How To Avoid Ebay Seller Scams

ebay_scamsRecently,  I came across a reader, Shelley, on my blog who had been ripped off on Ebay by someone pretending to sell a product to her.  You can read her comments here.

How She Was Scammed On eBay

This is a typical scam going around eBay.  The buyer in this case, Shelley, wanted to buy a dress for an upcoming wedding.  So she found one she liked one eBay through a seller named createw8.

The seller then drug her along until she made the payment of $141 and then poof just like that the seller entered the witness protection program not be seen or heard from again.

So Shelley talked to her bank and they told her she couldn’t get her money back because the seller was from overseas, China to be exact.  The purchase was even made through PayPal which even meant the payment would be protected in case of situations like this.

However, this did not happen.  EBay and PayPal were unable to help, though eBay has banded this seller from the site.  In fact, I tried looking for this seller on eBay and all I could find were a couple of dead end leads.

If the seller doesn’t ship the product you can usually file a dispute as long as you bought the product via PayPal which she did.  However in this case the seller strung her along till the 45 day dispute period was up and she could no longer file a dispute.  This meant she wasn’t going to get any help from eBay or PayPal.

Shelley has since filed a complaint with The Better Business Bureau hoping to see some light at the end of the tunnel.  To this day Shelley has not seen a dime of her money back.

Prevent An eBay Seller Scam

It’s unfortunate to hear what happened to Shelley.  So in this post I will be talking about some steps you can take to avoid an eBay seller scam the next time you are shopping on this popular auction site.

  1. Contact The Seller.  When buying a product on eBay make sure it is exactly what you want.  Contact the seller and ask him about the product if you have any doubts at all.
  2. Review Sellers Feedback.  Check the seller out thoroughly by checking all of their feedback.  Also look for how many positive and negative results they have had over the last three months.  Finally, make sure they have a lot of reviews as well, one or two isn’t enough.
  3. Make sure the purchase is protected.  Make sure the product is covered by the PayPal Buyer Protection Program. If you buy the product via PayPal you will most likely be covered.  You can read more about that here.
  4. Product Return Policy.  Make sure you can return the product for a full refund if it’s not exactly what you want.
  5. Search ebuster.  If your not sure if the person you are dealing with is a scammer or not check them out out on ebuster.  This site will tell you who the worst sellers and buyers on eBay.

What You Should Do When You Get Scammed By An eBay Seller

In Shelley’s case she did everything above, but what happens when you do everything to prevent this from happening and it does anyways.  Below are the steps you should follow if you don’t get what you paid for.

  1. File a dispute with PayPal.  As long as you bought the product with PayPal you can file a dispute with them.  However, if you did not you will not be able to pursue this route.  Last, you only have 45 days from the time you make the payment to file a dispute.  You can learn more and do that here.
  2. Escalate the dispute to a claim.  Once you file the dispute and you and the seller cannot agree on a price you will want to escalate the dispute to a claim.  However, you only have 20 days to do this or PayPal will throw out the dispute, and you can’t file for a claim till 7 days after a dispute.
  3. Provide Documentation.  Make sure you keep all of the receipts and seller conversations you have.  PayPal will need these to make a determination.  Also, if the value of the product you bought was less than $250 you can provide all documentation via email.  However, if it is more than that they may need to see physical copies of your receipts.

Where Should You Go From Here

At this point if everything else has failed you may have to take drastic measures.  In this section I am going to give you some ideas you can try so you can get your money back.

  1. Contact your bank. It’s always worth a shot, you never know what they’ll say.  They may be able to help you get your money back but like in Shelley’s case the bank would not help her because the business was located overseas.
  2. Contact the Better Business Bureau.  File a complaint with The Better Business Bureau.  This is an option however if the company is not located within Canada or the US you may not have much luck here.  The BBB can do a lot to help you but they can’t force a reply or administer  sanctions.  In Shelley’s case though the company was literally a ghost company which means it was entirely fake right down to the name of the person she was talking to on eBay.
  3. Pursue legal action.  You hate it to come to this but sometimes it’s necessary.  Again as in Shelley’s case this may not be possible as well because she’s fighting a ghost company that doesn’t exist.  You would also have to consider the cost involved as well.  Is it really worth fighting over $141 when you’ll blow that easily in lawyer fees.

Where Would You Go From Here

With all the ways I have mentioned, from taking measures to prevent this from happening to taking legal action you would think the systems we have in place would stop things like this from happening to people.  The sad reality is that it still does.

If you have any idea’s to help Shelley out with her situation feel free to leave a comment and share your ideas.  She would be grateful for your help.


This post was recently featured on the Money Hacks Carnival by The Military Finance Network.

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  2. I used to love Ebay but in the last year I’ve had this or people selling thinigs not in the condition described…. and they email you & act like they are going to do something and then don’t do it & before you know this back & forth stuff has gone on fro 45 days. And they have not all been US sellers – I’ve had 2 people in the US pull crud like this too.

    In only one case did a missing item appear… after 3 months! I contacted the seller & let them know. They were in India and told me they were on a tight budget so I hadn’t left neg feedback – I just re-paid them for the item and wished them well.

    I do bead work & jewelery and Ebay is a great source for stone beads that I can’t get locally but it’s nerve racking at times. I found one good seller & even though they cost more it’s nice to just deal with one person.

  3. I agree eBay isn’t for everyone. You always hope to come out on top but sometimes even with all the rules in place like the 45 day disagreement rule you still get hammered because most people are aware of it. It took me time figure it out myself. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Well, hello there old friend. I see I inspired an article. I was researching internet scams and I googled ebay scams and your post popped up. I did learn some new tips for identifying ebay scammers. I will share them with you.
    1. If the photo provided is a stock photo (I’m sorry to say but “my” dress was) most likely it’s a scam. Scammers can copy and paste pictures from anywhere and make it seem like it’s the item they are selling.
    2. Check the sellers activity. If the seller has not bought or sold anything for a while then this should be a red flag.
    3. If they claim that the only way to reach them is by email. They are most likely a scammer. Looking back, I think my scammer did that.
    4. If the shipping price is really high, tread carefully.
    5. The feedback is not reliable. The scammer can open many accounts and leave “positive feedback”. I checked the sellers’ feedback and their score was 91% with lots of positive feedback which is why I proceeded.
    6. Contact ebay and they will give you the sellers contact info (including phone number). I learned later that my “sellers” phone number was a number for pay pal in California.
    last but not least
    7. If the seller threatens to leave negative feedback and keeps hounding you for money with threats of reporting you to ebay if you don’t pay (mine did and the email threats began once I was notified that I won) this is a very strong indication that the seller is a scammer.

    If only I had this info in March then I would never been a victim. I had my doubts because the deal seemed to good to be true, but I checked the feedback for the seller and thought that since the purchase was made through paypal that I was protected. I was wrong.

  5. Wow Shelley,
    That’s awsome, you really spent a lot of time writing and researching this. A lot of those points that you brought up I would have never guessed to look at, like looking at the high shipping prices and contacting eBay for the sellers info.

    It’s good to hear from you again.


  6. These scammers only making it difficult for persons to do legitimate business on the Internet. This lady just closes the door on potential dressmakers who want to do their business and so damage control will have to be done. One should be very prudent when transacting business on the internet.

  7. I just wanted to do a follow up to my story. After contacting the BBB, they were able to get a response from the president of ebay. I have been emailing the president and he was able to get me my dress. The seller mailed it last month but it was nothing like it was supposed to be so the president is currently negotiating with the seller. I was offered a fifty dollar refund and the privilege of keeping the dress but i am going for the full refund. Keep your fingers crossed:)

  8. That’s awesome Shelley! I’m glad to see someone is getting through to Ebay and getting what they deserve. It took some time and persistence but it’s all starting to pay off now. Thanks for the update and keep pushing for the full refund.

  9. Hi

    I would just like to add that if you have been scammed on eBay then take a copy of all adverts, feedback, messages before eBay has a chance to remove them as they often do.

    Seeing feedback as a guide to being safe has become a bit of a joke because ebay is doing next to nothing about the massive gangs that setup and sell accounts or the trading of feedback for $0.01 and you can see 1000’s of examples on the ebuster site complete with adverts and members feedback and yes i hope scammers take that as a warning.


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