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Auction website scams to look out for

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The One Show Team | 13:17 UK time, Thursday, 15 October 2009

Dom Littlewood has been looking at staying safe while using auction websites.

Useful links

Dom mentioned PayPal, an online payments company.

See also:

Other scams to be aware of when using online auction sites

  • Shill Bidding. This is bidding done to artificially increase the item's value, for example getting friends, family or colleagues to bid on your item. This is illegal and has led to prosecutions.
  • Postage Inflation. Goods are sold cheaply but the cost of postage is extortionate. By changing the settings on your eBay page you can see a postage cost column. It's worth avoiding sellers who don't advertise the cost of postage.
  • Fakes / Counterfeits. It's worth remembering that sellers' perceptions of legitimacy vary from country to country. There is a market for fake goods because some people are willing to buy them.
  • Second Chance Offer. This happens when the person who comes second in an auction is contacted by email from the 'seller' who informs them that the first placed bidder has pulled out, and offers the product to the victim. Experienced sellers often state on their page that 'no second offers are made' and that bidders should report any offers received to eBay.
  • Lost in the Post. If your item doesn't arrive, don't necessarily believe the sellers claim that it must be lost in the post as this is increasingly rare. One option is to insist goods be sent by recorded delivery. Watch out for the same item appearing on the site again soon after.
  • Chargebacks. Fraudulent buyers request a refund from their card company claiming the goods never arrived, were not what they ordered, or that they didn't authorise the transaction. The payment made into your PayPal account is then reversed - leaving you out of pocket and without your goods if you've already posted them. Insist on sending goods by recorded delivery to protect yourself as a seller.
  • Feedback Scams. There are programs available to give yourself amazing feedback on your selling. A little homework into this can prove how accurate the sellers feedback truly is.

More advice on internet shopping:

Safety advice from eBay

Consumer Direct Government website

FSA staying safe from scams advice

How do you stay safe online? Share your hints and tips here.


  • 1. At 7:20pm on 15 Oct 2009, ibizadrew wrote:

    I watched the article on Ebay and fraud.
    I was subject to attempted fraud recently via the 'Nigeria' connection but was fortunate enough to spot it in time.
    I'm always suspicious of a foreign address in any dealings I have with Ebay or the like.
    Here's the good bit, the 'buyer' wanted me to send the parcel to Nigeria, so, I went for a little walk around my garden and collected some 'fresh' items courtesy of my German Shepherd, placed them in the box, sealed the box, and proceeded to the post office where I payed the postage. Money well spent in my view. Oh to have seen his face when the 'parcel' arrived!!!

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  • 2. At 7:23pm on 15 Oct 2009, AdrianMK wrote:

    eBay and PayPal are too biased towards sellers - especially if you have a fully verified PayPal account as a buyer can state they're not happy with a purchase once they've received it, open a resolution case and the system automatically favours the buyer - the trick is that if you have a verified PayPal account the buyer can ask the system to automoatically debit your PayPal account for a refund and PayPal uses either the direct debit system you have set up with them connected to your bank account or your debit/credit card connected to the PayPal account! eBay and PayPal together are too powerful and some selling fees are very high which they don't make clear at the outset ie listing fees confirmed are not necessarily the fees you will be charged. I advertised four items, three with listing fees of £0 and one with a listing of £1.16. I sold for a total of around £225 and I was charged over £44 by eBay and PayPal without any breakdown of costs or explanation. You're often better off putting a free advert in your local supermarket in my opinion.

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  • 3. At 7:25pm on 15 Oct 2009, AdrianMK wrote:

    I mean too biased towards buyers, not sellers...

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  • 4. At 7:39pm on 15 Oct 2009, l82uraD wrote:

    I was subject of a "nigerian" scam as early as last week. Ebay Account was a USA account, the person wanted me to post it to a very english name but in Nigeria claiming to be for their niece.

    I then received e-mails claiming to be from paypal within 5 mins of each other saying they had paid the money but it was being held due to it being in a different currency & that it would only be transferred to my pay pal account when I have posted the item & given them the tracking number! They'd also claimed to have paid me £25 more for postage than I'd originally asked for. (how nice?)

    At first glance these e-mails look legit.....

    On closer inspection you will see:

    1 - the payment hasn't been made via your e-bay account as it should be for any items you have sold.

    2 - there were lots of spelling mistakes and gramatical errors in the e-mails claiming to be from paypal. e-mails were also written in broken english and provided a totally different e-mail address than that registered on ebay for the member.


    I'd spoken to Pay Pal who confirmed there were no pending transactions on my account and that they do not request people to give tracking numbers etc. Ebay had no payments registered for the valuable item i was trying to sell either.

    I sent the e-mails to spoof@paypal.com who confirmed they were phishing attempts and this ultimately confirmed it to me that someone was trying to scam me.

    The next time I checked my ebay account the person who was trying to scam me had closed their account (I wonder why!) yet they have tried since then to claim they are deeply upset and pushing me for info on the transaction. I have not entertained them with a response!

    My warning out there! Make sure your ebay account shows as payment received. Check your Paypal account to ensure the funds have been receieved and cleared BEFORE you post any items!!!!

    I found ebay and paypal to be most helpful in resolving this matter as I had to claim back fees I was charged etc. Only negative side is that I wish ebay had a telephone number I could have rang to resolve this with as it was a very valuable item i was trying to sell.

    P.S. on ebay you can also choose the type of buyers you want to block

    Keep your eyes peeled everyone!

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  • 5. At 6:12pm on 16 Oct 2009, daringstevie1 wrote:

    very interested to see the programme on PayPal and how secure buying items on ebay.i have been scammed by someone who was buying my item for "a friend" in South Africa.I received several emails from the buyer and supposedly PayPal asking for item to be dispached in order for funds to be released to my account.The PayPal requests were quite convincing to a novice user like myself.I will never try to sell to a buyer abroad again.I am quite prepared to forward the scam paypal emails to anyone who is concerned about this,so that they can see how easily I was scammed.

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  • 6. At 9:02pm on 16 Oct 2009, Allan4Davies wrote:

    Please thank Lucy Siegle for alerting me to the Shopper Discounts & Rewards scam. I have been puzzling over the £10 entry on my credit card for some days now, not having bought anything from a company called Shopper Discounts and not having any emails relevant to them.

    Below is the text of the email to Shopper Discounts for a refund of the £10. Please feel free to use it in any way that prevents others being caught in this way.

    Thanks again

    Allan Davies

    "I have just watched the One Show on BBC1 and realised that I had also been scammed by Shopper Discounts & Rewards as Lucy Siegle reported from a viewer who found himself worse off after signing up to a loyalty scheme.

    Please could you refund the £10.00 you took from my Egg credit card immediately and cancel any future payments.

    I have copied this to Lucy Siegle at The One Show, I am sure you will be getting more customers you have conned demanding their money back.

    Allan Davies"

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  • 7. At 10:43am on 18 Oct 2009, andrewb019 wrote:

    I found a Nikon D60 camera on Ebay which did not sell so i contacted the seller to ask if the item was still for sale through My Ebay.
    He contacted me back telling me that it was still for sale and that he was willing to accept £250.00 plus £10.00 for posting.
    I agreed on the price and wanted to only pay by PayPal.I made the transaction to his email address through PayPal. I received a camera in the post a few days later...When i opened it up it was the wrong camera it was a Nikon Coolpix L100 which is a much cheaper camera than what i paid for the D60.
    I contacted the seller through My Ebay on 2 occasions but no reply,so i took a claims dispute with PayPal. I did'nt win the claim as the seller told PayPal that i was trying to scam him by saying that i received a cheaper camera when he actually sent the coorect camera and that i wanted a full refund,so i had a better camera got a refund and would send him the cheaper camera back. Which is completely not true...He told paypal that he had proof of posting that he sent the item and i signed for it...But you don't open up a parcel in front of the delivery man and if the item is wrong give it back to the driver.
    On the receipt of posting it would have the weight of the camera he sent me and that the camera i should of received would have been much heavier by about 500g or so.
    PaPal told me that i did not buy through Ebay even though i emailed him through my ebay and agreed a price on ebay for the item. They could not help me at all as the funds were not already in my PayPal account.
    So i have lost out. My own fault in hindsight i should really of waited for an invoice from the seller.
    I saved this seller in my ebay to see if he would put the D60 back on which he did,i contacted him again asking if i won the item could i pick it up? He replied i will do you a deal £250.00 with free posting.
    I reported the seller to ebay about trying to con me again so they have taken him of ebay altogether now which is good,but i'm still stuck with a camera i did not want in the first place that i need to sell which will probably end up at least £100 out of pocket and the seller has got away with it. I should of been more careful and paid more attention to what i was doing...A lesson learnt.

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  • 8. At 2:52pm on 19 Oct 2009, Angela360 wrote:

    Shoppers Discount

    Can anyone let me have the address of this scam please? I have also been taken in and would like to stop the payments from my account.

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  • 9. At 3:17pm on 19 Oct 2009, immediate-info wrote:

    The Ebay scam that gets you a car for cheap

    This scam is slightly harder to look out for, also the fake email from paypal is one to watch, always check your account.

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  • 10. At 11:26pm on 04 Nov 2009, MaryO wrote:

    To Angela360:

    We will be happy to assist you in cancelling your membership. However, we don't know who you are. Please contact us at 0808 234 1539 (this is a free phone). Alternatively, you can contact me directly at mary@shopperdiscountsandrewards.co.uk.

    Kind regards,

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  • 11. At 06:09am on 06 Nov 2009, William wrote:

    I have found pay pal good for avoiding scams. It costs though if you're a seller and someone files a complaint through them that gets upheld. As a seller I have found the most important thing is to stick with one email address for an account.

    It is possible to find out about the seller on the "My World" area of ebay.

    Link to payment through pay pal with a protected credit card or use an e-cheque.

    If you use googlemail it is possible to verify genuine emails.

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