How To Deal With Scammers Effectively On EBay

How Likely Am I To Be Scammed When I'm Selling On EBay?

This is a tricky question, and I can only really answer that with: “it depends”. 

It’s worth remembering that the vast majority of buyers are ordinary, decent, honest people who just want a decent item at a decent price. But I can understand why someone new to selling on eBay would be concerned about being scammed when you see so many stories on the various forums about this happening.

Even honest people can make mistakes or say the wrong thing and look suspicious but you can usually spot those fairly quickly.

Don’t let the many tales of scammers put you off because there is still plenty of good money to be had on eBay and most people have little or no trouble with scammers.

Like any business, you will need to be ready to deal with challenges now and then but you can, and should, prepare yourself for potential problems.

Don’t be in a hurry. A gradual, steady building of your business will teach you a lot, set you on the right path and help you protect yourself from scam buyers as well as the best way to promote your items.

There are a number factors that have a bearing on the likelihood that you will be scammed:

  • What you are selling will have a large bearing on whether you are likely to be a target of a scam. For example, electronic items such as games/consoles and mobile phones and accessories, jewellery, handbags and other designer items do attract high levels of fraud as does clothing.

  • The price level at which you are selling will also be a factor as someone is more likely to try to get an expensive camera free of charge than a £10 vintage brownie.

  • If you are new to eBay selling cheats and scammers might see you as an easier target than someone who has the experience of a number of years behind them.

  • If you have 0 or a very small number of pieces of feedback you may find yourself a target as that will also indicate that you might be new to selling on eBay.

  • How well prepared you are. Reading articles such as this one will help. But you also need to be a bit savvy in yourself. My assumption is always that my buyer is decent and honest but I am also ready to read the signs. Further on in this article you can find out how to prepare yourself and what to look out for.

What Measures Can I Take to Protect Myself From Scammers on EBay?

  • Decide to sell items in a low-risk category. This is probably the best way to protect yourself long-term. In my main store I sell mainly old books and maps and although I do sell some high-ticket items your average scammer wouldn’t have the desire for such items and would have no ready market for them. They just wouldn’t know what to do with them and, believe me, there is far too much research involved in order to gain such knowledge.
    Many types of collectables are low-risk for the same reasons and they just don’t attract unwelcome attention. If you have some prior knowledge of collectables of some kind it is well worth considering. You will need to add to your knowledge but if you are already a collector the chances are you will have a head start. Not only that but you will enjoy selling something you are passionate about.
    I would exclude from this idea anything like designer clothing or electricals for the reasons already stated.

  • Seller lower priced items and you will attract very few scammers. Cheats and thieves want the most they can get in the shortest time with the lowest risk. Although you might get the odd buyer trying it on for a pair of decent jeans you are not going to be the natural target for most of them. In addition, if you are selling low-ticket items it will not hurt so much if you lose one or two. That’s part of any business and an least you don’t have to worry about shop-lifters and staff pilferage.

  • Start by selling cheap items and build up. This is really good practice in any case as it gives you the chance to build your feedback up and also to build your reputation. Even on eBay buyers return to sellers who have good stuff and that they feel comfortable with. See more in my future article on starting out selling on eBay. Once you have multiple successful sales and a number of satisfied customers you can start to sell less cheap stuff and gradually build up to where you want to be.

  • Build your feedback steadily but surely. Get some quick positive feedback by purchasing some cheap items on eBay. Most sellers will give feedback and this will start to build, if you don’t already have some. As in the point above, sell some cheap stuff or/and sell some stuff cheap. You might have to consider this as a small up-front investment and although it might seem like you are wasting your hard-earned money now when you look back in a few months time you will consider it well-spent.

  • Understand what kind of scams are out there and how to prevent/deal with them. Although this is not a fine science and new ways of scamming develop all the time, there are common scams and signs of them. There are also ways you can help protect yourself against them. Read on….

What To Look Out For - Signs Of A Possible Scammer

It can be hard to work out in advance if someone might be about to scam you and you don’t want to be obsessed by the possibility. There are often warning signs, though, and your intuition as well. Some things to watch out for and why:

    1. The buyer asks you to send to a different address to that on the order details.

      This can be a very innocent request from someone who has recently moved and forgotten to change their address on eBay or by someone who is buying as a gift or for someone else.. However, this is explicitly again eBay policies and you can politely point this out to your buyer.

      A scammer might ask you to do this and then claim, once sent, that they have not received the item. Tracking, if uploaded, will show the item delivered to the “wrong” address. You would have no chance and the buyer would win any case.

      How to resolve this. The (only) way to resolve this is for you to cancel the order and ask the buyer to order again having changed the delivery address, which they can do just before paying. Explain this politely to your buyer before cancelling as they might simply not know and it’s always good to get agreement between buyer and seller. This happens to me from time-to-time and I have never yet lost a sale as a result.

      If the buyer gets unreasonable or aggressive simply cancel the order using “there is a problem with buyer’s address” as the reason. You can then block the buyer.

      Ultimately you will have eBay on your side with this. They have the messages and can see what was said.

    2. The buyer asks multiple questions about your item(s).

      Ok so you might just have a buyer who is keen to make sure they don’t make a mistake, but lots of questions, perhaps asking for unusual detail, history or complicated issues, can be a sign of someone wanting to catch you out.

      How to prevent/deal with this: The best way to prevent this is to include as much detail as is reasonably possible in your description together with multiple, clear images. Include details and images of any flaws. It is NEVER good enough to say: “For details of condition see photographs”. You MUST describe in full.

      If the buyer asks questions that make you think you might have missed something out of the description go back and up-date your listing and include the missing details. Then reply to your buyer thanking them and saying that you have up-dated the description with the requested information and if they have any further questions please do not hesitate to ask.

      If they come back with further questions and you start to feel they are taking the micky you can always block them. I don’t make a habit of blocking people and I don’t do it lightly as these are potential customers but there are occasions when I just feel uneasy and it’s simpler.

    3. The Buyer Asks To Deal Outside Of EBay. This is really simple. It is expressly against eBay rules to deal outside of eBay and, in fact, to even ask to do so. If you answer with even the slightest hint that you might do so you risk reprimand or suspension/a ban. Explain to the buyer that it is against eBay rules and please to order in the usual way. If they persist you can get onto eBay immediately and let them deal with it. You can also block the buyer, of course.

    4. The buyer communicates with you in an email outside of eBay. If this happens to you you should resist the temptation to reply and, instead, send them a message in eBay messages acknowledging their email but politely requesting to keep all communication in eBay messages.


      Before a purchase this might be a buyer about to ask you to sell off eBay (see above) or eliciting information from you that might help them cheat you. This should set the alarm bells ringing, especially if they are persistent, in which case you can block them and also let eBay know.

      Sometimes a buyer will do this after receipt of an item in an attempt to resolve a problem. This is even more reason to take it back onto eBay so that eBay reps can see exactly what has been said. If you do not do so you have very little to fall back on if it goes wrong for you.

      Always remember that innocent buyers do not always know the rules and might just think they are being helpful or they find it easier. So be kind and polite and nine times out of ten you will get a good sale.

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