9 Worst Scams by Fraudulent Buyers on eBay and How to Avoid Them

buyers scamsMost people think of scams on eBay only in terms of sellers. However, this is not the case. As there are con sellers there are similar buyers. Are there more con sellers or more con buyers, I don’t know. Anyone who is more of a seller than a buyer will put the doubt on the buyer’s side and the vice versa is true, too.

The reality is that con artists exist on both sides of the fence. Following are some of the most common types of scams buyers commit. I have also included some guidelines on how to avoid such con buyers and to possibly reduce your chances of being conned.

1. Inflated Feedback

ebay fake feedback

Just like scammer sellers, buyer can also inflate their feedback score with the intention of cheating.

They buy many 0.01 to 0.99 cents items from various sellers to build their feedback score and thus prepare the ground for cheating and deception.

Such buyers try to act very smart when hunting for an expensive item. They may even send you a lot of questions pretending to show genuine interest in your item.

If you have an expensive item to sell, you can set your selling preferences and selects buyers with certain minimum feedback score. Unless buyers have the minimum feedback scores specified by you, they cannot buy or bid on your item.

Although, this is not a foolproof method, it does help to some extent to reduce the chances of coming across fraudsters.

2. Over $250 PayPal Scam

obtain signature

There have been several complaints from sellers that they have been charged back or payment reversed for items over $250.

In order to be protected by PayPal Seller’s Protection program, a seller must purchase signature confirmation of delivery service from the shipping company for items above $250 or equal amount in local currency.

Most business and professional sellers know (or at least should know) this and would always cover themselves by purchasing the signature confirmation delivery. Scammers target the one off sellers or people who are not in the business and sell their own personal stuff.

Scammers are smart and they know that such casual personal sellers mostly do not know the rules of the game, they would file the item not received case with PayPal. Unfortunately, PayPal will reverse the payment if you are unable to provide signature confirmation on delivery.

Remember, delivery confirmation is not enough to be protected for items over $250.

Another way buyers will use is pay through PayPal and pick up the item in person or ask for local delivery. Never commit that mistake. PayPal does not cover any such arrangements.

If you do have to deliver it yourself or let the buyer collect it, make sure you take cash as the only form of payment. Scammers never pay in cash!

3. Negative Feedback Threat By Buyers

threat by customers

There was a time that both buyers and sellers could leave negative feedback for each other just like leaving positive feedback.

eBay then changed the system and only buyers can leave negative feedback but sellers cannot!

Some ill-intentioned buyers will contact sellers and threaten them with leaving a negative feedback in case their demands are not met. Sellers either have to meet their demands or face the negative score.

The new feedback system looks unfair and some sellers have complained or protested that sellers be given back the powers to leave the negative feedback for the buyers.

I personally feel that the new system is a great way to make eBay a safer place. It opens up great opportunity for genuine sellers and weeds out scammer sellers out of the game.

However, I do feel that some genuine sellers would be hit by the new system unfairly. The overall benefit is greater than the harm. The new feedback system will increase confidence of the customers and encourage more buying activity. This will ultimately benefit both buyers and sellers.

4. Item Not Received Scam

This is one of the most common scam by cheaters. They receive the item but when they know that the seller shipped without delivery confirmation or signature, they will file the claim with PayPal. Unfortunately, sellers have no recourse but to reimburse.

As far as high value items, there is no doubt that these should be sent with proof of delivery and signature confirmation if the item is above $250. Regarding smaller items, you will need to weigh the pros and cons of buying track and trace or normal shipping service.

My personal experience is that 99 percent of people are good. (Remember I am talking of low value items up to $20 maximum)

I just tried it myself and found that less than once percent people complained of non-receipt. Among them half of them could be genuine while the remaining 0.50 % could be scammers.

If you are selling anything above $20, it always recommended to use the tracking delivery service to obtain a proof of delivery. Cheaper items can be send normal post which will save you money and increase your profit margins.

5. Credit Card Chargeback Scam

When a buyer pays using credit card through PayPal, they may ask their company to remove the charge from their credit card because of unauthorized payment, stolen card, fraudulent use or the sellers failure to meet the transaction requirement. Other reasons could be item not received, damaged items or items not as described.

Although, chargebacks can be genuine and buyers may use them as resort to protect themselves, some unscrupulous customers may abuse the system by filing fraudulent chargeback claims.

PayPal places a temporary hold on the funds and if the case is decided in favor of the buyer, the money is taken off the seller account.

The biggest problem with chargebacks is that it is the credit card company which decides the case and PayPal have not control over the decision.

6. Pending e-Check Scam

Again this is for the most part a genuine method of payment with a small percentage of people abusing the system to cheat sellers.

When you pay via credit card or bank account via PayPal but the card or the account is not registered with PayPal, the payment is treated as electronic check or e-check for short.

When the payment is initiated, the credit amount is posted to your PayPal account but marked as un-cleared or pending. This means the transaction is still processing from the bank and the funds have not been added to your PayPal balance.

Once the processing is completed, the funds are added to your PayPal balance and the e-check is marked as cleared. This process normally takes 5 to 7 business working days.

Scammers may pay for their eBay items using an e-check. Sellers who do not know the e-check system may sent the item before the funds are cleared. Once the item is sent, the buyer may either cancel the e-check or simply withdraw funds from his bank and PayPal account.

How to Avoid The e-Check Scam?

Do not send goods unless the e-check shows cleared in your PayPal account. Treat the echeck just as a normal bank check which when deposited to your bank account takes 3 to 7 working or business days to clear. No goods should be sent unless the funds are cleared.

Again, there can be an exception. I have some repeat customers who have been in business with me for the last several years through eBay. They do, now and then, pay using either bank check or e-checks. As I have an established and trusted relationship with them, I sent them before the funds are cleared.

As far as new customers are concerned, I do not ship unless the e-check is cleared.

7. Fake Money Order or Check or Postal Order Scam

This an old fashioned but still existing scam tried by some buyers. They may send you fake postal orders, bank checks or money orders and call for urgent dispatch. Simply, do not send unless you make yourself sure that the checks are genuine and you have cashed them.

Some websites mention how to differentiate between fake and genuine money orders, postal orders and checks.

I rely on my local post office and my bank service for these type of documents. Once they issue me cash for them, I am ok to send goods.

8. Buyer Requests Shipping to Different Address

In this scam, the buyer buys something and then will immediately contact you putting a polite request to send the item to an address other than that registered with PayPal.

Such requests often come as birthday or occasion gifts to a mother, father, girlfriend etc. living at another address.

Small priced items are ok and normally do not succumb to such scams. However, pricey items should be only shipped to confirmed and verified address in PayPal.

9. The Damaged Goods Scams


This is perhaps one of the trickiest one. A customer places order and pays for the item using the payment methods as stipulated in your listing.

The buyer has another item in possession or just buys one in a broken or damaged condition. For instance, someone buys an IPhone 5s which they receive as it is described. Once they receive the item, they will contact the seller about the item as damaged. They will take pictures of the duplicate (damaged or faulty ) item they have and send it to PayPal or eBay to win the case.

In order to avoid this scam, it is always best to record the serial number, IME numbers or any other information which is unique to that product. Although, sometimes, it may be impossible to avoid the scam, the above measures can reduce the loss up to some extent. You may, additionally buy shipping insurance to cover yourself if you have to file a claim.
Seller’s Preference Settings

While listing your item, sellers have the option to adjust their preference settings regarding buyers.

You can stipulate a specific number of feedback a buyer has received before buying or bidding on your item.

This makes sure that only buyers who have a good record and history of established account are allowed to bid on your item.

It may happen that genuine new buyers who have low feedback score are prevented from purchasing what you offer.

A solution to his is to explain in your listing that a genuine customer can contact you and once you are satisfied let them bid or buy.

You can block buyers or bidders from bidding or purchasing your item by specifying their requirements. You can block certain buyers such as:

  • Do not have PayPal account.
  • Unpaid history
  • Primary delivery address in countries not in your posting list
  • Consistent breaches of eBay’s policies.
  • Lower feedback than the number which you set as your requirement.
  • Buyer who bought you anything from 1 to 100 in the last 10 days.


I sold an IPhone 4 which was used but in a very great condition. The buyer won the bid for $$285 and immediately paid me vial PayPal.

I shipped the goods using USPS and it shows that the item was delivered. The track and trace system shows that the item was delivered.

Sadly, the buyer filed a claim with PayPal and I responded through PayPal with the proof of delivery.

After a few days, the buyer escalated the dispute to PayPal resolution center. Sadly, PayPal decided in favor of the buyer and refunded to him saying that I should have obtained confirmation on delivery. I am out of the phone as well as the $285

Is there any help available? please respond.

Reply by KK

Thanks for your comments and sharing your story.

I am very sorry to hear that you have been ripped by some fraudster.

Unfortunately, there is no way that PayPal can reimburse you the money again as you do not seem to be covered by their seller protection program.

However, I think if you can contact the phone service provider and the police to disable the phone. If you have taken insurance, you may also discuss it with you insurance company. Please note that any item above $250 must be shipped via signature confirmation service to be able to be protected by paypal.

I am KK an eBay and Amazon expert, teacher and internet marketer. I offer advice on e-commerce, content marketing and guest posting.

6 comments on “9 Worst Scams by Fraudulent Buyers on eBay and How to Avoid Them
  1. Stevie says:

    I too believe thus, perfectly composed post!

  2. Ace says:

    Wow, this stuff is pretty scary! I will definitely use the signature upon delivery and record any serial numbers if I sell any expensive electronics in the future.

    One question for you: how would you recommend dealing with customers who just want a freebie (i.e. the negative feedback threat buyers?) We had to deal with one just the other day- she ordered a scrapbook that was listed as “new with defects” and all the defects were pictured and described; however, she still complained about one of them. Now she wants to keep the item and get the money back even though she admitted she was wrong. We said we’ll offer a return if she pays the back shipping, or maybe a partial reimbursement of a couple dollars, but that’s about it; however now we’re afraid she will leave us a bad review. Also, it looks like eBay switched back to the old system now because I definitely can leave negative reviews for the buyers…

    • smartpower says:


      You do not get such sort of customers frequently. In my experience they are rare, but they do exist. If you try your best to sort out any issues, it is unlikely that she will leave a negative review. If she does, you can request negative feedback revision from eBay in which case eBay will look at the history of the transaction and once they know you have been genuinely helping and the negative review is unfair, they may remove it.

      Regarding eBay going to the old system, I don’t know about. Are you sure?

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