Guide to Avoiding Scams on eBay

Guide to Avoiding Scams on eBay


So you’re looking for a notebook and want to get the most for your money.  One of the best places to get a great deal on new or used notebooks is eBay.  However, when you try to find a bargain on eBay, you run the risk of being scammed.  Here are some scams you should keep your eye out for to make your purchase on eBay safer. 

The Obvious Fraudulent Listing

Frequently, scams can be easy to spot because the seller exudes certain traits that scream fraud. These are some characteristics of eBay listings that are blatant scams:

  • The seller’s name is a random string of letters, e.g. xtrfdsgr. 
  • The seller is selling from a foreign locale, e.g. Hong Kong and Sweden, but ships internationally
  • The selling price is much lower than MSRP. 
  • The seller has little or no feedback. 
  • The feedback the seller does have is from others whose names are also random strings of letters or from sellers that have sold them $1 items.
  • The only payment methods are money order or wire transfer.

Avoid any listing that has a few of these characteristics.  If you are really curious about the listing, even against your best judgment, then I would suggest messaging the seller, and asking to purchase via an escrow service.  If they say no, I would turn the other way.  Also, remember to report the listing to eBay, so people not as smart as you won’t fall prey to these thieves.  You do this by clicking on the report this item link at the bottom of the listing.

The Devious Hijacked Account Listing

You often run into a listing that seems too good to be true.  The price is quite low, and when you check the seller’s feedback, he/she seems fairly reputable.  Don’t be fooled.  There doesn’t seem to be much that is indicative of a spammer.  In this most tricky of scams, a scammer hijacks another user’s account to make a fraudulent listing.  To spot these scams, look for the following qualities:

  • They tell you not to send them a message through eBay.  Instead, they request that you email them directly to their personal email addresses
  • The seller has not sold notebooks before, though has sold other types of items before. 
  • They usually have a Buy it Now price that is mentioned in the listing but isn’t an actual option in the bid window.
  • The seller has multiple locations (i.e. eBay lists the original locale of the seller when he/she opened the account on the left hand side under Meet the seller.  However, the item location is in a different country.)

To keep yourself safe from these scams, you should definitely contact the seller through the ask a seller a question link.  The reason that they ask you to email them at their personal addresses is that by using the eBay link to contact seller, the real seller will actually get that message.  I have done this many times, and the real seller has responded back to me that they don’t have any idea what I’m talking about.  Often, these scammers hijack foreign accounts, and I received responses back in different languages.  Also, by getting you to email them, they are getting you to purchase outside of eBay.  Thus, you will not be able to receive some of the protection and records you get from working directly through eBay.  Also, it is imperative to check what other items the seller has sold.  Once, I found a seller that was selling notebooks, even though he/she had an eBay store for quilts! 

Here is an example of this scam I found while randomly searching eBay:

Don’t be fooled by the high feedback, especially considering that they ask you to contact the seller directly through his personal email account!

Upon further examination of the seller’s reputation, we find that he is a seller of matchbox cars.

Second Chance Offer Scam

Even when you bid on legitimate items, you find yourself getting scammed by people sending supposed second chance offers.  A seller can send a second chance offer to the people who bid under the highest bid, when the highest bidder decides not to pay.  When you are being scammed, you get two flavors of second chance offer scams.  You can receive an email from some random email address with the eBay id and item description in the subject line, and then in the body, the seller says something about having the item still available and was wondering if you wanted it.  The other way is a bit more professional.  The sender is supposedly eBay, and the body looks exactly like a real second chance offer. 

So how can you tell what is a real second chance offer and what is not?   First, always check your eBay account.  If you do not receive a message in your eBay inbox, then the second chance offer you received is not legit.  Also, for the trickier second chance offer (the latter), if you click on the link in the body of the email for the eBay listing, it will take you to an invalid page. 

Scamming the Seller

The buyers aren’t the only ones being scammed.  As a seller there are scammers that you need to watch out for as well.  Here is my own personal account of almost being scammed.

I put up a Sony PSP for sale on eBay.  This user with zero feedback immediately bought my PSP with the buy it now price and sent me this email:

Hello Seller,

          Compliment of the season to you, I Cathy Alfred from Tx USA, but Presently in London, UK for a church seminal. I saw your

product item below on eBay #180004412926 and i am really intrested in buying it for my Daugther as a surprise gift for her in school(Abti American University )at Nigeria and i will handle the shipment expenses.I will send you my fedex account so you will not pay no money for shipping.

         I will be sending you payment via PayPal, so kindly send me

your PAYPAL EMAIL ADDRESS so as to immedaitely make out your payment and make sure you get the package ready for shipment,you can ship

the item as soon as you recieve the paypal confirmation.

Expecti ng your reply so as to immediately make out the payment

you can easily reach me on this number +[edited]



Cathy Alfred.

So being a first time seller, I said sure.  She seemedlike a nice enough woman, and this seemedlike a reasonable request, especially if she is willing to pay shipping costs.  Soon after, I promptly received a payment email from Paypal:

At first glance, the emailed seemedlegit, but upon further examination, something wasn’t quite right.  First, the sender wasn’t from, and that was a little weird.  Then, I though it was really odd that Paypal wouldn’t send me the money until after the package was delivered.  Perhaps the most damaging evidence was the fact that they spelled the woman’s name wrong.  Just to double check, I went to my Paypal account, and there was no activity listed.  Feeling quite paranoid, I called Paypal customer service where they assured me that this was a scam.  I emailed all information to, and the user’s account was closed.

Here’s the moral of the story.  Be wary of buyers with no feedback.  Be very suspicious of buyers who want you to ship internationally with their own shipping account.  Never ship your item until you have your money in your Paypal account.  When in doubt, give Paypal a call.  If someone tried to scam you, talk to eBay about recouping your selling costs.


Hopefully, I have enlightened you on some of the things to look out for when shopping or selling on eBay.  eBay is a fantastic market place with amazing deals.  If you act with common sense and use the tips I have outlined, then you should have a safe experience on eBay.  Admittedly, I do not know if these are the only scams out there.  I am writing this guide based on my own experiences.  If anyone has faced scams not listed here, please feel free to contribute your experiences in the forums.  To those selling or buying on eBay, I wish you the best of luck!

Related Articles:

  • Buying a Notebook on eBay
  • How to buy Used Notebooks

Helpful Related Links:

  • Laptop Auction Site
  • User Feedback site
  • online payment and transaction site





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