Let's talk about an uncomfortable topic about selling on eBay: when you do enough business, you will eventually run into a scammer. The unfortunate situation is, most people only bother to do their research after falling prey to one of these tricks, and at that point, the damage has already been done.
The thing is, this is all relevant to all online sales businesses and not just eBay. As a seller, you will find all of these same or similar issues on other platforms like Etsy, Amazon, and all the rest. These are all known eBay criticisms, and one might say they cannot be completely avoided.
Item Not Received Scam
These days, only the new sellers stumble on this common scam, which is very easy to avoid just by using tracked shipping. The extra cost of having your item tracked is well worth it!
The story goes like this:
You sell an item, and send it without tracking or delivery confirmation. The buyer will know this when they receive the package because it will not have any tracking details printed on it. While most buyers won't mind, the scammer will proceed to open a case either with eBay or even with PayPal that they did not receive the item. And since you have no proof otherwise, the paid funds will be immediately transferred back to the buyer's account, end of story.
Another tip here: always state in your listing description that you will use tracked shipments. This deters the bad buyers right away.
Request Shipment To Another Address Scam
Sometimes a buyer will purchase your listing, pay with PayPal and send a message requesting to ship to another address instead of the one confirmed with PayPal. The buyer might say they are moving, or this is a gift for a friend overseas. What really may have happened is, an unfortunate real buyer got hacked, and the hacker is quickly making purchases while they can.
First of all, you should state in your listings that you only ship to PayPal confirmed addresses. Period.
If this still happens to you, ask the buyer to change their PayPal address and reconfirm it first. If they do this, then you are safe again and can send the shipment out. But most often there will be no response, and then you can reach out to eBay and PayPal support to reverse the transaction.
What happens if you listen to the buyer and send out the shipment? Well, if the PayPal account was actually hacked, then you will experience a chargeback and the funds will be taken out of your account. You will not have any seller protection, because you sent the shipment to an address that wasn't confirmed.
PayPal Over $750 Missing Signature Confirmation Scam
PayPal has a good seller protection policy, but it only works if you follow the rules. One of those rules that many sellers miss is, you must request a signature confirmation with the shipping company if the item value is more than $750. The reason for this is, it's an extra bit of proof that the item was delivered and handed over to the buyer.
Again, an easy way to avoid this entirely is to clearly state in your listing description that you will use signature confirmation if the item sells for more than $750.
A "savvy" buyer will watch out for this, and this time will open a dispute with PayPal (not eBay this time). The hard lesson here is, even if you used tracked shipping and delivery confirmation and have all the documents on hand - PayPal will still immediately rule in favor of the buyer. Once again, funds will be deducted from your account and credited back to the buyer.
Make Sure To Request a Signature When Shipping Items that Cost More Than $750
What's worse is, it doesn't even help if the buyer was known for running this scheme! For example, in some cases, the buyer already had a lot of negative eBay feedback about this, and PayPal will still punish the seller here.
Return Different Item Scam
This is probably the most disheartening problem for sellers because (in my view) it's the equivalent of outright theft. Jewelry, high-end fashion items, and even electronics tend to be the targets for this one.
The "Return Different Item Scam" goes like this: You sell an item and ship it to the buyer. The buyer will make a return right after receiving it and will send a different item back to the seller. Of course, the item sent back is either worthless or of a much smaller value.
The reason for the return can really be anything, but the buyer will most often state the item was not as described or is damaged in some way that is not visible on the listing photos. This is all covered in the eBay return policy, which basically guarantees that literally any item can be returned, and the seller has 3 days to accept it.
It's important to remember, if a seller states in the listing that the item is not returnable and sold as is, eBay will still force the return case onto the seller!
Accurate Representation of Receiving A Different Item as a Return
I've read about sellers receiving fake rings as returns, and even iPhones with all electronics removed. In one especially memorable instance, the seller received a bag of sand instead of a phone (the buyer claimed they received sand and returned it).
The easiest way to avoid this one or really any bad situation is to first of all not sell to high-risk countries. The next precaution you can take is, make a video recording of yourself making the shipment: literally put your item into the package, and close it, then hand it to the clerk and show the receipt with the tracking details all in one long video shot. You don't have to do this for all your items, just the expensive ones because this scam is not really worth the effort on inexpensive things.
If you don't have enough evidence backing you up, the next thing you might try is to escalate the case further with eBay and try to convince their seller support center that your buyer is dishonest. But know in advance, that all but the biggest power sellers, will be ruled against.
Credit Card Company Chargeback Scam
This is similar to the "Request Shipment To Another Address" case above, but the difference this time is it's not the PayPal account that was hacked, but instead a stolen credit card was used to fund the account. The buyer will request to ship to an unconfirmed address, and as long as you don't do that, you're safe!
If you listen to the buyer, then what will happen is - the real owner of the credit card will issue a chargeback, which will go to PayPal. If PayPal notices your shipment went to an unconfirmed address then the money will be taken out of your account. If it turns out that you shipped to the confirmed address after all - then believe it or not - PayPal will absorb the cost.
Shipping Insurance Scam
This one usually does not affect the seller, but it's still good to know about it. It only works if you provide shipping insurance. So, let's say the buyer has an iPhone which is broken to bits. They buy the same model on eBay, and once the package arrives they will take out the good iPhone and place their broken one into the box - and will try to claim insurance.
If the claim is successful - the buyer will get the insured amount from the delivery company, normally the full price!
If the claim is denied (for example the buyer forgot to beat up the shipping box to make it look believable) - then they can still escalate the issue with their credit card company. This will eventually come back to PayPal, but here they are normally good with protecting the sellers, and your account will not be deducted from.
Is Scamming on eBay Worth It?
First of all, this type of behavior is immoral and illegal. Running scams online in the 90s might have been a lucrative activity, but these days, with everything becoming digital and people's livelihoods and reputations living on the internet, it is absolutely not worth it.
Law enforcement is catching onto this, and even small-time scammers get caught all the time. The price to pay is just too much, so everyone is urged to stay away.
Summary For How to Avoid eBay Buyer Scams
This is a summary of what actions to take in advance, which will drastically reduce your chances of being targeted by predatory eBay buyers.
- Clearly state in your listing description, that you will only ship to a PayPal confirmed address, without exception.
- Add to your listing description that you will only use tracked shipping with delivery confirmation.
- If your item is over $750, state that you will require a signature confirmation for PayPal.
- Follow the above points, no exceptions!
- If your item is very expensive make a video recording of yourself making the shipment.
Even if you follow all of these points, you may still get scammed on eBay or online. But that's life, and sometimes exceptional things may happen. However, your chances for it will be lowered.
Thank you for checking this article and I hope you never run into such a case in your eBay career - or ever really. If you know about other buyer scams not mentioned here or how to protect ourselves better, please feel free to comment below.