If you go by all the posts and comments online, it’s nearly impossible to sell on eBay without being scammed, by the buyer! Pretty much every online forum or eBay related blog you visit will be FULL of such stories and from the emails I get, it’s clear that this is one of the main things that holds new sellers back from getting started on eBay.
But I’m happy to say that these buyer scams really aren’t as prevalent as is made out, and are much more common in certain niches, particularly more popular/everyday items.
And that’s actually one of the reasons you hear so much about this, because a lot of new, private sellers who list their own items (things like mobile phones, tablets, game consoles etc.) aren’t aware of the best practices they should follow, and end up getting scammed.
And that’s what today’s article is all about! I’ll be covering some of the more common scams on eBay and telling you exactly how to deal with them so that you’re never a victim to fraudulent eBay buyers.
To start off, I want to cover some of the selling rules and best practices that you should be following with all your eBay sales.
Create Buyer Requirements
This is probably the simplest and easiest way to reduce your exposure to buyers who are more likely to cause difficulties in a transaction.
Of course there is no universal list that tells you the user ID of all scammers but by applying some common sense filters, you can significantly reduce the chances of you being scammed.
You can block bids/purchases from buyers who:
- Have unpaid items recorded on their account.
- Have a feedback score lower than the number you specify (it goes without saying that not all new buyers are scammers, but a high proportion of scams come from new accounts with little feedback, so this is a great way to protect yourself).
- Don’t have a PayPal account
Here’s an example of set of rules you can set in Buyer Requirements:
And you can also add difficult and problematic buyers to your “blocked list” via their user ID which will prevent them from buying anything from you in the future.
NEVER Deal Outside of eBay!
I cannot stress how important this rule is! Please, under no circumstances, agree to finalise a transaction outside of eBay.
I’ve heard from some people who actually think this is better for them because they don’t pay the final value fees plus buyers don’t get the full eBay Buyer Protection… but when you deal outside of eBay, you really do open yourself up to a whole new level of potential scams and fraud.
Never mind the fact that if the buyer reports this to eBay, you will most likely be instantly (and permanently) banned.
Basically, to keep everything very simple, just NEVER deal with a buyer or sell something outside of eBay.
Only Ship To The Confirmed PayPal Address
This is another one that fools many new sellers and it’s unfortunate really, because there are many genuine reasons a buyer might want you to ship to an alternate address; they might have recently moved and not updated their PayPal account, they might be sending a gift directly to the recipient to save on shipping costs etc.
But if the address you post to doesn’t match the confirmed address on the PayPal payment, then you aren’t covered in any way under PayPal’s Seller Protection Policy and if a claim is made for non-delivery, you will lose out.
Even if you have a message from the buyer requesting delivery to a different address, eBay/PayPal will still side with them. Ridiculous I know, but that’s just how it is – and the only thing we can do as sellers is ensure you ONLY post to the registered PayPal address.
So if you do make a sale but the buyer subsequently asks you to post to a different address, you should politely decline.
Please note that I said politely, as of course this doesn’t necessarily mean they are trying to scam you!
So if this does happen, just reply back and explain that due to PayPal’s Shipping Policy, you are only able to post to the address shown on the invoice. Ask them if they would like a refund or if they are happy for the item to be posted to their correct address and then go from there.
One thing to note is that it’s not possible for them to add the address after payment has been made and they’ll have to re-buy the item (after you’ve refunded them and cancelled the transaction via eBay).
These are 3 incredibly simple, but also extremely effective rules for selling on eBay that you should be following for all your listings.
Simply by setting some common sense buyer requirements you’ll be able to guard yourself from a large amount of scammers and then ensuring you deal on eBay and only post to the invoiced address will also protect you from the most common eBay scams.
However, that’s not all!
Nowadays buyer fraud on eBay is becoming more and more sophisticated and advanced and while these general rules will help you, you still need to be aware of some of the more in-depth scams that buyers try.
eBay Buyer Scams and How To Deal With Them!
1. Item Not Received
This is by far the most common scam on eBay and it’s a very simple one. A buyer will order an item and then a little while after it arrives they’ll contact the seller or create a claim saying they haven’t received the item.
If you posted it via a tracked method, then you should of course check the delivery details online and see if the buyer is telling the truth.
If you posted it without tracking, then you have very little to stand on. It doesn’t matter that you have proof of postage, you need proof of delivery or eBay will side with the buyer.
So in cases like these, you simply respond apologising that their order hasn’t arrived yet and then ask if they’d like a replacement sent or a full refund issued.
Most of the time with fraudulent buyers, they’ll just ask for their money back which means they got the item for free. If they request that a replacement is sent instead, then always ensure you send that fully tracked and recorded!
I’ve received many emails from sellers who have posted out replacements in the same way as the original and then had another item not received claim! That way the buyer ends up with 2 or 3 of their item and their money back so please – always send replacements via recorded delivery.
Now I know what you may be thinking at this point: why don’t I just send all items recorded in the first place!? That way, buyers can’t make any false item not received claims as you have evidence of delivery.
Well though I do see a lot of people suggesting this, it’s not something I agree with at all. You have to look at this from a business perspective and only consider the numbers.
For example, let’s say you sell Blu-rays at an average price of £6 + delivery. Regular 1st Class postage costs £1.24 and Signed For 1st Class costs £2.34 and you sell 200 a month.
Let’s take a look at how the figures compare:
1st Class Postage:
Cost of Shipping = £1.24 x 200 = £248
Cost of Refunds = £6 x 10 (200 x 5%) = £60
TOTAL COST = £308
1st Class Signed For Postage:
Cost of Shipping = £2.34 x 200 = £468
Cost of Refunds = NIL
TOTAL COST = £468
So as you can see, despite you having to refund 10 orders in full due to item not received claims, sending everything tracked would add £160 (52%!) to your total cost every month (and that’s not even considering any compensation you get from Royal Mail for lost postage with the non-tracked option).
I hope you get my point here! Of course the results might be different for you as it depends completely on the cost of shipping and the rate of item not received claims, however it isn’t correct to simply say “post everything recorded so you can’t get scammed”…
Yes it’s frustrating to have to refund suspected fraudulent buyers but sometimes it makes more business sense to absorb the occasional hit.
Plus I have two little ‘tricks’ that you can use if you do get a message from a buyer claiming their order hasn’t been received.
These aren’t strictly above the line, so it’s up to you if you want to use them in your business, but they are things I’ve come across in my many years experience that I want to share with you:
- Investigating It Further
One method is to reply to INR messages apologising and then saying you will be investigating it further in case it was lost/taken at their local delivery office. Some sellers even enclose a declaration and ask the buyer to fill in their name and sign saying they didn’t receive the item so that you can send it on to Royal Mail for their investigation.
Obviously these are nothing more than scare tactics, which I wouldn’t really recommend myself as if it is a genuine buyer they’ll be further put out, but I have heard a very high level of success reported with this tactic – so you’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to use it.
After all, if you’re a scammer simply trying to get an item for free, you’ll probably be scared off by such a message and won’t take it any further.
- “Tracked Mail – Scanned on Delivery” Sticker
This is another deceptive but highly effective method for stopping INR claims. Basically you attach a label to the package that displays a barcode and a serial number.
Most fraudulent buyers who receive their order with such a label attached will be scared off from claiming their item hasn’t arrived.
Once again, this is a deceptive method though so I can’t recommend using it myself – however, I still wanted to make you aware of it. If you go this route, don’t make that label too similar to Royal Mail labels as then post office may refuse to accept your parcel.
And now, on to the next most common eBay buyer scam:
2. Faulty/Damaged Item
Again, this is a very simple scam. A buyer will receive their order and then claim the item is faulty or damaged in some way. Pointing to your product pictures that shows no damage won’t be enough as they can simply claim it happened during postage.
Really your only option in this instance is to request that the item is sent back so you can inspect it and then either issue a refund or send a replacement.
If the item is low value and it’s not worth an additional two sets of postage cost, then you can always ask for a picture detailing the damage or simply refund them and move on.
There is really very little you need to do here, other than request the item is returned back to you. After all, with last year’s updated Consumer Contracts Regulations, you are within your right as a seller to request a return before issuing a refund and thankfully that has made this type of scam much more uncommon as there’s very little gain for the scammer when they have to return the item to you. Previously when the distance selling laws dictated that you give a refund BEFORE the item was returned, this scam was much harder to deal with.
But, this does bring us on to another similar, but much more advanced scam, that is significantly harder to deal with.
3. Returning Another Product
This is basically a follow-on from the faulty item scam, but in this case when you request a return the buyer agrees and sends back their item. However when you receive it, it is immediately clear that it isn’t in fact the item you sent out but is instead a used or faulty replacement.
This scam is most common with electronics, such as smartphones, DSLRs etc. The buyer either has a broken version of this item you’re selling or in some cases they specifically go and buy a faulty copy and then return it in place of the new/working one they bought from you.
There is really only one effective method for dealing with this, and that is to record and keep evidence of the barcode/serial number of the items you sell. Otherwise it’s their word against yours and that’s only going to end one way!
So if you’re selling a smartphone, make sure you take a picture of and note down the EMEI number; if you’re selling a Canon camera, make sure you have evidence of the serial number etc.
I recommend that you do this for all high value items and particularly electronics, as that’s where the majority of these cases seem to be based.
But here comes the bad part – once a buyer returns the item to you in an item not as described case, eBay will then usually refund them instantly. Again, I know this sounds incredibly unfair but that’s how it works; as soon as eBay see that something has been returned via a tracking number, they refund the buyer. I’ve even come across many cases where an empty box is returned or better yet, a box containing a brick or some rocks (so that the weights match up)!
PLUS you get a DEFECT for that transaction!
But all is not lost, as you can still appeal the case. Here is what eBay themselves suggest:
You can appeal an eBay Buyer Protection case if your item comes back in a different condition than the way the buyer received it, or the package is empty or contains a different item. You should not appeal a case if a buyer received a damaged item and sent it back to you with the same damage. We recommend you purchase shipping insurance to provide coverage for items lost or damaged in transit to the buyer.
To appeal your case:
- Go to the Resolution Center or click the button below.
- Click the Sign in link below the Your cases section.
- Find the case and click Appeal.
If you document everything and provide all the evidence to eBay in your appeal, then you will usually get your money back. Of course they also note the incident in the buyer’s record and may ban them if it’s happened multiple times.
However, as these instances usually involve higher value items and can’t be misconstrued as an error or genuine mistake, I would also suggest reporting this as a crime as it is a clear case of fraud.
These cases are usually reported to Action Fraud, which can be done online, and they’ll issue you with a crime reference number.
Although very little can be done, reporting the crime nearly guarantees that eBay will find the appeal in your favour and refund you, so that’s why I always suggest taking this extra step.
So please always remember, picture and note down any barcodes, serial numbers, IMEI numbers etc. so that you have some evidence if you’re scammed in this way.
That way you at least get your money back in the end, and with how eBay & PayPal’s refund system is set up, that’s pretty much the best you can expect.
Now this last scam is probably the most advanced trick used by fraudulent buyers on eBay and it is very hard to deal with, but don’t feel put off! As I mentioned earlier, these scams really are a lot less common than is portrayed and if you follow the general guidelines listed at the beginning of this article, you’ll already be protected from the majority of scammers on eBay.
If you do get unlucky and come across a fraudulent buyer, simply follow my advice on how to deal with them and you should come out of it okay!
However, if you are being blackmailed and a buyer is threatening you with negative feedback or low DSRs, then you should report them to eBay. This is known as feedback extortion and it isn’t allowed so if you report it and they follow through with their threat, you’ll be able to get it removed as eBay are usually quick to act in this regard.
Remember, the goal here is to proceed with as little damage to your business as possible and that’s what all my advice is geared towards – settling the problem as quickly and easily as possible, even if that means the scammer “wins”.
Don’t take things personally; simply block the bad buyer and move forward with your business.
It’s an unfortunate truth of selling on eBay as everyone knows they side with buyers and that attracts these scammers.
That’s one of the things that my Ecommerce Magnates customers always email me about after a few months of selling on their own store – how nice and reasonable the customers are! It’s like a whole new world compared to eBay.
If you’re interested in learning how to create, build and manage your own ecommerce store, then take a look at Ecommerce Magnates. At the special price of £67, which includes life-time access and free updates, you’d be hard pressed to find a better value course anywhere online!
Until next time!
All the best,