Ebay provides protections for buyers and sellers as part of its contracts with its users. This helps to smooth transactions, but also ends up creating some opportunities for scam artists.
Generally, buyers and sellers are honest, and a fair number are willing to take a small loss. A small number, probably less than 1%, are dishonest. There’s a gray area as well, where people take advantage of situations, but aren’t exactly dishonest.
New Ebay and online sellers in general get scams run on them, and buyers get free things. Here are a couple common ones.
No USPS Tracking: claim that the item was never delivered.
The buyer notices that there’s no USPS Tracking (delivery confirmation) tag on the item, and then claims the item was never delivered.
Ebay will side with the buyer and issue a complete refund with shipping.
So, use Delivery Confirmation. It comes with First Class Package postage.
Buyer Asks for Refund Outside of Ebay
The buyer wants the item for free, and suggests a refund performed outside of Ebay.
Don’t fall for it. Communicate with the buyer only through Ebay.
Item Not Received
New sellers might send a small item through the mail, in an envelope, with regular First Class postage (the Forever stamp). The buyer receives the items, but claims the items was never received. You are forced to make a refund.
The fix: buy postage through Ebay, using First Class Package, which includes delivery confirmation. Ebay will accept delivery confirmation as an indication that the item was received, and side with you.
If you really don’t want to charge the $2.66+ for shipping on a small item, just be aware that some categories are riskier. Basically, anything like computer parts or “techie”, that young men do, is risky. Anything that young people buy is risky, because they have less money, and also don’t think that a small profit margin is important.
Less risky are things sold to people who need the item, or really want the seller to stay in business because the item is rare.
No Signature Confirmation on $250+ Item
The buyer of an expensive item claims to PayPal that they never got the item. PayPal issues a refund, and you lose your money. PayPal’s policy is to side with the buyer, unless the seller can prove delivery.
The fix: items that cost over $250 should use signature confirmation. This costs extra, and requires that the recipient sign off to receive a package.
Sending to a Different Address
Buyer requests that the item be sent to a different address. Then they claim they never got the item. Delivery confirmation shows delivery to this other address, but Ebay’s policy requires delivery to one of the addresses on file with PayPal and Ebay.
The fix: if they ask to send to a different address, explain the Ebay and PayPal policies that require delivery only to addresses in their profiles. Cancel the sale and ask the buyer to change their addresses. They can then re-purchase.
Returning a Broken Item
Buyer purchases an item, claims it is not working/DOA, and starts a return. They return a different, broken item. Ebay sides with the buyer.
They may even open up the item, replace the insides, and return it.
This scam is particularly common with electronics.
The fix: take a photo of the serial number, and put it in the listing. If you forget to put it in the listing send the photo of the number by message, after the sale, so the Ebay staff will have access to that info.
If you’re at risk of the “replaced guts” scam, buy some “warranty voided” security stickers and put it over a screw or a seam. These are stickers that cannot be removed, because they break apart, leaving bits behind.
Returning an Item Outside of Ebay
You sent a functioning product, and they claim it isn’t working, and want to get a refund. They do this communication outside of Ebay.
The thing works, and they don’t want to return it. If they went through the Ebay system, the seller can choose how to resolve the problem. These options are: pay for a return; give a partial refund; give a total refund and let the buyer keep the item.
However, they don’t want that. They just want you to agree to issue a refund.
The “fix” is to remind them that refunds must be done through the Ebay system, and offer to forward the emails to Ebay, and start a return.
The buyer will go silent.
Fake Buyer to Force a Delisting
This is really a scam by one seller against another. They get someone to buy an item that doesn’t have the “must pay immediately” box set. The listing is pulled from the marketplace, but they never pay.
The buyer is just trying to eliminate the competition.
This happens sometimes, when your item is priced significantly lower than the others.
The fix is to cancel the sale, but Ebay may ding you for this. There’s also a process to cancel for nonpayment that won’t ding you, but it’s complicated.
The Fake VERO Letter
Ebay’s VERO system is supposed to help prevent counterfeit or unauthorized sales of branded items. Some competitors will send a fake VERO letter telling you to quit selling one of your items.
Just be aware, and ignore the letter if it doesn’t look real.
The Real VERO Letter from a Lying Competitor
The competitor might be able to register as the owner of a trademark. Then, they can complain to Ebay about trademark misuse, and Ebay will send you a VERO letter and possibly remove the listing.
There isn’t much you can do about this, especially if you do not have a regular supply of said product. Just be aware that this can happen.
My Life Sucks, Can I Get A Discount / Free
This isn’t really a scam, but after making a purchase, they will ask for a discount, and use a sob story to try and get it.
The fix: tell them they can cancel the sale. Allow the cancellation, and then block the buyer.
Item Not As Described
This is not really a “scam”, but a problem resulting from your incomplete listings. Some buyers are looking for flaws in listings, and will purchase the item, then point out the flaw, and request a refund or a partial refund.
The fix: you just need to be accurate in your listings, and list all flaws. Photograph the flaws and point them out. If they catch your error, then offer a partial refund. Otherwise, apologize and take a return and give a full refund, including refunding the postage price.