Asking these questions before making bids on online auction sites like eBay can greatly reduce your risk of falling victim to a scam.
We found this list of online auction buyer tips on the web and thought that we should share them. This list of questions should never go unasked when making bids on eBay or any other online auction site. Online auctions, while usually safe, are sometimes run by criminals using the auction service to scam the unsuspecting. You can help avoid scammy auctions by doing your homework and doing a little investigative work before making bids.
Protection against online fraud begins with you. The more skeptical you are of sellers that can’t answer these questions to your satisfaction, the better your chances of avoiding scams.
Questions to ask yourself before making a bid on eBay or any online auction
If you see an item on eBay that you would like to bid on, you need to ask yourself the following questions and pay careful attention to the answers. A bad answer could mean you’re in danger of falling for an online auction scam:
- Does the seller have feedback?
Having lots of positive feedback goes a long way to describing a seller’s reputation. The more positive feedback they have, the less chance you’ll be ripped off. If they do have negative feedback, be sure to review it as it can be a great indicator of the type of person you’d be trading with. Please take note that eBay lists feedback for both buying and selling. Quite often sellers will also be buyers. So make sure you’re looking at their selling feedback.
- What’s the length of the auction?
The shorter the auction, 1-3 days, the higher the chances that it’s bogus. Short auctions get money into the hands of the con artists quicker and limit the seller’s likelihood of being discovered. This allows him to get his money as soon as possible and reduces his chances for exposure. Pay closer attention if the auction you’re interested in is short.
- Are there pictures? Do you see the picture used on another auction?
People intent on perpetrating fraud on eBay usually do so by claiming to sell items they don’t actually have. So naturally, auctions without pictures should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. EBay gives away the first picture in an auction listing for free, so there’s really no reason why someone shouldn’t be able to post a picture of the item they’re selling…unless they really don’t have the item.
- Does the item have a good description?
Descriptions are key to legitimizing auction listings. Is the item new or used? Does the picture match what’s being described? Just saying something is a great deal isn’t enough. Look for listings with detailed, well thought out descriptions.
- Is the item priced far below fair market value? Are there other items in large quantity selling for so low?
Pricing isn’t a number one concern when a fake listing is created on eBay. The scammer doesn’t really care if they get the appropriate price. They just want money for nothing as they don’t really have an item to sell. If the price seems ridiculously low, ask for more information surrounding the sale of the listed items. Did the person buy too much stock for their store? Were these items received as a gift? The more detailed the response from the seller, the better. If they don’t reply, pass on that auction. No price, no matter how great the deal, is worth sending money for nothing in return.
- Is the seller offering excessive or extraordinary features?
Free shipping and money back guarantees are becoming more prevalent on eBay. However, if the person offering those perks isn’t a Power Seller with thousands of auctions under their belt, walk away from the auction. People generally sell stuff on eBay to make at least a little bit of profit. A legitimate seller with very little auction experience isn’t going to offer “inspection periods” or a money back guarantee. Most likely their listing will say “as is”. Steer clear from any auction offering too good to be true features from someone with little to no auction experience.
- How does the seller answer your questions? Are they quick to respond? Courteous? Detailed?
Legitimate sellers are all too happy to answer your questions. It means you’re interested and they want you to buy whatever it is they’re selling. It’s also a great way to get a feel for the person doing the auction. People perpetrating frauds on eBay don’t care about your message and won’t answer it. If that’s the case when you send a message to the seller, don’t do the auction. Other ways to verify the authenticity of auctions is to ask for a serial number or other item identifying mark. The more technical and complicated your questions, the better. Their answers just go to show how much the seller really knows about what they’re selling.
Satisfied with the answers?
If the answers to these questions are unsatisfactory you should shoot the administrators of the online auction website an email and ask them how to proceed before doing anything else. If you are cautious and do this first the worst that can happen is you don’t win an auction. If you ignore your gut feeling and bid anyway you risk getting ripped off. Don’t worry; there will be plenty of other auctions with items for you to bid on.
How can I defend myself from fraud now that I’ve won an online auction?
Now that you have won an auction you have a new set of questions to ask yourself before sending the seller your money. This is especially true if the seller doesn’t have any or very little selling feedback for you to weigh.
How does this online auction bear up when you ask yourself the following questions?
- Does the seller have feedback of any kind for buying? Negative feedback for fake bidding could give you a solid clue as to how to treat this seller.
- Did the auction only last 1-3 days?
- Were pictures included in the item’s listing?
- Was the item’s description detailed?
- Was the item’s price far below fair value?
- Is the seller offering atypical incentives such as free shipping or an inspection period?
- How did the seller answer your questions about the item? Helpful and quick?
Ask the seller for a phone number, just in case you need to get a hold of them. If a seller gives you a false number, contact the auction site’s administrators immediately so they can investigate. Valid phone numbers are usually required to place an item up for bid on eBay or other online auction websites, so if the phone number is invalid you should be wary.
Be sure the seller’s name and address is correct. If you get a dreadful feeling about an auction, contact the online auction website administrators and ask them to compare the name on the eBay account to the name the seller wants payment sent to.
The Worst eBay Scams
Most eBay auctions run smoothly. The seller is paid and the winner of the auction receives the item they won at the agreed upon price. Once in a while, however, you may run into either a fraudulent buyer or seller that break eBay’s rules in order to rip you off. It may be only a few bucks or it could be more, a lot more.
Some eBayers have reported scams in which thousands of dollars in cash or goods have been stolen from them. If you’re not careful and don’t pay attention to red flags when you see them you could win an auction but lose big time.
Today’s Tip of the Day is devoted to the Worst scams on eBay. We hope you never stumble into one, but being aware of what can happen may help you avoid these scams. Some of these are simple and easy to avoid while others are more complex and require that you do some homework.
These are the worst scams on eBay in no particular order:
This is a rather basic one where a seller uses other id’s or has friends raise the number of bids and value of an item. This has been going on for ever in car auctions where a “shiller” in the audience will bid against someone who is interested in a vehicle to drive the price up, and is just as popular with online auctions. Watch for recurring user id’s on a sellers bids or for sellers who routinely bid – but don’t win on each others auctions.
This one involves a ring of bidders who target an item they want and put in multiple bids. One for the price they want, and then a series of bids that inflate the item to scare off any other bidders. Moments before the bidding ends, the high bidders retract their bids and the low bid wins the auction. Watch for bidders who have a history of retracting bids.
Switch and Return
Some dishonest buyers will purchase your item, receive it and then return it. The scam: The item they return is not yours but theirs and is an attempt to upgrade their item for free at your expense. Watch for bidders who are overly interested in your return policy.
Fakes and Reproductions
It’s a mistake to think that a certificate of authenticity is proof that an item is real. Think about it, if a seller is willing to misrepresent a fake item as real, then what is the big deal of throwing in an authentic looking certificate verifying the value of the property. Watch out for items that are scarce suddenly appearing in mint condition online. Also watch for any type of comment in the description that gives the seller an out if the product turns out to be fake such as “To my knowledge” or ” think”
Nigerian 419 Scams
These scams vary in complexity and in the details but a common thread is payment from overseas by a check or money order that turns out to be a counterfeit. The buyer will often offer more money than you asked in the hope your greed will subdue your skepticism. One variation of a Nigerian scam involves overpayment. The money order or check will be more than the asking price. The buyer will ask that you send the amount that was overpaid back to them. If you send them this money before the check or money order clears the bank you could be out a lot of money. You will have sent them the auction item, paid for the shipping and refunded some cash out of your own pocket!
If you think you’ve encountered a crooked seller or a buyer, report them to Ebay’s safe harbor.