eBay is a wonderful place to buy and sell. it is an amazing place to find bargains and get paid for clearing your attic.
But, eBay is now not limited to clearing your attic only.
The same was true when the auction giant site started back in the 90’s. Things have, since then, considerably changed. The site is not only an auction house for used items, it is one of the busiest marketplace for used, new, branded and unbranded items.
I am both a buyer and seller and I love to buy my necessities on eBay and sell different stuff to earn a living from it.
Unfortunately, this wonderful place has its own place for some ill-intentioned scammers both among buyers and sellers.
This is perfectly natural and is absolutely not an exclusive ill-feature of eBay. Just like in the online or offline worlds, eBay is a place where human beings interact. So, there are good people and there are bad people.
The good news is that the percentage of scammers (both buyers and sellers) is very small. Although, we cannot clean out the world – and eBay, too- of scammers and fraudster, we can take certain steps to save ourselves from the tricks of such deceitful members of the community.
This guide is intended to show genuine buyers and sellers ways and means that can be used to avoid most scammers and fraudsters.
How to Shop Safe on eBay?
As I mentioned earlier, eBay is part of the bigger internet world. Shopping online is a real pleasure with an occasional pain and eBay is no exception to it. The following steps may help you to reduce the chances of “that occasional pain” during your online shopping spree on the internet in general and eBay in particular.
1. Scrutinize the Sellers Feedback
The eBay feedback system is a powerful tool that can be used to avoid scams, judge sellers, and make informed buying decisions.
When eBay started, sellers and buyers could leave each other mutual positive, negative or neutral feedback.
The drawback with this type of feedback system was that in case anything went wrong, buyers and sellers would leave negative feedback to avenge each other. Most of the time, it was to the detriment of buyers. Sellers would threaten of leaving equally negative feedback just in case a buyer did so.
However, since then, it has been changed and only buyers are able to leave negative feedback while sellers can resort to other steps like filing unpaid strikes, reporting buyers, mutual cancellation etc.
Some ill-intentioned sellers can manipulate the feedback system and inflate it by selling some cheap items or buying it from others. Once they have inflated it to a certain level, they may list high priced items to con others.
Remember, I said to securitize the feedback not just to have a look at it. The reason is that a seller may have a manipulated feedback which can possibly be spotted only after having a close look at it.
Some buyers, similarly, can also have manipulated feedback by buying many cheap items. Once they have built enough score, they will start buying expensive items and then file claims like item not received, goods damaged, empty boxes, unauthorized payments, chargebacks etc.
2. Buy From Reputed And Top Rated Sellers
Gone is the time when eBay was only a place where one could sell their extra stuff from the attic or garden shed . Although, casual sellers still forms a larger part of the eBay base, the company identifies itself with some of the biggest high street names.
M&S, Next, Argos UK, Virgin, Vodafone and many other big names are regular retailers on eBay.
If you are in doubt and not confident to order from small sellers, these big companies have huge inventory listed often at a cheaper price than in their high street retail outlets.
Apart from big names, other small sellers also enjoy good reputation by selling quite for a while on eBay. Among many other things, one common traits amongst con seller is that they do not survive too long. So, if someone has been selling on eBay for the last couple of years, it is very unlikely that they will be unprofessional or con people.
It takes a lot of efforts to get to the top rated sellers. Only those sellers are awarded top rated status who are able to provide top customer service, fast shipping, accurate listings, easy returns and helping their customers by maintaining an effective and meaningful communication with their customers.
Sellers with top rated status are very unlikely to commit any scam and they try their level best to maintain thier hard earned status.
eBay evaluate TRS status sellers on a monthly basis to ensure that they meet the minimum requried standards. These standards are getting tougher and it is almost impossible for a con to be a TRS seller for any longer period.
Cheaters cannot stay too long in one place. Check the seller history. Sellers who have been trading for a while would do anything to maintain their trust and reputation.
3. Check Contact Details
Once upon a time, eBay would only mention the contact details only on the profile page of the seller. Now each item’s page mentions the contact details through a link. Once you click the link, the contact details appear.
All reputed sellers have contact details and real addresses mentioned at the items page. There is also a phone number that you can use to reach the seller and ask any questions.
Check out the seller’s email address, postal address and contact telephone number and enquire if you are in any doubt.
Just like you shop on any other website and would check their contact page, you can do so now on the auction site.
Genuine sellers provide their email address, skype id, telephone number etc. and they love to hear from customers and offer help. You may also find VAT numbers, Tax numbers and other such information provided by business seller in their contact details.
4. Ask Questions
This is a great feature to reach real sellers. Once you scroll right down to the bottom of the page, you can see a link at the left side of the page saying ask question. Once you click, you can see existing information and contact a seller form.
Genuine sellers love to respond to their customer inquiries. As with the new technology and apps, sellers get alerts 24 hours on their mobile devices and you can get a response straight away.
In all normal circumstances, it should not take more than 24 hours to get a response from the seller even if they use their traditional email system or to login to a computer for eBay messaging system.
Back in 2004, I used to reply to customers messages from my desktop. Once I was I away, there was no way to keep in touch with my customers.
Things have changed a lot. I get alerts on my IPhone in real time through eBay’s messaging. The moment I get a message from my customer, I respond immediately using my IPhone application.
It is highly recommended to ask as many questions as you can especially if you are planning to buy high end items.
I know that some people do not have the time to go through the hassle of confirming the genuineness of the sellers through asking questions. This is, of course, time consuming. But you do not have to ask questions from all sellers. Just do it when you are in doubt.
Established and well reputed sellers are good to go straight away.
5. Chose the Right Method of Payment
If you are paying for any high end item, make sure that you use PayPal as a mode of payment to be covered by eBay buyers protection and PayPal’s buyer protection program.
All genuine sellers accept PayPal as a primary mode of payment. PayPal also offers protection to the buyer by filing a dispute in case of items not received or goods damaged or any other problem.
Other payment options are bank check, cash, wire transfer, Western Union and postal order.
As far as postal, money order, cash, western union, avoid them. Most con sellers would solicit payment through these methods where it is not possible to get a refund or trace them.
You can pay by bank check only if you are sure that you are dealing with genuine sellers. Fraudulent sellers can open temporary bank accounts for this purpose and may close the account once the money has been withdrawn.
There are some people who think PayPal sucks. These are mostly casual sellers without any serious business portfolio.
Remember the new eBay money back guarantee program stipulates that you must you use PayPal as a payment method to be covered by the guarantee.
6. Avoid Phishing Emails Scams
Phishing emails are unsolicited emails where the sender wants to direct you to some bogus sites and ask you to enter your personal information like user names, passwords, PIN numbers etc.
There are so many phishing emails sent by scammers to sellers and buyers asking them to update their eBay’s or PayPal’s usernames and passwords.
Remember, eBay or PayPal will never ask you for your passwords or usernames in emails.
Once the scammers gets your details they may hack your account as well as steal your financial information like credit card or bank account details.
Never respond to these phishing emails. The best way is to delete them without opening them. You may also use your email provider settings to block or mark them as spam.
7. Beware of Spoof Emails
There is another way of tricking innocent people through emails called spoof emails. In these type of emails the scammer tries to put the original email from eBay or PayPal in the form field.
Once you receive the email, it will look like to have been originated from a real source like eBay, PayPal or your bank.
In the spoof emails, scammers may also try to show themselves as wholesalers or retailers selling items at unrealistic low prices. Spoof emailers may even direct you to a flashing website tempting you to order all high end items for silly prices. Beware!
Most scammers target new eBay users by persuading them to strike a deal outside eBay. They tell customers that selling off the site save them high listing fees and so they would like to pass on the benefits to the customer.
No. Not True!
8. Check Sellers Return Policy
eBay updated return policy guidelines for sellers on a continuous basis. According to the latest updates, sellers who accept return must specify more than 7 days return period such as 14, 30 or 60 days.
According to eBay the new return policy guidelines help to provide buyers with more confidence. The new guidelines help customers initiate returns much more easily and to make the buying experience more pleasant.
All the top rated sellers will try their best to comply with these guidelines and hence better serve the buying community.
It is also necessary for top rated sellers to offer a 14 day or longer return policy in case they want to earn 20 percent discount on their fees.
eBay recently introduced “Managed Returns” in which the site will itself monitor the return. They may hold the seller funds and once the buyer returns the item may refund it to the buyer.
9. Use the eBay Money Back Guarantee
eBay recently introduced a new system called Money Back Guarantee Policy to cover genuine buyers in case anything goes wrong. This replaces the former system called eBay Buyer Protection.
Under the eBay Money Back Guarantee a buyer can apply for their money back when an item is not received or the item received does not match the description on the item’s listing page by the seller.
Just like any other online shopping sites, things may occasionally go wrong on eBay. This may happen whether you buy from Amazon, eBay or any other online source.
However, exercising common sense and a little bit of prudence can save you from any unpleasant shopping experience.
Just like in the offline world, there will always be some sharks in the online world waiting for their prey. We can still make the world a better place by contributing whatever good we can.
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