fake emails. Always confirm the sender of any email you receive from PayPal, and never click on the links in any suspicious email. If you receive an email from PayPal, always visit the platform by going directly to the address and never through a link.

What to do if you’ve been a victim of a scam on Ebay

Fortunately, Ebay has a protection system for both buyers and sellers. Still, we reiterate that to make use of it, you need to carry out all transactions through the platform, otherwise you won’t be able to file a claim.

To recover the money you have lost as a result of fraud via Ebay, you’ll need to open a dispute with the buyer or seller through the resolution center. You can access it by clicking here. After you explain your problem and experience with the buyer or seller, Ebay will examine your case, and if you have been a victim of a scam, your money will be returned to you.

If you have been conned and paid for the item through PayPal, you can also visit the resolution center in your account and challenge the fraudulent seller’s transaction. PayPal will review the case, and in most situations, return your money without problem.

We hope that our guide to avoiding scams and cons through Ebay has helped you. Have you ever been the victim of a scam on the internet? Tell us about it in the comments section!

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