Scam Artists Posing As Sellers on eBay

Consumers should be on the alert for scam artists posing as sellers on eBay, the California-based Internet auction site, who victimize bidders through bogus second chance offers. To avoid falling victim to this scam, we offer some tips and precautions below.

In the emerging fraud scheme, scam artists try to lure bidders interested in a product away from the e-Bay website by using “My Message,” which allows seller and buyers to communicate on the auction site. Through posted messages, legitimate sellers are able to build a positive reputation from customer ratings, product reviews and favorable reports on business transactions.

Manipulating the eBay messaging system, the scam artist posing as the seller contacts bidders to announce the winning bid fell through and offers a second chance to buy the product by wiring the purchase price to the non-eBay email address provided. The scam artist is counting on consumers being tricked into a direct sale and being lured by the positive feedback seen on eBay. However, the message is actually from a con artist who assumed the identity of the legitimate seller who already sold the item to the winning bidder. The second chance bidder who falls for this scam is left empty handed, paying for a product that will never arrive.

Here are tips to protect yourself:

  • Stay on eBay's website. Using the site and its service affords you certain protections , like the eBay feedback system or buyer protection program.
  • Do not wire money to a seller. Both Western Union and MoneyGram International encourage you to not use their services when paying for eBay purchases.
  • Do not send a check directly to a "seller" who contacts you after the auction has ended and offers to sell you the item on which you originally bid.
  • Use a payment method specifically designed for Internet auction sites, like PayPal or BidPay.
  • Report suspected fraudulent activity to eBay's Customer Support. This includes reporting anyone who solicits you to buy or sell your items off eBay's site.

To report fraud to the California Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission, use the Attorney Generals Office Complaint Form and Federal Trade Commission Complaint Form.