eBay Buyer Scams and How to Avoid Them

Normally, when shopping on eBay, my biggest concern is that I might be getting ripped off by the seller. I've heard stories of others who have purchased something and paid for it, but when it arrives, it's faulty in some way or another. I never really considered the fact that I could be getting ripped off by the buyer.  The buyer scamming me? Really?! Yes, it happens. Admittedly, I don't do much on eBay, so maybe it's a bigger problem than I'm aware of. I never even thought of a buyer trying to rip me off... until it nearly happened to me!

Our Story
I was trying to sell my iPod Touch on eBay with the option of an action price or a "buy it now" price. Within a few hours of posting, we received an email saying it had been purchased.  A few hours later the buyer contacted us and told us he was buying the iPod to send to his nephew in Nigeria for his birthday. Although he himself was from California, he was currently on business in Spain, so he would send us the extra funds if could we send it to Nigeria via Registered Mail. Figuring that he would just pay through eBay and then pay the difference through Paypal, we agreed, but did tell him that we'd ship only after we received the funds. (We had not listed the item as available for international shipping.) We sent him our Paypal email and soon received an email supposedly from Paypal saying that funds had been added to our account. This was immediately followed by a direct email from the buyer saying that he had sent funds to our Paypal account and had paid us $35 extra for our "trouble". He asked us to ship the item as soon as we got the email from Paypal. Not one to rely completely on an email, we checked the Paypal account first and found nothing. We waited a while and figured that it was just taking time for the transaction to show up, but it never did. Then, my husband went back to read the "Paypal" email and noticed that things didn't look right - bad English, stretchy images, and instructions for shipping the purchased item. 
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At this point, we obviously became concerned and contacted Paypal and eBay. After spending a considerable amount of time on the phone, we confirmed that it was a scam.

How the Scam Works
They "buy" the item on eBay, then send you a message through eBay saying that they would like to send you the funds privately through Paypal and ask for your email address to send the funds. Next, they send a phishing email from "Paypal" {obviously fake!} to the address you gave them. The email states that the funds were deposited into your account and tells you to ship the item immediately. If you don't get suspicious and follow through with their scam, you'll just assume you have the funds {after all, you got the email from Paypal, right?!} and you'll ship the item immediately to the address given {most likely international}. Note that you sent the item Registered Mail, so it is highly trackable, and it was sent to a generic address (perhaps a post office) rather than a solid physical address, so there's no way to find the individual. Once sent, you'll never get your item back and then realize that the funds are not in your Paypal account... you've become the victim of an eBay scam! 

Identifying an eBay Buyer Scam
1. The buyer has no transactions, keeps his reviews private, and purchased the item via "buy it now" shortly after it was listed. {note that this doesn't always mean it's a scam, real buyers have to start somewhere!}

2. The buyer wants to pay you privately through Paypal and asks for your email address. {eBay strongly recommends not doing this, so take extreme caution if you chose to do this}

3. You receive an email from "Paypal" stating that you have received funds in your account, but upon logging in to your account, you don't see any transaction. {Always visit your Paypal account to verify that the funds are actually there before shipping something!}

4. The buyer has a pathetic story about the need to ship the item immediately. {this could be valid, but in combination with the other points, should bring on suspicion}

5. The buyer wants you to ship the item internationally even though you did not select that in your shipping options. {frankly, that's just plain rude!}

6. The buyer "pays" you more than the required amount for your "trouble". {trying to make himself appear generous and desperate perhaps?}

7. The "Paypal" email tells you to send the item immediately. {what is that of Paypal's concern, isn't that eBay's job?!}

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8. The fake Paypal email has poor English. {"Matt Hope, have paid you"}

9. The fake email contains a "case number". {case numbers are only used for disputes; Paypal confirmed this to be true}

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Avoiding an eBay Buyer Scam
1. Keep all communications through eBay.

2. Do not click links from within the email, go directly to the Paypal site! Remember, it's a phishing email!!

3. Always, always, ALWAYS verify that the funds are actually in your Paypal account by visiting the site directly before shipping an item.

4. When in doubt, contact eBay and Paypal. {remember, better safe than sorry!}

Think You're Being Scammed?
1. Contact Paypal and eBay immediately!

2. Send suspicious emails to spoof@ebay.com and spoof@paypal.com

Thankfully, we didn't lose anything through the scam, but we easily could have. Don't be afraid to conduct transactions on eBay - just stay alert and play smart!