Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
The Almighty Buck

When Good Ebay'ers Go Bad 441

An anonymous submitter sent in: "This guy "Stewart Richardson" had over 6000 positive feedbacks on eBay, held a fake estate sale, and scammed around $250,000 out of people before disappearing. 'There seems to be little doubt among his would-be customers that Stewart Richardson pulled off one of the most remarkable con jobs in the almost seven-year history of eBay, and U.S. federal investigators agree.' Some other links: a messageboard and ebay itself. I was scammed on eBay for $3600 a while back. I was able to get my money back because I had a bank issued cashier's check. I had written "For Deposit Only" on the back, and that was crossed out by the recipient. The bank teller should have been suspicious, but was not, and cashed the check. The idiot who had it cashed wrote his bank account number on the back of the cashier's check, and also wrote his Dad's business bank account number on the back and stamped it with his Dad's signature. In the end, the bank reversed the payment, and took the money out of his Dad's account. When his Dad found out, the idiot was in some serious trouble, but I got my money back. There were a few other's scammed in the same transaction, and they recieved about half of the money back after the police started to put the pressure on these guys. The story is much more involved, so I won't go into the rest of it."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

When Good Ebay'ers Go Bad

Comments Filter:
  • by Computer! ( 412422 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:17PM (#3053826) Homepage Journal
    I always wondered why anyone would trust EBay auctioneers with large amounts of money. I mean, it gets to a point where a few negative feedbacks aren't going to make up for loss of any serious dough. Anyone else have scam stories?

    • by curunir ( 98273 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:44PM (#3054035) Homepage Journal
      Never been scammed on ebay, but...

      Back before the whole ebay thing, I used to participate in newsgroup based auctions for a once-popular CCG. Back then, there was no PayPal or online escrow services, so we employed other tactics to try to ensure that we didn't get ripped off.

      First, many people would only trade with people that had legitimate .edu addresses. These are much harder to fake, and are generally pretty easy to track down. Most of the people on the newsgroup tended to be students or people affiliated with universities, so that wasn't too big a problem.

      When someone did get ripped off, they posted to the newsgroup about it. Someone maintained a list of bad traders (both virtual and physical addresses) that people checked before trading anything. Bad traders were given the opportunity to defend themselves, but most complaints were usually legit.

      Overall, there were supprisingly few scams. I conducted nearly 3000 trades and was only ripped off once (tho it was for over $2000). Many of my friends had similar results. I don't know what the ebay statistics are like, but I would imagine that they aren't as good.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        If the item up for bid is that valuable, then why the heck don't they use Escrow? That way, you won't get ripped off. With scams, you can usually see it coming: if the seller is only selling cheap stuff (books, pens etc), then suddenly lists an expensive item - that's got to be suspicious, right? OTOH, ebay doesn't help, by wiping their records after 90 days. You should be able to view past transactions for a little bit longer.
      • PayPal "safety" (Score:2, Informative)

        by hendridm ( 302246 )
        > ...there was no PayPal or online escrow services, so we employed other tactics to try to ensure that we didn't get ripped off.

        I'm not sure everyone [paypalsucks.com] would agree that PayPal is a safe way to trade. In fact, I hardly see how there is any security built into the service. If someone rips you off, how much work do you think PayPal is going to do to get your money back? For those who feel the security of their credit cards, think again. After all, PayPal made the charge to your card and PayPal upheld their end of the deal - facilitating currency exchange. I don't see what grounds you would have to stop payment on PayPal who did nothing wrong.

        For large amounts, I would much rather use an escrow [tradenable.com] service.

        I love PayPal and have never gotten ripped off, but I am also aware I'm taking a risk. That's why I only use PayPal for small to medium amounts (depending on a seller's rating) and direct credit card payments and escrows for large amounts. Too bad, in this case, the seller had an excellent rating.
    • I was scammed when buying a highly collectable item from someone on EBay. He did have 0 feedback, but he was verified on Paypal (where I payed for the item.) I thought that was enough to be covered, but alas, it is not. His phone number got de-listed, email address is gone, etc. I recieved a total of $8 from Paypal and EBay's "Insurance" policies. If you ever get scammed, don't count on those 'insurances' to get you ANY money back.
    • I have no scam stories, and I suspect few people do. This wanker Stewart Richardson is an aberration, and to think otherwise is a disservice to the untold thousands of legitimate exchanges that take place on ebay every day.

      I personally have done 40-odd transactions as both a buyer and a seller. I have made good money selling stuff I didn't need, and found great prices on hard to find items for myself. It's gotten to the point where, if I need to buy something, I check ebay first. And, I have not had a single bad experience.

      I realize my good experiences do not diminish the loss felt by those whom this dork scammed, but I am not daunted by it and will continue to use ebay. Fraud is part of human life, unfortunately, in and out of ebay.
  • Just wondering... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Archie Steel ( 539670 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:17PM (#3053830)
    ...since I am not an ebay costumer: is it possible to create fake identities and buy stuff from yourself in order to pump up your approval rating? Does ebay have any safeguards against this? I could see this type of fraud as very detrimental for online auctions in general...
    • Re:Just wondering... (Score:3, Informative)

      by erasmus_ ( 119185 )
      Of course they do. Shill bidding and having other people you know bid on items is something very common, and has been even before Ebay. Ebay clearly prohibits it, and afaik, has a pretty good system for detecting when different accounts have a suspicious amount of cross-bidding or winning of auctions.

      As such, I don't think this is the case here, I'm sure the previous legigimate business that this seller conducted was with real other buyers. You don't get your rating this high on fake accounts without getting caught, it's just not doable.
    • You would have to put a huge amount of effort into doing this. The thing that keeps this from being a big problem is the fact that only one positive feedback can result from any given buyer-seller relationship on Ebay. In other words, if I buy three items as separate auctions on Ebay, I can only give the seller a net 1 positive feedback. I can certainly submit a positive for the other two transactions, but they aren't counted in the total. So, you'd have to go thru the trouble of setting up a separate ID for every single feedback point you got this way.

      • Plus you have to pay a minimum listing fee for every auction and a share of the total sales price. Even if it cost you only $2 per auction, you would have to invest $12,000 and a lot of your person time to rack up a 6000+ positive feedback... of course if you turn around and scam $200,000 - $400,000 it might be worth it... right up until the point where you get caught...
    • Here's your defense to "shill bidding":

      Use the proxy bid system correctly. Seriously consider what you are willing to pay and place your bid. Ebay will incrementally raise your bid against other bidders. This way no one is "pushing up" what you are willing to pay.

      If you REALLY are serious, wait til the last minute of the auction and place your highest willing bid then and make it an odd amount like $102.26. That way you don't get caught in the frenzy and you beat out someone else chance to outbid you who is waiting around to see what happens.

      The other defense is that the idiot might mave got $90 for an item from you, but since he went and bid $100 on it himself and beat your bid, he is now going to get nothing. Most ppl are swift enough to avoid this

      If you don't get caught up in the "bidding frenzy" you will be fine.

      If you are willing to pay $102.26 for something will it bother you if you get it for $75.50?

    • Yes, it is VERY possible to create fake identities on Ebay.

      As another reader pointed out, feedback is measured by UNIQUE transactions, which means that if I buy two things from the same seller, and he leaves me a positive feedback for both items, only 1 will count towards my overall feedback rating.

      However, that just makes it more difficult, not impossible.

      In December of 2000, I was looking through Ebay for a digital camera. I happened across one seller who had a pretty good feedback rating (197, IIRC), and they were all positive. I was planning on bidding on one of the cameras he was selling. At the same time, I was looking through the Ebay Community Forums, and I happened to see a thread about suspicions over that very seller! I read it, and I was pretty startled by the whole thing. I went back and looked at his feedback, and sure enough, the thread was right...

      As it turns out, the guy had created over 150 fake accounts by creating AOL screen names, winning one of his own auctions with it, and then killing the name, and repeating the process! Not only is that time consuming, but its also expensive; Ebay charges fees to list an auction, and they take a percentage of the final bid for themselves also. Not only did this guy sink a lot of time into his fraud, but a lot of his own money too. Once he had over 190 or so, he started ripping people off. Only about 35 of his auctions were real.

      Soon after, his account was NARUed (Not A Registered User, in Ebay speak), but I don't know what happened to all those people who bought from his dozens of electronics auctions and got the shaft from him. I'm hoping one of them pursued it as a fraud case.
    • by Grape Shasta ( 176655 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @05:01PM (#3054150) Journal
      ...since I am not an ebay costumer: is it possible to create fake identities...

      Misspelling, or clever pun? You be the judge.

    • Yes - if you had read the article you'd notice they require a credit check now.
  • by RollingThunder ( 88952 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:19PM (#3053840)
    Rather humorous, this feedback entry. I'll obscure the email just to limit spamharvesting on it, but you can see it at the EBay link.

    -------@aol.com (25)
    Jan-22-02 12:48:53 PST

    Praise : Complete Fraud! Took all our money and never received any product

    So evidently AOLers WANT to be defrauded? :)
  • are the people who watch auctions, and message the losers at the end telling them they have the same product, and get money from them that way...you can't exactly leave negative feedback on that...
  • These scams can be pulled off in print mags as well as anywhere else. I don't know why we lose our senses just because it's the internet, we should be extra careful.

    And I've never trusted PayPal anyway... [paypalwarning.com]

  • by Matey-O ( 518004 ) <michaeljohnmiller@mSPAMsSPAMnSPAM.com> on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:21PM (#3053855) Homepage Journal
    If it's worth spending $40 for shipping, it's worth spending a little more to ensure you're getting what you're _expecting_!

    If the seller won't use an online escrow service (www.tradenable.com has worked well for me in the past) then DON'T BUY THE PRODUCT!

    • #define USEPAYPAL 0x01
      #define USEESCROW 0x02
      #define GOINPERSON 0x04

      int whattodo(long price);

      int whattodo(long price) {
      if (price <= 60) return USEPAYPAL;
      else if (price <= 10000) return USEESCROW;
      else if (price > 10000) return GOINPERSON;
      /* Code is protected free speech! Don't think otherwise */
    • by mosch ( 204 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:50PM (#3054086) Homepage
      Everybody is saying 'if the seller won't use escrow, don't do business', but in my experience nobody uses escrow, even when you offer it. If you can't afford to take the loss, USE ESCROW.

      The second thing to remember is that even good users can "go bad". If you can't afford to take the loss, USE ESCROW, don't just see if the seller is willing to use escrow, use it. For As an analogy, look at slashdot, at all the high-karma, low-uid users who turn into useless trolls.

      Lastly, if you can't afford to take the loss, USE ESCROW. Don't contemplate it, USE IT.

    • In essence an Escrow scam is exactly what this person pulled. By getting such a high postive feedback rating he earned the trust of his buyers. What is Escrow? It's you trusting another party with your money. I'm guessing that the chances of an Escrow company waiting for one big score are just as good as some well respected ebay auctioneer. The best part about the 'official' escrow scam is that the scammer gets the money and the merchandise. Don't think it can happen? Neither did the poor schmucks who wanted rodent statuettes.
    • by pangloss ( 25315 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @06:53PM (#3054809) Journal
      you know what? tradenable is gone. of course you wouldn't know that just from glancing over their website, but if you actually try to register or use their service, you'll see this:
      TRADENABLE SERVICES ARE ENDING SOON Tradenable is no longer accepting new registrations or escrow transactions. Tradenable will continue to facilitate completion of all Tradenable escrow transactions that are already in progress and paid for. Please continue with your existing escrow transactions and complete them as quickly as possible. Tradenable escrow transactions started but not yet paid for will be cancelled and other arrangements will have to be made between buyer and seller. If your payment to escrow is in transit to us at this time, Tradenable will deposit the funds and continue to process the transaction. If you wish to have your payment returned and not continue with the escrow transaction, please log in to the transaction page on our web site and cancel the transaction now. If you have initiated payment for a transaction via credit card and processing has not been completed, the transaction will be cancelled and your card will not be charged. We ap
      I found this out a couple months ago when I wanted to buy a multi-thousand dollar projector for work on ebay a couple months ago. I thought it was kind of lame that eBay was still linking to tradenable given that they were no longer offering escrow services.

      Not a lot of people understand/trust escrow. tradenable was great because it was effectively endorsed by eBay. Anyone know a good online replacement for tradenable? Anyway, the tired moral of the story is still caveat emptor!

  • Classic Move (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bravehamster ( 44836 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:21PM (#3053860) Homepage Journal
    It's a classic scam. Build up a rep for being honest, upright, soforth. Once everyone trusts you, you can strike it big with little difficulty. It requires a lot of patience, but police and government officials in Third World (and some first and second world) countries have been known to use it. Instead of taking measly little bribes all the time, make yourself out to be "incorruptible" and wait for the big one.

    The big question is: Did this guy plan it from the beginning? If he did, I applaud his patience and cunning, while also disapproving of the result of his actions. If he decided on the spur of the moment to do this, i.e. let temptation get the better of him, I have nothing but contempt for him.
    • Re:Classic Move (Score:5, Insightful)

      by erasmus_ ( 119185 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:28PM (#3053920)
      These people were defrauded. I don't think it's very appropriate to "applaud his patience and cunning." If a murderer stalks his victim, and strikes at just the right moment, do you give him credit for such great planning?
    • by Starship Trooper ( 523907 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:34PM (#3053967) Homepage Journal
      It's a classic scam. Build up a rep for being honest, upright, soforth. Once everyone trusts you, you can strike it big with little difficulty.

      Right, there's a name for that scam. I can't remember. Hang on... thinking about it... oh ya!

    • ... but police and government officials in Third World (and some first and second world) countries have been known to use it. Instead of taking measly little bribes all the time, make yourself out to be "incorruptible" and wait for the big one.

      Its called PAC money in the USA.
      • I don't know of any politicians that hold off accepting PAC donations while they wait for the big one...
      • PAC money only goes towards re-elections. You can't hold off on taking PAC money to build up a reputation for being honest, then take a huge load and retire to the Carribean. Say what you will about our system, but it does at least limit some types of corruption.
    • The article says that his wife found evidence of Internet gambling on his computer. They suspect that he may have had gambling debts.

    • have been warped by too many comic books/pulp fiction/hollywood movies.

      Premeditated crimes are always deserving of more punishment/contempt than crimes of passion.
  • Escrow (Score:2, Redundant)

    Escrow Escrow Escrow Escrow Escrow.
    I'm sorry I have to repeat myself, but seriously, it continues to amaze me that people buy and sell online without having a bank insure the transaction. Billpoint [billpoint.com]. Trade Enable [tradenable.com]. It's not hard, and you can sleep easy at night knowing that your 7 foot tall statue of Cowboy Neal sculpted out of pure Wisconsin butter is headed safely to your doorstep.

    • Re:Escrow (Score:2, Interesting)

      by wo1verin3 ( 473094 )
      Do you have the url to bid on the cowboy neal statue?
    • "It's not hard, and you can sleep easy at night knowing that your 7 foot tall statue of Cowboy Neal sculpted out of pure Wisconsin butter is headed safely to your doorstep."

      Minor factual error. This is the punishment phase when an escrow deal goes bad.

  • Others (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rootmonkey ( 457887 )
    "If Mr. Richardson's eBay sales ultimately prove to be fraudulent, the scam would rank among the costliest frauds ever perpetrated over eBay."

    Were there bigger frauds on ebay? Anybody know of the other biggies?
    • Re:Others (Score:3, Informative)

      Ya, how about Operation Bullpen [go.com], the sports memoribilia bust that took on a whole ton of fake signature dealers on Ebay...
    • Re:Others (Score:4, Interesting)

      by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:28PM (#3053916) Homepage Journal
      IIRC, someone attempted to sell their kidney on ebay, that had past the $1million mark when ebay stopped the auction...
    • Re:Others (Score:2, Informative)

      On rec.crafts.metalworking they talk about a guy they call Ali Babbin all the time. He apparently has stuck several members for big money. Here is an excerpt:
      > His name is Allen Babbin. His current email that he checks is
      > ranckoc2.hotmail.com. His address is 33 Stafford Ave. Bristol, CT 06010.
      > He lives with an individual named Eddy Sczappa, whom to my knowledge is
      > involved in Ali's business. The telephones numbers that he currently
      > answers are: 860-584-9932, 860-583-7796, 860-584-9939. The typical thing
      > that happens is someone else answers and says he is not there. Sometimes
      > Ali will do this and sometime his roommate does this.
      > Ali was Connique on Ebay, Although there really is a Connie Burgos. She
      > Ali's niece and she may have been involved with the Connique scam to some
      > degree. Her number is 860-747-6268. She is most likely under the age of
      > and lives with her mother.
      > I lost over $500 to Ali and I know he has screwed people out of a lot more
      > than that. I tried unsuccessfully to get Paypal to cancel his account and
      > never let him back, as he conducts most of his business through them, but
      > they were very uncooperative. We need to keep close tabs on Ali and shut
      > him down.

      The bad thing is many of these people used PayPal for their transactions and they won't do anything about the guy either. (EBay doesn't apparently care to stop him)
  • by soundlord ( 249389 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:23PM (#3053879) Homepage
    when you pay someone $700 for some porcelain mice, you're pretty much getting ripped off whether or not you actually get the goods.
  • by SuperMallen ( 156287 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:24PM (#3053885) Homepage Journal
    I bought one very high ticket item on EBay once (admittedly this was a while ago), an expensive Sony video camera. Before I mailed off my $1900 cashier's check, I got the other person's phone number and actually spoke to them. In this way, I felt I had at least some recourse in case something went wrong. Fortunately nothing did, and I have happily used my TRV 900 for years now.

    The point is that the more information you have about your seller, the easier it will be to go after them in case something goes wrong. People can hide via email, but by phone it's much harder.
  • I think you answered your own question in your post. Simple, for money of course. C'mon, the guy made off with $250,000. I don't think there is anything else on this Earth that would turn a normally law abiding citizen into a criminal any faster then a desire for money. Enron anyone?

  • Always Insecure (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DeathPooky ( 559729 )
    With a system like ebay where the transactions are completely up to the seller and the buyer, it's bound to have these types of scams running all the time. Unless some company develops a more secure way of conducting internet auctions, I never plan on spending more than I can afford to lose, it's always a gamble, even if that person you're buying from has 25 smiley faces ratings underneath his name.
  • Of course (Score:3, Funny)

    by mESSDan ( 302670 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:28PM (#3053917) Homepage
    Ebay [ebay.com] is fraud prone, that's why I *protect* my transactions by using Paypal! [slashdot.org]. I have never been let down with Paypal [paypalwarning.com], and I protect ALL of my online figurine buying power using Paypal [paypalsucks.com].

    Oh wait, checking email... .. WHAT? I paid $1000 for a figurine and didn't get it? DAMN! [ebaysucks.com]

  • One word: ESCROW. (Score:4, Informative)

    by SlashChick ( 544252 ) <erica @ e rica.biz> on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:30PM (#3053928) Homepage Journal
    Escrow, [scamware.net] Escrow, [tradenable.com] Escrow. [ebay.com]

    From eBay's escrow information page (the last link):

    What is Escrow?
    Escrow is when a buyer places money in the custody of a trusted third party. The money is then paid to the seller once a specified set of conditions, that both parties have agreed to, are met.

    How does it work?
    Very simply. The Buyer pays into escrow. The Seller ships the item to the Buyer. The Buyer approves the item. Funds are paid to the Seller. It's that easy.

    Is the service only available for items that close over $500?
    Based upon historical data, eBay recommends that buyers and sellers use escrow services for transactions greater than $500.

    So, if you buy something over $500, and pay for it using escrow, the seller does not receive payment until you have determined that the item was shipped and works properly.

    Use escrow for any serious purchases. Don't rely on eBay's fraud program -- it takes months to get them to do anything and they often want ridiculous amounts of documents "proving" that the item was faulty.

    Informed consumers make these issues moot. Don't buy from a seller who won't use escrow, and add in the extra fees as a cost to doing business via eBay. If you don't use escrow, you assume the risk if the product isn't what you wanted (or doesn't arrive at all!)
    • I dont think you even have to mention escrow till after you won the bid. Seems like it would be standard practice when you purchase a legitimate painting and need to get it authenticated. The last scam I saw on ebay was a guy selling fake paintings.

      My favorite e-bay scam is the "x box" picture going for 500 bux.
    • Re:One word: ESCROW. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Puk ( 80503 )
      I've always wondered this about escrow:

      What's to stop the buyer from scamming the seller? Say he never got the goods, or that they did not match what was sold, get his money back, and keep the goods.

      I suppose you could protect against this by proving delivery of the item, but it still seems possible if you're tricky enough ("This thing he sent was broken! No, that exact same model over that was the one I already owned, which works fine and stuff."). Does this happen? Is there some protection I'm missing?

      • Re:One word: ESCROW. (Score:3, Informative)

        by Matey-O ( 518004 )
        Generally the Seller has a Tracking number. Then they can go to the escrow folks and say "See, they _signed_ for it." negating the 'it never got here' ploy.

        Also, when a deal goes bad, there's an arbitration process by which the item is judged by an impartial party to be or not be what was agreed upon on in the contracting phase. (Which means the initial 'deal' contract is REALLY important!)
  • "The guy ran off with the money," says Gene Clark, a computer consultant in East Brunswick, N.J., who says he paid Mr. Richardson $700 for four porcelain mice that never arrived

    I principle I am sympathetic, and just that much more suspicious of online auctions.

    But in secret I'm laughing my ass off at the image of a angry rampaging mob of porcelain figurine collectors. To each his own I guess...

  • Not a new strategy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by astinus ( 560894 )
    I hate to use a terrorism analogy, but this is classic sleeper strategy: join a community, establish your reputation, and after a while you become immune from suspicion simply because people "know you". eBay users know to be suspicious of people with 0 feedback, and they're told by eBay management that people with high (~1000) feedback are "reliable".

    If you're considering making a significant purchase over the Net, think about who you're dealing with. Even if they do have thousands of people shouting their praises in positive feedback, you should ask yourself - how much can you really trust an abstract online handle?
  • In the old days of ebay, you didn't need to enter an auction number to leave positive feedback; only for negative feedback.

    I used to leave positive feedback for strangers as a joke - "Cuba makes the best! thanks!!!" for a cigar seller, "you're right! your bowling pin trophy looks great on my headboard - thanks!" for a stylish furniture seller, "hang in there! FUNNY poster! poor kitten!" for a guy selling skulls and such, etc., etc.

    Around that time, other people were too busy for such fun and nonsense, creating networks of accounts, all of which were leaving each other positive feedback. It was possible to have an account with a lengthy history of perfect feedback, even though a transaction had never been completed.

    Many of these accounts were weeded out, some because they were used for fraud, others because people spotted ones with all the feedback happening in a couple days' time and asked questions.

    But the requirement for an auction existing to match positive feedback left was only added about two years ago. I'm betting hundreds more bogus positive accounts exist and are sitting idle, waiting to be used...

    • In the old days of ebay, you didn't need to enter an auction number to leave positive feedback.... It was possible to have an account with a lengthy history of perfect feedback, even though a transaction had never been completed.

      Case in point, eBayer Skippy who is the eBay test account... when I joined eBay, Skippy had a feedback of 250+ despite the fact that the account had never sold nor bought anything. Upon recent inspection, I see that Skippy has no feedback rating anymore, but is still an active account, and has an auction called "OPS TEST ITEM, DO NOT BID, DO NOT CANCEL" that will end in 28 years, 318 days, with 43 bids on it.
  • by spongebob ( 227503 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:37PM (#3053980)
    I beleive that eBay has bid bots that work in the same way that the sellers do in an effort to pump the bids up to the max bid without going over. I will tell you why?

    Several months ago a friend got suspicious when he won an auction for a no-name retro video game. He was suspicious because someone had bid against him with an "updated or changes username" and always bid some strange amounts at varying time intervals. The stranger would come on, bid, and then wait for some period of time to up the bid a little more. Then in a last two days the stranger bid exactly one dollar below my friends max bid, triggering it and getting all the money out of my buddy.

    Most people would say coincidence. I thought so too, so we made another experiment with another seller. Another video game and we put $100 as the max bid on the game. This game wasn't rare or collectible in the slightest. As the auction went on, a similar activity occured. This time in the last hours of the auction the bid got bumped in the same way. The user knew that the game wasn't worth more that 10-15 bucks and probably wouldn't want to overbid and lose all the money,so it's unlikely in my opinion that it was the seller.

    The auction ended and a $15 product was sold for $96 with this strange business described earlier.

    My question? Who knows what the max bid is? eBay.
    Who gains when the max bid is retrieved as the selling price? The seller and eBay.

    So it's in thier interest that any max bid be reached, by hook or by crook. I don't trust them, so I bid at the last minute and get things at the price I want to pay for them.

    • by mencik ( 516959 ) <steve@mencik.com> on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:45PM (#3054046) Homepage
      You should use Winning Bid Pro [umklaydet.com] to do the last minute bidding for you. I use it all the time. Just set up the bid you are willing to make and have it send it in 10 seconds before the auction ends. That way you don't drive the price up ahead of time. Sometimes someone has a max bid higher than yours, or is using a bidding program the same as you and you get beat. But, you put in the max amount you were willing to pay, right? You win some, you lose some. With Winning Bid Pro, you'll win more.
      By the way, the program is free, I didn't write it, and get no money for praising it.
      • You should use Winning Bid Pro [umklaydet.com] to do the last minute bidding for you. I use it all the time. Just set up the bid you are willing to make and have it send it in 10 seconds before the auction ends. That way you don't drive the price up ahead of time. Sometimes someone has a max bid higher than yours, or is using a bidding program the same as you and you get beat.

        Thanks for the tip! Nine seconds it is!
    • You can get to the max bid by bidding up the minimum increment over and over.

      Let's say somebody's max is $50 and the current is $20. The increment is $1. If you bid $21 it will say you have been outbid and the current bid is $22. When you get to $50 it will still tell you that you have been outbid because bids are first come, first serve but it will then say that the current bid is $50 and not $51. You know right them what the other person's maximum is.
    • I've seen this too. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Inoshiro ( 71693 )
      A few months back, I was watching auctions for Dreamcast broadband adaptors. One auction caught my eye because the seller was in the same city as I was. I thought it was great, because I could potentially save shipping.

      Then I watched the people who bid on it. Some guy bid the BBA up to 400$ USD. There are many actions where the BBA is 120$ or so... and the original winner who had it for 120$ dutifully followed that account in up-bidding it. The end result? A very suspicious transaction which I reported.

      eBay downplayed it.
    • If you think this is happening, how about withdrawing your bid near the end so that the shill EBay account ends up having to buy the item?
  • Ebay (Score:5, Informative)

    by jchawk ( 127686 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:37PM (#3053986) Homepage Journal

    Here's some things you can do to make your ebay purchase a safer experience.

    1. Involve the United States Post Office. Once you involve them, you have them on your side becaues they really hate mail fraud. You can contact your postmaster and he can usually start the investiation rolling. Remember, mail fraud is a federal offence.

    2. Contact the seller. If the person is not willing to talk to you directly on the phone about a high ticket item you are buying, do you really want to do business with him?

    3. Not to be redundant, but ESCROW ESCROW ESCROW. If you are spending over $50, isn't the extra $5 or $10 worth it?

    4. Use a real credit card and not a debit card that withdraws from you bank account. Discover is probably one of the best I've used. Any problems I've had, they have immediately put a hold on the money, and credit my account with the money in question, until they can get it sorted out.

    5. Use your head. If something seems to good to be true, then it is, especially on the internet.

    I just don't understand why people are having this many problems with online purchases. If you follow these simple steps you will not come accross any problems that you can't get resolved. Are you guys really this trusting? Come on now, it's the internet, don't trust anyone. If you're getting ripped off like this, to be honest, you probably deserve it. Maybe you should rethink this internet purchasing thing, it might not be for you.

    SIG - I love you guys, mod me to +5 then bash me back down to +2. :-)
    • Discover? Really? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TFloore ( 27278 )
      You've had good experiences with Discover when dealing with fraud charges and other problems? Hmm.

      Discover is my primary credit card. But I didn't really think of them as a company that had really strong fraud protections. I've put some decidedly odd things on my Discover card over the years, way outside my "normal buying patterns" both in type and cost of stuff, and never had Discover show any wish for ID verification or anything like that.

      Now, I've never had any fraud problems with my Discover card, so I haven't had to deal with their customer service people on that subject, but the lack of hassle in putting odd things on the card has made me think they wouldn't be as useful as other cards might be in case of fraud or other problems.

      Of course, on the flip side, I had a problem with that on a VISA card, recurring fraudulent charges over several months, and that took *way* too much effort to resolve. (Is it so complicated to "cancel this account number, issue a new card on a new account number and DON'T ACCEPT NEW CHARGES ON THE OLD NUMBER" ??? They linked the old acct # to the new acct, and passed new fraudulent charges right along to the new account.)
  • by mencik ( 516959 ) <steve@mencik.com> on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:38PM (#3053995) Homepage
    This is exactly why you should always use your credit card for payment. And I don't mean through PayPal or BillPoint. If the seller has that high a feedback, and a legitimate business, he should have his own merchant account to process the credit card payment. If you haven't received your goods within the 60 days after your statement arrives, simply dispute the charges, and you won't lose anything.
  • by puppetman ( 131489 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:41PM (#3054010) Homepage
    At the bottom of the article, his wife mentions that she found evidence that he had been gambling over the Internet, and may have gone into debt as a result.

    What's funny is that when I closed the window to the story, there was one of those ubiquitous popup-adds for an on-line casino.

    I find it amusing is that people shell out good money for those tacky little figurines. I find it not so amusing that some people may have lost upwards of $20,000.
  • 1. I've never been ripped off on eBay, but I never buy big-ticket items. The closest thing I've had to being ripped off was an old book from someone who forgot to mention he was a 300-pack a day chain smoker.

    2. I've never had a problem with PayPal. Just lucky, I guess.

    3. $700 for porcelain mice? I hope they were porcelain-plated gold or 300 years old or something.

    4. The guy will be caught because a lot of people are looking and he didn't get enough money to really make a run for it, unlike the payroll truck thief here in CA who stole (I think) 7 million from moving trucks and no-one knew until it was over.

    I'm anti-thievery on moral grounds, but even if you aren't, never steal anything as measly as a quarter-million, especially so publicly. This guy deserves to lose, no matter what your POV is...

  • by switcha ( 551514 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:48PM (#3054076)
    Fool me once, shame on you.

    Fool me twice, shame on me.

    Pay 700 bucks for four glass mice, kill me now and spare the gene pool.

  • She purchased a laptop off ubid.com and was naive enough to send a $600 money order. When she told me that she bought a laptop overseas and all they accepted was a MO, I knew she was screwed. I wish so much that she had checked with me before sending money. She was suspicious, but ended up asking her father (Never touched a computer) instead of me. All I have is the source IPs of the emails sent and they trace back to 2 DSL ISPs in Romania. I contacted their NOC and they in turn contacted the Romanian authorities. We have also contacted the FBI and the National Fraud Information Center [fraud.org]. Word of advice: Do not purchase anything outside of the US and Canada and avoid placing yourself in any situation where you're not covered. Paying by CC is usually the safest method because you can dispute the charge and have it reversed. Sellers, use paypal.
  • by Snowfox ( 34467 ) <snowfox@NoSPaM.snowfox.net> on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:50PM (#3054091) Homepage
    I've completed about 400 transactions [ebay.com] on eBay. (My feedback is 222 because people only leave feedback about half the time if you don't actively chase them down for it.)

    In my experience, the 0.01% fraud rating claimed by the eBay rep is probably about right. I've only had one or two people who seemed out and out determined to screw me. That tiny number doesn't take into account the much higher clueless/careless seller factor, however.

    More than 1 transaction in 10 has had a problem for me. The most common problem is bad packaging. I've received computers in boxes with no padding whatsoever. I've gotten CDs in half-opened cases with a scratch raked across the surface. I've even received cards in nothing but bubble wrap and a flexible mailer.

    eBay, PayPal and the likes are absolutely worthless about helping in cases where something arrives, but doesn't work. Sellers who promise to ship with insurance usually don't, or aren't helpful about your filing a claim. They have their money, and so they want to be done with you.

    You just have to figure out what the failure rate is, and be sure you're bidding low enough to compensate. Me, I won't bid more than 90% of what I think something is worth, and I won't bid on something I absolutely need soon.

    The feedback system also isn't nearly as valuable as it seems. People are afraid to give bad feedback unless the other person has already left their feedback, otherwise, they're guaranteed to get negative feedback in turn. It's actually in a person's personal best interest to leave no feedback at all when a transaction has gone bad, and I suspect the scammers know this, and don't leave the initial feedback accordingly.

  • by Knunov ( 158076 ) <eat@my.ass> on Friday February 22, 2002 @04:57PM (#3054126) Homepage
    ...I kinda like this guy.

    Not because he's a thief. That's despicable.

    But to know that a person has it in him to act one, predictable way for years and fool even those closest to him, then instantly change into a completely different persona restores some of my faith in human nature.

    He's not a robot. He's not a brick in the wall. He's a free thinker, even though this particular manifestation was lowly.

    We read stories about Blackbeard, Jack the Ripper and The Great Train Robber. They make for some of the best stories. But we rarely consider what type of people these characters are.

    Stewart Richardson was one of those guys, merely under different circumstances.

    Best of luck to those that were taken at recovering your booty. And luck to Mr. Richardson, wherever he may be running, because the only stories as interesting as criminals pulling off the big one, are criminals getting nabbed by The Good Guys.

    Admit it. Elliot Ness in The Untouchables was a bad ass :)

  • Winner of Auction sends money to Auction House, which holds said money.
    The Auction House notifies the Seller that payment has been received.
    The Seller then Ships the item using a certified carrier(UPS, FEDEX, etc.), and requires a signature.
    When Item is received, Auction house contacts buyer to confirm receipt, and then transfers money to Seller.

    That should solve most problems, but I'm sure there would be holes - please point them out!
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @05:04PM (#3054166) Homepage
    Sorry but you get positive feedback very very easily. you just email the customers saying if you give me positive feedback I'll give you some.. well there it goes, you are guarenteed 1 feedback point on EVERY sale.

    Sorry but praise is for when they went above and beyond... did an excellent job and made you orgasmatically happy. otherwist it's nutral.

    this is why I put ZERO value on ebay ratings except for negative feedback. someone with 90,000 positive and 20 negative is a shady character to me compared to the guy with 20 good and no negative.
  • by RembrandtX ( 240864 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @05:08PM (#3054185) Homepage Journal
    before i bid on anything on e-bay .. i run a simple php script that searches their selling bids, and looks for patterns :
    (it also recursivly checks any patterns of individuals found by examining their feedback ratings for patterns)
    this is what i found on his last 4 auctions: all of these bids were placed on the last day of the auction .. and most we're less than 3 away from the final bid.
    • in selling auction 1037815752:
      edster007 (19) $20.00 Nov-30-01 07:46:45 PST
      tennisdoc (416) $21.06 Nov-30-01 12:55:09 PST
    • in selling auction 1037825538
      edster007 (19) $30.00 Nov-30-01 07:46:07 PST
      tennisdoc (416) $32.99 Nov-30-01 12:53:48 PST
    • in selling auction 1037822796
      edster007 (19) $30.00 Nov-30-01 14:00:09 PST
      tennisdoc (416) $31.99 Nov-30-01 12:52:38 PST
    • in selling auction 1037817680
      edster007 (19) $25.00 Nov-30-01 07:44:09 PST
      tennisdoc (416) $31.52 Nov-30-01 12:56:20 PST

    while this doesn't mean this guy (whos account im not posting .. because it could just be an honest e-bay thing) a shiller on e-bay [and he assured me via e-mail that he wasn't after i told him i didn't want to risk bidding on his auctions based on my search] .. it certainly makes me wonder why 2 people chose to bid on each of his last 4 auctions, consecutivily, and in some cases .. the same exact amount of time apart on seperate auctions.

    before people shout 'thats not what the article is talking about' let me point out .. that if this guy (who had over a 90 rating on ebay) WAS doing this .. he has been doing it for at least 6 months. its relativly cheap to win your own e-bay auction .. like 1% or so .. and build up false creadibilty.

  • I had written "For Deposit Only" on the back, and that was crossed out by the recipient.

    From my understanding of banking rules, the only reason the original poster was able to get the cheque reversed was that the scammer had crossed out 'for deposit only'.

    Had he simply deposited it to his bank account, it would have been possible to track the b*st*rd down and harass him like the other victims did, but the bank would have probably been unable/unwilling to reverse the charges.

    Consider it a combination of forsight and luck.
    I can definitely see the value of putting 'for deposit only' on the back of any cheque going for an ebay purchase. Anybody who refuses that should be immediately considered suspect.

  • If karma points were transferrable from Slashdot to Ebay.
  • Typical Scam (Score:4, Interesting)

    by romco ( 61131 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @05:26PM (#3054292) Homepage
    It's easy to get scammed on ebay. This happened to a friend of mine.

    A seller put a brand new digital camcorder on ebay. After winning the auction the seller said he wanted cash (cashiers check) but would take a credit card number for deposit and ship the camcoder for him to look at.

    The seller orders a camcorder using my friends credit card from a online shop and has it shipped to him. The shipping information and the credit card billing information match so the online shop had no problem shipping it.

    He got the the camcorder and was happy so he sent the cashiers check.

    Imagine his surprize when he got his credit card statement. He could have returned the camcorder (it came from a legit business and it was what he wanted so he kept it.)

    He lost the money he sent (~$800.00).

    Be Careful
    • Re:Typical Scam (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brunes69 ( 86786 )

      Man, that's a pretty lame scam you're friend fell for. People who fall for things like that deserve what they get, IMO. Who in their right mind gives their CreditCard number to some anonymous nobody for a deposit???

    • Re:Typical Scam (Score:3, Informative)

      by rehannan ( 98364 )

      The seller orders a camcorder using my friends credit card from a online shop and has it shipped to him. The shipping information and the credit card billing information match so the online shop had no problem shipping it.

      He got the the camcorder and was happy so he sent the cashiers check.

      The shipping invoice usually (but not always) shows how the shipment was paid for. If it was a credit card, it'd show the last four digits or something. Besides, wouldn't you be a little suspect if you were expecting a package from a private individual and instead got a package from "ABC Digital Cameras"?
    • "It's easy to get scammed on ebay. This happened to a friend of mine."

      You don't need to involve eBay to be STUPID enough to give out your credit card number like that! That boy needs to be smacked upside the head with a clue-by-four and smacked HARD!

      Will this friend of yours be in the running for a Darwin award in the next few years? I hope so! I'm not sure I want to be sharing the same precious atmosphere with this waste of perfectly good brain cells!

      Hell, I don't think the credit card issuer should be held accountable for the charges the seller put on the card. The poor bank had no idea your friend was so dense. And he didn't begin to suspect at least a little bit when he got the invoice for the camera?

      I sincerely hope that you were telling a joke...
  • by Deanasc ( 201050 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @05:33PM (#3054329) Homepage Journal
    So this will only get worse when an ebay merchant dies and the heirs realize that his 9000 positive feedback is worth a quick 20grand on the black market. What's to stop that? Or a merchant themselves realize they can get a little extra retirement juice by selling their account to the mob.
  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @06:44PM (#3054763) Homepage
    Actually, I hesitate to call these scams - but more on the level of "selling an article to a person that could be had cheaper somewhere else". Let me show you a perfect example:

    Look up electric bicycle motor [ebay.com] on Ebay. Now, I am going to pick an auction that doesn't "die" until the 28th so that others can see what I mean - I am picking the last one on that list - click here [ebay.com].

    Now, look at that picture of the "dual motor" at the bottom - seems pretty cool, huh? Pretty professional, get a little kit and convert your bike to electric. Cost doesn't seem too bad (if you have priced EV bikes before) - heck, "Buy It Now" is only $1.00 over starting bid - so this motor combo, a cheap bike from WalMart or a garage sale, and a cheap gel-cel battery - and I can have my own electric bike for under $200.00!

    The motor only cost $93.00...

    Now - go here [meci.com], and on the left hand side select Battlebot Parts - or click here [meci.com] to see them. Now, go down to the fourth item on that page - look familiar?

    MECI sells the exact same thing for $40.00! Just above it is the battery you need (actually, you will need two of them for enough amps to go far enough - and really, this isn't the best motor system to use, but might be fun to play around with).

    So, here is an example of an eBay seller using their own ignorance against them.

    Unfortunately, this seems to be the "way" of our capitalistic society - middlemen, etc everywhere always scamming for a buck. You see this on Ebay a lot - cheesy CDs of "info found no where else" (yeah right, just everywhere on the internet) - these I would take more seriously if they were selling the CDs as "fruits of labor for scouring the Net" - at least then it could be seen as an internet information gathering service thing. You also see it in the multitude of "plans" showing how to build a 100" projection TV with a special lens (but, you do get the lens - nevermind the fact that plans are everywhere to do this, it uses nothing new, and the lens can be had cheaper at the local Walmart).

    These guys aren't typically shut down because they do offer a real product, and actually sell it - and people love it!

    Another "scam" - I have seen sellers of SDRAM bidding for memory on other auctions - sometimes within hours of their own auctions - for the same type of RAM - they buy the RAM cheap from another auction, then resell it the same day for a profit to other bidders (and typically, for much more money than they could find it for on Pricewatch).

    Many times I have wondered if I could pull these same kind of "deals" off - and each time I stop thinking about it, because it just isn't in my "moral fabric" to rip people off - I would rather tell them where to get it cheaper.

    I guess that is one reason why I will never own a business - I am too honest for my own "good"...

    • Actually, I've watched a number of camera auctions go way above list price on eBay. A simple visit to a reputable camera dealer site online, and people would *know* not to do that.

      But that's how auctions are. I've been at real-life, stand-around-and-hold-up-a-sign auctions, where people just get hung up on something. I've seen cars go for 20% above blue-book. Now, maybe there's something I don't know about with those items, but my suspicion is that people just get caught up in the moment and the competition of things.

      That's why real auctions have shills -- you may know about what you want to spend, by by God, you're not going to be outbid by that twerp over there!

      It's an interesting "feature" of human psychology.
  • by York the Mysterious ( 556824 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @06:56PM (#3054818) Homepage
    I've been an eBay seller for 3 years. I started off selling stupid things like Apple IIe manuals. I've gotten pretty good at it too an in my 3 years I've probably sold about 1000+ items. Not bad for an 18 year old (yea technically I should only have had an account for like 2 months now). Well anyways in those 3 years I've learned 3 things: Ebay buyers are stupid Ebay buyers are stupid Ebay buyers are stupid Why? I have a form for people to fill out and return if they use a money order. 1 out of 10 of my money order based transcations come without that form and I'd say probably 1 in 20 of those come without an address on the money order or the envelope. Now lets think about this. No mention of what item you bid on, what your ebay ID is or what your address is. How do these people think I figure out what they're paying for. Worse than getting ripped off buy a seller is ripping yourself off on ebay. I try to figure them out, but most of the $$$ I just keep since I dont have a clue what it goes to. -Tim
  • Here is the guy... (Score:3, Informative)

    by unclelib ( 552196 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @07:49PM (#3055120)

I came, I saw, I deleted all your files.