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The Almighty Buck

EBay Letting Fraud Slide? 421

joebagodonuts writes "MSNBC has an article charging that EBay's tough talk on fraud is just that. Talk." To a certain extent, I can understand the problem of having hundreds of thousands of auctions, and not being able to adequately police them - but ignoring fraud, when you have a policy stating otherwise is a Bad Thing.
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EBay Letting Fraud Slide?

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  • I'll vouch for that (Score:5, Informative)

    by IWantMoreSpamPlease ( 571972 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:35PM (#4425406) Homepage Journal
    I got nailed by a fraud auction (guy was selling items he didn't have in stock. Promised next day delivery...that was 3 months ago.)

    Neither my CC company, nor PayPal (now owned by eBay) or eBay were overly interested in dealing with this. Yeah, they suspended his account, but because he didn't pay eBay, not because he ripped me (and hundreds of others as well) off.

    I'm still in contact with the jerk, and I will have justice done, either by the proper authorities or.....
    • by Medevo ( 526922 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:42PM (#4425482) Homepage
      It seems that this is the likly trend with a lot of ebay fraud. That person most likly already has another ebay account and is defrauding more people.

      My idea of a way to fix the system is that we should have the money and item go through ebay. Sure this will add overhead and costs, but it protects both the buyers and the sellers. If either person backs out of the deal, the other person gets there money back.

      There is another kind of fraud on ebay too, false advertising, where someone says they are selling x and give you y. This is a little harder to control even if the stuff goes throught ebay, as quality is subjective with much of the stuff being sold.

      • The problem with ebay controlling the money is that ebay would have to also control the shipping... otherwise, the buyer could say "I never got the product" and it would be his word against the seller.

        What ebay needs to do is set up some kind of interface with UPS, FedEx, and the USPS' tracking systems and then require that all auctions have a tracking number associated with them. Of course then you have snafus with "virtual" items such as Everquest accounts...

        • by Ctrl-Z ( 28806 ) <tim@@@timcoleman...com> on Thursday October 10, 2002 @02:07PM (#4425739) Homepage Journal

          Virtual items wouldn't really be a problem. All you need is a flag that says "this item will be shipped via $COURIER, and eBay will interface with the tracking system once shipment has been interfaced".

          Buyers will immediately know which items either (a) are not being shipped [actually, they would know that anyway], and (b) which sellers don't want to use this system. If buyers want reliable tracking of their eBay shipments, they will opt out if (b) is the case.

          Of course, some people will not realize what is going on, no matter how many informational messages they receive via the eBay interface, but that's life.
        • What ebay needs to do is set up some kind of interface with UPS, FedEx, and the USPS' tracking systems and then require that all auctions have a tracking number associated with them. Of course then you have snafus with "virtual" items such as Everquest accounts...

          Actually, even tangible items can turn "virtual" quite easily under this system. So you have a tracking number... and 3 days later, you also get a nice FedEx package full of rocks...

      • And eBay will pay for this enormous undertaking by raising their commission to 90%?
      • My idea of a way to fix the system is that we should have the money and item go through ebay.

        That's basically what a transaction with escrow do...
      • by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @02:30PM (#4425986)
        It'd be nice if Ebay would run an escrow service, but that would be expensive.

        An intermediate solution would be Ebay sellers being required to submit a credit card and a charge authorization equal to their auction's estimated price. Buyers who claimed fraud would get the money the seller put up to Ebay up front. This would be the equivilent of a surity bond.

        Another option would be for Ebay to certify escrow houses and modify their terms of service so that any buyer, may, at their discretion, demand the payment and goods be delivered via certified escrow service. Seller pays all shipping to the escrow service, buyer pays all other costs.
    • by cscx ( 541332 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:46PM (#4425532) Homepage
      You have his address -- solve this the old-fashioned way: go kick his fucking ass and cut off his balls.

      Maybe that's a little overkill.
    • by Princeofcups ( 150855 ) <john@princeofcups.com> on Thursday October 10, 2002 @02:50PM (#4426193) Homepage
      I have had 182+ auctions on eBay, most of them purchases, and I have not had a single instance of fraud. Am I just lucky? Statistics say no.

      I think what we are seeing is "small town" syndrome, that is, out of towners being taken in by obvious scams that any "big city" person would smell a mile away. I can pull up eBay right now and find a dozen suspicious auctions.

      If it's too good to be true, then, yes, it is too good to be true. If it's a hardship case, then it will be your hardship. If you think you are smarter than the seller and ripping him off, then you are the one who will get ripped off.

      In no way do I blame eBay for fraud. As a buyer I know that if I do not like the results of my purchase, then I leave negative feedback and move on.

      If an auction is for a high cost item, then always insist on escrow. If the seller refuses, then refuse to do business. It's your responsibility as a buyer to protect your own ass.

      • So you mean that guy telling me I can get free computer/Mobile Phones/Cars by just sending him $10 is trying to defraud me??
      • "I think what we are seeing is "small town" syndrome, that is, out of towners being taken in by obvious scams that any "big city" person would smell a mile away. I can pull up eBay right now and find a dozen suspicious auctions."

        Based on this comment, I would consider myself a 'small-town person' . I opened an ebay account last month because I saw an out of print automobile service manual that I needed. The seller had hundreds of good feedback (~7 bad feedback) and the price was right ... perhaps better than right.

        But a couple of things tipped me off. Firstly the seller was selling HUNDREDS of these things for different models that were hard to find.

        Secondly, I contacted the bad feedback people and they said that the manuals were bootleg scans from original manuals and put on PDF and stamped to CD.

        But if I was just slightly less careful, I would have been conned out of ~$35. Only 7 bad feedback in perhaps 400 ratings is not very much.

        I think that if there's even the slightest pattern in any bad feedback, then you should back out. There is precious little you REALLY know about the seller and you have to look at every little scrap of info you can get.

  • by miracle ( 115019 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:36PM (#4425418)
    The truth is, ebay has limited recourse against fraud. So they can disable an account or block certain users, or blast their karma.

    Us ("we") customers want financial recourse (i.e. our money back), and they can only do that if they control the cash flow.

    Right now they don't, so they can't.
    • by hondo77 ( 324058 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:48PM (#4425549) Homepage
      Did you even read the articles? The main thrust is that eBay is not doing what they can do (like disabling accounts) even when there is strong evidence of fraud. eBay controls the cash flow to themselves from power sellers--again, read the articles.
    • by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:58PM (#4425654)
      The truth is, ebay has limited recourse against fraud. So they can disable an account or block certain users, or blast their karma.
      Well, being an accessory to fraud (aiding and abettting) is itself a crime.


  • Been there... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Allaria ( 547479 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:37PM (#4425432) Journal
    Awhile ago (probably about 2 years), I was helping a friend buy a computer on ebay. Checked out the ratings and such, and everything was fine, so I went ahead with paying for it (she gave me the $ for it). The company apparently 'went out of business'. Right. Within a few weeks there were over 200 negative responses. And at about $500 a pop, that's a pretty good amount of cash that went to who-knows-where. And ebay did *nothing* about it. Absolutely *nothing*. I'm willing to bet that whoever was selling just changed their name and did it all over again. That's why I stopped using ebay. And I felt really bad about telling my friend that her money disappeared into a bottomless pit.

    Maybe they'll actually get a nice swift kick. Or maybe they'll just turn the other way again. And aren't they in kahoots with paypal. Yeah, that should explain *everything*.
    • Re:Been there... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by danheskett ( 178529 )
      What *exactly* could eBay do? Really. What can they do. If someone ups and leaves, what can eBay do? If the money is already in thier hands, it is GONE.


      Should eBay eat that and give you money they never had?

      Please list three substantitive things that could have been done to get your (friends) money back.
      • Re:Been there... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by LordNimon ( 85072 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:44PM (#4425515)
        eBay could provide legal resources to pursue him in court. If Yahoo Auctions did that, they would crush eBay in less than a month.
      • Re:Been there... (Score:5, Informative)

        by VivianC ( 206472 ) <<internet_update> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:58PM (#4425659) Homepage Journal
        Please list three substantitive things that could have been done to get your (friends) money back

        1. Release full information of the seller including address, phone and full name of person on the credit card (with billing address) who opened the account.

        2. Put a hold on the credit card and turn information over to a collection agency who can perform a skip-trace.

        3. Notify local and federal authorities of the possibilty of a case of Felony Fraud. Also provide information to bidders on who to contact specifically to follow up on the case.

        None of these will get the money back right away (or maybe at all), but it will put the crook is some serious hot water.

        Should eBay eat that and give you money they never had?

        Umm, yes? Don't they (claim) to have an insurance policy that covers things like this? Sure, there is a $250 limit, but it is something. You also need to submit the claim in writing within 90 days.
        • Re:Been there... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by GeckoFood ( 585211 )

          Involving the state attorney general is an excellent idea, although I suppose that would fall into the "contact local and federal authorities" bin. I used this route several years ago to get my money back from a guy in Texas that took me for $600. I ended up getting ALL of the money back, and he ended up getting really uncomfortable scrutiny.

          Now, if you pay via PayPal, that can be another issue althogether. If a seller states that he/she *only* accepts PayPal, and nothing else, there's no guarantee that the shipping address is correct. I think I would avoid such sellers.

    • by hondo77 ( 324058 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:50PM (#4425583) Homepage

      ...I felt really bad about telling my friend that her money disappeared into a bottomless pit.

      How did your friend feel when she found out that there were escrow services she could have used for big ticket auctions and that you didn't recommend them to her?

    • Re:Been there... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by garcia ( 6573 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:52PM (#4425594)
      explain to me what you were thinking when you didn't do this w/escrow? I will not pay for anything over $100 w/o escrow. It's worth the charges.

      I purchased some Nakamichi cassette decks. Both were over $100 IIRC (the BX-300 especially). They went smoothly and I got the decks just fine.
      What happened after I received them is another story...
    • Re:Been there... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @02:03PM (#4425705)
      The company apparently 'went out of business'. Right. Within a few weeks there were over 200 negative responses. And at about $500 a pop, that's a pretty good amount of cash that went to who-knows-where. And ebay did *nothing* about it. Absolutely *nothing*. I'm willing to bet that whoever was selling just changed their name and did it all over again. That's why I stopped using ebay. And I felt really bad about telling my friend that her money disappeared into a bottomless pit.
      I am always a bit dumbfounded when I read stories like this. The laws that apply the the rest of the US economy do not stop at the eBay web site. Did you pay with a postal money order? Then did you file a complaint of mail fraud with the postmaster? File a complaint with your state's attorney general? With the US District Attorney? Did you write a letter to eBay's corporate secretay stating that you expected eBay to pursue this matter to a satisfactory conclusion?

      More importantly, did you contact the 200 other people and ask them to send copies of their letters of complaint to one postmaster and one US district attorney? 200 * 500 = 100,000, which is way way into grand theft and RICO territory IMHO (non-lawyer's opinion).

      No? You didn't? Why not?


      • Re:Been there... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mindstrm ( 20013 )
        Why should Ebay do anything? They state very clearly that they only list the auctions, and that guarnateeing the security of your purchase is up to YOU. Caveat emptor.

        They do what they can, but they are not the fraud police.

        • Re: thank you! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by King_TJ ( 85913 )
          Thank-you! I don't know why your comment wasn't modded up -- but I suppose it's still the minority view here for some twisted reason.

          The fact is, eBay shouldn't be held responsible for the actions of the users, any more than the local grocery store should be held liable if people post fraudulent sales on their cork boards near the entrances.

          If eBay isn't even bothering to cancel/disable accounts after multiple frauds are reported, well - that's irresponsible on their part. But honestly, I don't think that's the crux of the issue. I *often* see accounts that are suspended, when I look back through user info on bidders of my old auctions who had negative feedback.

          More than anything, this is a case of "kill the messenger" - because people get angry when they're ripped off, and look for someone to point the finger at. It's easier to pick on eBay (who has lots of $'s) than it is to hunt down and prosecute the person who actually scammed you.
  • by arakon ( 97351 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:39PM (#4425451) Homepage
    Ebay is a vendor, just like any other store they have no power to police, the only power they do have is over your account with them; Everything else product recovery/monetary reimbersement, has to go through the proper law enforcement channels. This gets even hairier when you consider different auctions in different countries quite possibly have a different set of laws that pertain to them. You complain to Ebay, they complain to the government; the government simply doesn't have the resources to pursue the mass counts of Minor fraud that ebay creates.

    Remember when dealing with people; they lie, cheat and steal to get what they want, so anything that requires you to trust an unknown party is at your discretion. Work retail once and you will understand the lengths to which people go to steal that 2 dollar pack of baseball cards and the power you don't have to stop them.
    • by hondo77 ( 324058 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:53PM (#4425611) Homepage
      Read the articles. eBay does have the power to do something about bad sellers when evidence is presented to them. They are allegedly not always doing what they should when those bad sellers are also power sellers. You did read the articles, didn't you?
    • Sure they do. If they can do a search to spam an unsuccessful bidder with other auctions the bidder "might" be interested in, they can certainly do automated searches for key words, patterns of feedback, etc. Of course, this is after-the-fact stuff.

      What they really need to do is change their TOS to state that a seller is just as contractually and legally obligated to sell an item as a bidder is to buy it. And then back it up with some action. Then they need to establish partnerships with the various Atttornies General offices in the US (and their counterparts in other countries) instead of this adversarial, screaming-and-dragging-their-feet-thing they have going on right now.

      There have been two major legal cases involving fraud on ebay: the art scam a few years ago, and the recently prosecuted computer scam. It shouldn't take a third case to make eBay change their ways, but it probably will.
    • Small correction... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Gruneun ( 261463 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @02:00PM (#4425678)
      Ebay is a vendor, just like any other store...

      No, they're a service company and they make it quite clear that the sales are not under their control. They simply put interested buyers in communication with corresponding sellers. Unfortunately, because eBay makes money from the sellers there is no real incentive for them to protect buyers. However, the vast majority of scams are pulled on greedy people who are trying to get something for nothing. As long as those people exist (and they're willing to accept the business model) eBay will have no incentive to change.

      Their rating system isn't perfect, but it's decent. I've sold some stuff on Ebay and bought a couple things. I got screwed once by a seller, but I've been screwed by brick-and-mortar places, too. Such is life.
    • Ebay is a vendor, just like any other store they have no power to police, the only power they do have is over your account with them; Everything else product recovery/monetary reimbersement, has to go through the proper law enforcement channels.
      Considering the United States only, if Jane Consumer gets raped in Bigco Department Store, and it can be shown that Bigco was aware of other rapes on its premises but took no action (additional security guards, cameras, lighting in dark corners, etc.), well, Jane's children are now department store heirs. Even if the rapist is in no way affiliated with Bigco. Why should eBay be any different?


  • Fraud? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mabidex ( 204038 ) <mabidex@brainclone.com> on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:40PM (#4425454)
    Fraud? what... from Paypal.. I mean eBay?

    I think they'll be pushing paypal and fight fraud through paypal's current policies, of course they will guarrantee if your transaction is ONLY through paypal.

    It only makes sense to do it this way since Paypal has really got a good rep with folks.

    I have personally vouch for the fraud dept at paypal, I was a charged $200 fraudulently, and paypal reimbused me for the charge on the debit card 5 days later.

    Ebay on the other hand has a terrible reputation for following up on fraud.

    I just hope they don't make Paypal have a rep as crappy as eBays by changing the policy at paypal.

    • PayPal has a really good rep? That'd be why a search for "paypal sucks [google.com]" on Google turns up 25,000 results, right?
      • Re:Fraud? (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by tc ( 93768 )
        That'd be why a search for "paypal sucks [google.com]" on Google turns up 25,000 results, right?

        Oh, that's a great measure of how much something sucks. Let's see...hmm, "Linux sucks" has over 208,000 hits. Geez, it must really suck major to get that many hits.

        • Re:Fraud? (Score:2, Funny)

          by kormoc ( 122955 )
          and windows sucks has 225,000, so windows and microsoft suck more then linux and paypal. Wow I just thought of something, the world sucks. To bad that 569,000 other people thought of that at first...
        • Re:Fraud? (Score:4, Funny)

          by JWhitlock ( 201845 ) <John-Whitlock AT ieee DOT org> on Thursday October 10, 2002 @04:20PM (#4427063)
          That'd be why a search for "paypal sucks [google.com]" on Google turns up 25,000 results, right?

          Oh, that's a great measure of how much something sucks. Let's see...hmm, "Linux sucks" has over 208,000 hits. Geez, it must really suck major to get that many hits.

          Instant Research:
          Windows Sucks: 225000 hits
          Linux Sucks: 178000 hits

          Conclusion: Linux sucks only 79% as much as Windows.

          Further Research:
          Windows sucks: 225000
          Windows suxs: 534
          Windows sux: 24300

          Linux Sucks: 178000
          Linux suxs: 287
          Linux sux: 20800

          BSD Sucks: 24900
          BSD suxs: 59
          BSD sux: 4680

          Conclusions: BSD sucks 11% as much as Windows, and 14% as much as Linux. BSD suxs 11% as much as Windows, and 20% as much as Linux. BSD sucks the least. BSD sux 19% as much as Windows, and 23% as much as Linux.

          BSD's market comparisions should be based on how much is sucks. Microsoft, however, should focus more on how much it sux, since it sux only 17% more than Linux, while it sucks 26% more.

    • Re:Fraud? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mosch ( 204 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @02:21PM (#4425899) Homepage
      I will personally vouch against using paypal, at all. They froze my account due to 'suspected fraud' (There was none, in any direction). Their action left me unable to send money that I had been sent back to the originator, OR to withdraw that money. They just stole it, and provided no reasonable way for me to unlock my account.

      Then, after one or two comments asking for help with the matter, they disabled my ability to use their 'so you have a problem' web form.

      They don't have a phone number on their site either, so you can't call.

      I advise you strongly, do not use paypal if you don't feel like having your money stolen. Use c2it [c2it.com] instead. The most common transactions have no fees associated with them at all, and it's run by citibank, as a real bank.

      The fact that you had one good experience doesn't mean that the countless people who've had their money stolen by paypal aren't worth consideration.

      • Re:Fraud? (Score:3, Informative)

        by fendel ( 18450 )
        Watch out. c2it says that your transaction "may" be considered a cash advance by your credit card company.

        I did a $16.49 payment through them, crossing my fingers and hoping that caveat didn't apply to my credit card... Next thing I know it's listed on my credit card statement as a $16.49 cash advance at the corresponding higher interest rate, with a $15 cash advance fee piled on top of it. When I called to complain, my soon-to-be-ex-credit-card-company (Direct Merchants Bank) told me that since Citibank is a financial institution, this is considered a cash advance, and no, they wouldn't waive the fee.

        If you're going to use c2it, check with your credit card's customer service first.
      • Re:Fraud? (Score:3, Informative)

        "They don't have a phone number on their site either, so you can't call."

        Sure they do. But they deliberately make it hard to find. But other people have found them and posted [paypalwarning.com] them for all to see.

  • Surprised? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Adambomb ( 118938 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:40PM (#4425461) Journal
    This is hardly a surprise, one would think it obvious that the resources it would cost Ebay as a company to have to keep track of, let alone take action upon, the constant fraud cases would be immense. As long as a high enough percentage of trades are legitimate and involve satisfied customers, no legal organization is going to bother holding Ebay responsible.

    I would have thought that reporting fraudulent users and such would be more the responsibility of the end users anyways, since its not much different than having people make purchases from someone at a flea market or something like that. You dont hold the owner of the building responsible if the "antique" you bought turned out to be a cheap knockoff.

    Or do you? I'm not entirely sure of all american small courts laws.
    • ...one would think it obvious that the resources it would cost Ebay as a company to have to keep track of, let alone take action upon, the constant fraud cases would be immense.

      No sympathy. It's called "the cost of doing business."

  • Caveat Emptor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Qrlx ( 258924 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:41PM (#4425476) Homepage Journal
    I kinda thought ebay's whole attitude was Use An Escrow Agent If You Don't Want To Get Ripped Off. Now, if the escrow people are defrauding you, then that's a different story.

    I have a bunch of stuff I'd like to sell, like a guitar and a mountain bike and a computer, but I'm not going to bother putting it on ebay because my rating is a big fat zero, and I doubt anyone will want to buy from an unknown quantity such as myself.

    Ebay has a profit motive to have as many auctions as possible. They also make more money when the price gets higher. They don't make money when they have to investigate fraud claims, and kick power sellers off the system.

    Let's put it another way: Let's say you're a power seller, and you sell a $1000 item. You give ebay their cut ($150 I think) and pocket $850. Ebay is happy, you're happy, the only one unhappy is the "little guy."

    Where is ebay's motivation to change the system? Libertarians and free market economic darwinists, start flaming now.
    • Re:Caveat Emptor (Score:3, Insightful)

      by danheskett ( 178529 )
      Ebay is happy, you're happy, the only one unhappy is the "little guy."
      Enough little guys get screwed and media picks up. Then you get a negative article on eBay which costs eBay actual money. That provides incentive to change. That is where things stand today.

      Capitialism works.
    • Re:Caveat Emptor (Score:5, Informative)

      by Zordak ( 123132 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @02:24PM (#4425921) Homepage Journal
      Use An Escrow Agent If You Don't Want To Get Ripped Off
      Tsk, tsk. You didn't read the article, did you?

      An escrow agent would have done absolutely nothing to stop the four cases of fraud cited in the article. Three of the cases were "phantom" bidding, where the seller used an alter-ego to drive the prices up (one even admitted to it, saying how ashamed he was, and how he only did it to avoid taking a huge loss on the item). In those cases, the buyers knowingly offered a certain price for some goods, and got the goods they expected. The problem was that they spent $200 - $500 more than they had to because the phantom bids drove the price up. These transactions would have occurred with or without an escrow service (in fact, since some of the items were worth thousands of dollars, it is quite likely an escrow service actually was employed). The fourth case was a stamp collection ring that was buying stamps on e-bay, altering them to make them appear to be in a better condition or appear to be different, more valuable stamps, and then selling them for a huge profit (with something approximating a 10:1 return). The buyers all thought they were getting what they paid for, so, again, an escrow service would not have helped any. An stamp collectors' organization called SCADS discovered the fraud and notified E-bay, which did not so much as suspend the ring leaders' accounts. When SCADS saw the abuse continue, they flooded the E-bay stamp collection message board with warnings against these auctions. In response, e-bay closed the message board. They then started sending e-mails of warning to those who were bidding on the stamps. In response, E-bay suspended their (i.e., the SCADS members') accounts, citing auction interference. The implication was that E-bay was protecting the stamp fraud ring because it was a profit-generating Power Seller, while lashing out against those who tried to warn potential suspects. To support this claim, MSNBC interviewed "Ron," who claims to have worked for the E-bay fraud department. He says he discovered a Power Seller who was phantom bidding and shut down his response. He got a call from higher up telling him not to do that again.

      The apparent conclusion is that if you don't want to get ripped off, an escrow agent is insufficient. If you don't want to get ripped off, just don't use E-bay.

  • by bstadil ( 7110 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:41PM (#4425477) Homepage
    It is fairly dumb to buy anything tech oriented at eBay. The marketplace is too effective and you will never get a good deal. Often the lack of knowledge of the current pricing for will cause the final prices on eBay to be higher than you can get them at say NewEgg or Thompson. Often the refurbished dept. at reputable shops like Newegg [newegg.com]is a much better deal and 100% safe.

    These guys have a superb rating on ResellerRating [resellerratings.com] , so why deal with some amateur / potential crook at Ebay?

    • by GiMP ( 10923 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:48PM (#4425551)
      Try buying an SGI or HP 9000-series without going on ebay, see the premiums you would pay.. even if you buy 2 of the same item on ebay and get frauded on one, it is still a better deal than most non-ebay dealers will give you.
      • The other fun thing, is that the people who do know where to get cheap older oddball computers, aren't bloody likely to tell you where they get em :-) Because they can pick em up cheap and sell them on ebay. I've picked up working SparcStation 20s for $5, called a friend to tell him there were still a couple SS10s left for $5 each. I have a friend that picked up an SGI Onyx for $35 and I've seen (but didn't need) HP 9000 D-class machines for $35 each. All this without shipping charges. I personally never resell the stuff on ebay, if i see something for cheap that I know someone is looking for (like 19" Sun Monitors w/trintron tubes) $15 or so, I call em, if they need it I'll pick it up and resell it to them at cost.
    • by sien ( 35268 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:52PM (#4425595) Homepage
      No way. There are heaps of tiny resellers on ebay who use ebay as a marketplace. I bought a digital camera at 2/3 of retail price and a laptop at 1/2 retail. The sites you link to seem good, but their range is nothing compared to Ebay.
    • I've bought tech several times at eBay and have had excellent experiences and gotten great deals. You have to be aware that fraud is a very real possibility in that category, though. Do your research on the seller and use an escrow service on expensive items. It's not foolproof but it's worked for me so far. Caveat emptor and whatnot.
    • by Slak ( 40625 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @03:05PM (#4426348)
      Shameless plug: I work for the largest B2C auction site on the Net. We warehouse most products and everything has a tracking number.


  • by seangw ( 454819 ) <seangw@@@seangw...com> on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:42PM (#4425485) Homepage
    I think the issue that is really coming up is where does ebay's jurisdiction end, and the end user become responsible.

    Do we sue the city when a street corner deal for tickets to a baseball game turns out to be fake tickets? (my english is temporarily disabled, now speaking gibberish)

    Ebay used to only serve as connecting buyers with sellers. Now they have Billpoint, and seem to be trying to get in on every part of the deal.

    Personally I think people should understand that buying from anyone, ultimately, is their responsibility.

    Ebay also shouldn't claim that it can stop fraud, because that is virtually impossible (and a losing business venture if they do try).

    Just a few thoughts . . .
  • Multi-part story (Score:5, Informative)

    by splume ( 560873 ) <splumes@hotmail.com> on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:42PM (#4425486) Journal
    This article is actually part of a series on online auctions. Here they are:

    Part 1- The above linked story
    Part 2- Cautionary tales of two auctions [msnbc.com]
    Part 3- Auction fraud on the rise, some say [msnbc.com]
    Part 4- Confessions of a scam artist [msnbc.com]
    Part 5- Auction scam hits plasma TV buyers [msnbc.com]
    Part 6- Auction fraud victims fight back [msnbc.com]
    Part 7- eBay vs. the fraud police [msnbc.com]
    Part 8- 'Deadbeat bidders' dog eBay sellers [msnbc.com]
    Part 9- Fake escrow sites lure auction users [msnbc.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:43PM (#4425489)
    I lose about $1000.00 per month on ebay due to copied software. I produce Video tutorials on CD, nerdmaker.com, and have to compete against $5.00 per CD copied software. After working with ebay for over 16 months, no changes have occured. Why would ebay want to change? They are, by a very wide margin, the number 1 auction site. Ebay makes money on a transaction weather its legal or not. The only motivation for change would be competition, and I don't see that happening soon.
    • by cscx ( 541332 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:48PM (#4425558) Homepage
      Strangely, Microsoft gets their software taken down from illegal eBay auctions. Maybe you need to find yourself a good lawyer.
    • I lose about $1000.00 per month on ebay due to copied software. I produce Video tutorials on CD, nerdmaker.com, and have to compete against $5.00 per CD copied software. After working with ebay for over 16 months, no changes have occured. Why would ebay want to change? They are, by a very wide margin, the number 1 auction site. Ebay makes money on a transaction weather its legal or not. The only motivation for change would be competition, and I don't see that happening soon.

      It's the video proffesor from TV! Don't you give away the first copy of your CD free anyways?
  • by bunyip ( 17018 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:45PM (#4425517)
    Yes, the title is provocative.

    How many people will read this article, or the posts on Slashdot byt the people that were ripped off, then go and buy something from eBay? Clearly, eBay knows that the majority of you will.

    Your credit card provider doesn't help you, the small losses they get are covered by fees and interest rates. If it were a major problem, then Visa or Mastercard would close eBay's accounts.

    Stores can prevent shoplifting by strip searching you all at the exit, but you won't go back. So, they tolerate a certain amount of "inventory shrinkage".

    The fraud on eBay is tolerable to eBay, they're making tons of money......

    You vote with your feet^H^H^H^Hmouse !
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:45PM (#4425519) Homepage Journal
    I've received dozens of the <voice type="dumb_red_neck_chickenboner">"U 2 KIN MAKE $$$$ ON EBAY"</voice> spams.

    I've forwarded them on to eBay, saying "I know you didn't send this, but it is trading on your trademarked name, and damaging your credibility. You REALLY should serve this guy with a cease-and-desist order".

    Every time, eBay has sent me the auto-ack message, and most of the time, a follow up saying <voice type="Goofy">"Duhhh-up Dis didn't come from us, No Sir, it didn't. Cain't do a thing about it, nope."</voice>

    eBay likes spam like that, because it encourages people to buy and sell stuff on eBay, making eBay money. As long as they have plausible deniability, and will therefor suffer no ill effects from the fraud themselves, they will tacitly allow it to continue.
  • Hello PayPal (Score:5, Informative)

    by lsd4all ( 526675 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:45PM (#4425520)
    As if things are bad enough under the surface, eBay just finished its business absorption of PayPal. PayPal has it's own fraudulent problems, especially with credit card fraud. Check out PayPal warning. [paypalwarning.com] The stories on this website scare me because I use PayPal regularly but now I tend to withdraw all but $1.35 from my account just to be safe.

  • You should only buy things that cost as much as you are willing to loose. You rarely hear of companies engaging in massive fraud, it is usually from ebay, some similar auction site, and most often individuals. Stick to solid companies like amazon or airlines or dell. Or companies you trust. People are going to scam you and places like ebay provide the most potential victims. 5 or so years ago, the place was usenet. Just as much fraud went on there(and maybe still is, I haven't been there in a while.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:46PM (#4425530)
    The posts you read about ebay being unable to police their auctions are totally incorrect. Amazon polices their auctions very well. If Amazon can do it, ebay can as well.
  • This does not surprise me at all. I, like many others, have been ripped off by bad auctions on the infamous eBay. Ever since they purchased PayPal I have refused to use the auction site. It is getting really rediculous. I will glady spend the extra bucks and purchase an item outright via Pricewatch or such, rather than deal with the hassels of bad auctioneers or just bad service.
  • by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:47PM (#4425546) Journal
    To a certain extent, I can understand the problem of having hundreds of thousands of auctions...

    This is a reasonable statement, and quite easy to agree with. (and yes, I know that Hemos went on to negate this phrase)


    It is unquestionably a massive and difficult undertaking to deal with fraud when you're operating on an eBay-like scale. It is also a primary purpose of their existence. eBay MUST deal with fraud at whatever cost (create a whole infrastructure for it if necessary--remember that only a few short years ago there existed no online auctions at all!), or they're simply not doing their job.

    Not intended as a rant or finger-pointing here. I just don't want to see them get away with sliding if they're trying to.
  • Escrow (Score:4, Redundant)

    by Geeyzus ( 99967 ) <mark_madej.yahoo@com> on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:49PM (#4425571)
    Other may have said the same thing (I haven't seen any comments with it yet), but if you don't want to get burned on eBay, use escrow.

    It will cost a little more and be a little more of a pain, but then your money will be safe until the product is legitimately coming your way.

    Or if you don't want to pay for escrow, at least ASK the seller if they will use escrow. If they say they won't, then don't go through with it. If they do, then you can go through them and just don't use it. If they were bluffing, well, you are screwed... but you have a better shot.

    That said, I never use escrow. And I have never gotten burned as in, never had the item shipped, but I have gotten things that don't work as advertised, and some other sub-par stuff. Not to mention that people will boost their own bids through the roof by setting up multiple accounts and bidding on their own stuff, if they think you want it. So I try to avoid eBay whenever possible.

  • As much as it sucks, I don't know what Ebay could do about it. They aren't a police force, so their investigations wouldn't be admissable in any form, and obviously they don't have the resources to hire the real police whenever someone complained of fraud, so they're more or less helpless to prove it. As much I would LOVE to see the policy of "If Seller A takes Buyer A's money and doesn't deliver the product, we'll take that amount of money from Seller A's credit card and give it to Buyer A" I know it could never work, because for every honest case of fraud, you would the people who actually got the product, and then lied and said they never did. Obviously not everyone ships using FedEx or UPS, so package tracking would be pretty hard, and downright impossible on a massive scale.

    As much as it sucks, Ebay will never be able to play policeman. It's not what they do, and they don't have the time or money to do it. The best advice is just look at someone's rating and hope for the best. Another good tip is if you can find the item in the real world, or even through a site that specializes in that product, go through them. It may be a little more money, but you know it's going to get there.
    • Ebay can and should cooperate and contact law enforcement agencies. Fraud is illegal. Really, it is.

      Just take the stamps, for example. The criminal penalties of messing with the US Post Office are insane! Don't suspend people, just drop a note to the feds. Yes, the feds... E-Bay is interstate commerce, so it's easy. Then, simply have ebay indicate whether a seller legitimately falls under US Federal Jurisdiction.

      This is exactly what most internet commerce sites are unwilling to do. They have the impression that they have to do all the policing themselves. A large portion of the US government is devoted to consumer protection. As screwed up as I often feel the US government is, I shudder to think of big business completely running the show.
  • Yes and no (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dnoyeb ( 547705 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:50PM (#4425580) Homepage Journal
    Im surprised that story is by MSNBC considering everything M$ is instantly pulled from ebay for some reason they dig up. I have had so many legitimate M$ product auctions shut down.

    THey just shut down my 2 celeron auctions because I said the bidder would have to pay the paypal CC costs if they used a CC.

    They are uptight. But yes, they shut me down at the last section so I couldnt make the changes. THey must be too busy taking money to check the auctions...

    In any event, yahoo auctions is the underground auction with nothing BUT fraud. I have NEVER had a fradulent auction on ebay. All 2 of my tries (to purchase) on yahoo were fradulent.
  • by gpinzone ( 531794 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:51PM (#4425591) Homepage Journal
    Let's put this into perspective... There are thousands of power sellers yet only a few are mentioned in the article where the evidence strongly suggests...not conclusively finds fraud occurring. EBay is no different than the For Sale section in the newspaper. If I get ripped off by some guy selling his car in the newspaper, who am I gonna sue? The guy or the Daily News?

    The only liability I see is the whole Power Seller rating system. This kind of implies that EBay deems this person a good seller and thus is promoting the seller above others.

    Why isn't this looked upon the same way as an ISP and someone trafficking illegal material over the Internet?
  • Egg Troll never spends a lot of cash on anything on eBay. Instead we prefer to buy locally [craigslist.org]. Of course, not everyone is as blessed as Egg Troll to live in a large city.

    So if you live in Peanutville, GA and need to buy something expensive, Egg Troll highly suggests you use eBay's escrow service: The seller doesn't get paid until you get the item. Egg Troll reminds you that escrow isn't perfect but its a lot better than nothing!
  • Or is MS trying to get into the online auction business, and pointed their FUD Cannon at eBay?
  • by wherley ( 42799 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:58PM (#4425660)
    His laptop, currently open for bidding [ebay.com], had been up to over USD 15000 when first listed. Now we see that because "We have received numerous bids that have had to be cancelled, because we believe them to be fraudulent." that more extreme measures are being taken by the lister this time around.
  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @01:59PM (#4425669)
    In a feature last week about eBay, the Raleigh News & Observer quoted Kevin Purseglove, identified as senior director of communciations for eBay, as saying, quoting the paper, "eBay's policy is to let the buyer and seller sort out any differences among themselves. According o Purseglove, "Ebay will never evaluate the merchandise, we never receive it, we never review it, we don't ship it, we don't vouch for it."

    Ebay apparently will refer you to an independent dispute resolution service if you wish.

    In other words, caveat emptor.
  • by Hut_Mul ( 601978 )
    The rule I use when buying junk off of eBay:

    I don't spend any amount more than I am willing to loose. I don't make any purchases over $50.

    I also cannot understand why on earth someone would go on eBay and spend 100's of dollars. Wake up! You are sending your money to *some guy* in God knows where, to purchase an item unseen.

    If you are so desparate to get a deal on a higher priced used item, try your local paper, swap meet, hack shop. I'm pretty sure you could pick whatever high priced item you desire without taking such a risk.

    I have no sympathy for someone who plop's down $500 dollars to some unknown person, for an unseen product.. based only on eBay's "feedback".

    Take my money PLEASE!

  • I wonder, do they still have that lurker guy from MSFT who hits refresh all day until he finds a sale of used MSFT software and then complains to e-Bay to have it removed?

    And no, I don't think I'm off-topic. The words fraud and Microsoft are synonymous here on /., aren't they?
  • by ScooterBill ( 599835 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @02:13PM (#4425822)
    I've always understood that you bid exactly what you are willing to pay for an item. With the Ebay system, the winning bid is only enough to beat the next lower bid, not your maximum bid. Unfortunately, I see people constantly upping their bids as they watch the price go higher. If a shill bidder wins, then the seller is either forced to pay Ebay's commission(I doubt they would) or contact the next lower (non-shill) bidder and try to make a deal. If this happens to you, your last bid is non-binding and you can negotiate whatever you like. It's all a psychological game and it sounds like people are crying over spilt milk. I personally figure out what I'm going to pay and then use a sniping service. This cuts down on the bidding wars.
  • by liamk ( 411747 ) <liamk@liamkeeRAB ... minus herbivore> on Thursday October 10, 2002 @02:14PM (#4425829) Homepage
    Part of Ebay's fraud problem would be curtailed (IMHO) if Ebay would either require members to maintain a credit card or checking account with a verified address, or require users to participate in their ID Check program. Also, Ebay needs to look at bidding patterns to determine fraud. Here's why:

    Every so often, we put up some auctions for networking equipment. Lately there has been a trend of people bidding on Cisco auctions (see this [msnbc.com] article) and never paying.

    One Ebay user bid a Cisco 3640 router I was selling up to $2550. This same user created his account two days prior, and was the high or winning bidder on over 80 auctions. Here's [ebay.com] this user's Ebay winning bid history. Now, I'm not a mathematician, but this A-hole ruined over $64k of auctions. Sure, you can relist and file fraud reports, but what's to prevent someone else from doing this again and again? There's no accountability.

    If they would require some type of user verification to buy and sell, wouldn't you think twice about fraud? Furthermore, why can't Ebay red-flag suspicious bidding patterns? I think everyone agrees that a new user probably will not bid on over 80 auctions worth over $64k in a couple of days.

    Just my 2.47 yen.

    • I had an experience where a person was the winning bidder on something I was selling (I forget what it is at the moment, but appx value would be $100). After the auction the seller assured me payment was on its way.

      After about a week I received nothing, and the seller then accused me of fraud! Saying that they had sent a Cashier's check and that the bank said it had cleared (which made me suspicious, considering that from what I read it can take some time to verify cashing of a cashier's check).

      So I got the person's contact from eBay. Luckily it was valid, I called up, and spoke to the bidder's mother! It turns out the bidder was a 12 year old kid, thus not able to bid/sell on eBay legally. Once I contacted eBay with this information, and they saw a trend in the users account, I was refunded all listing fees and final value fees, and the users account was suspended permanently.

      I think I was lucky to actually receive total reimbursement in this case. How often does eBay actually refund everything, and how often are you stuck with paying for listing fees for items that the seller vanished?

  • Shill bidding (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tomk ( 20364 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @02:32PM (#4425998) Homepage
    I've bid on (and won) several things on ebay, and every single time, without fail, there is obvious shill bidding. I mean, do real people really bid $99.04 for an item? It's obvious that they are just checking to see if you've set your limit to $100. Especially when you see that the same bidder has bid on all of the seller's auctions but yet never seems to win..

    I'd guess that shill bidding happens in nearly every auction, and while its illegal, its too much trouble to try to fight it. Instead I just make sure that I never bid more than I'm willing to pay in the first place, since it's a given that I will pay whatever I bid. For this same reason, I never bid more than 75% of what I consider a "reasonable price" for an item, thus giving myself a 25% pad for the other types of fraud that might occur.

    • Re:Shill bidding (Score:3, Interesting)

      by brokeninside ( 34168 )
      I mean, do real people really bid $99.04 for an item?

      I almost always make my bid end in a quirky amount. The reason being that Ebay autoincrements by standard amounts (0.25, 0.50, 1.00). Given that most people bid even amounts (9.50, 10.00), I'll make my maximum bid something like 10.04. Hence, my bid will win over the more frequent maximum bid of 10.00.

      But since Ebay autoincrements in even amounts, if I win over a bid that is at the last even amount prior to my maximum bid and then subsequently get outbid, the new high bid will still carry the .04.

      Especially when you see that the same bidder has bid on all of the seller's auctions but yet never seems to win.

      That would make me suspicious as well. Although, such has happened to me before where I've consistently been outbid at my maximum amount in several auctions prior to finding an ad written so poorly most searches miss it.
  • by spoonyfork ( 23307 ) <spoonyfork&gmail,com> on Thursday October 10, 2002 @02:44PM (#4426118) Journal

    Irregardless of eBay's fraud issues, I take exception at the sincerity of this article.

    Let's see.. an article on MSNBC.com (read Microsoft) about fraud horrors on eBay with no comparative analysis on how eBay stands up to the other major online houses with regards to fraud.

    The "Advertising" gadget on the article's page has a link to MSN's (read Microsoft) auction partner uBid [msn.com].

    Sounds like FUD with a splash of advertising to me.

  • Example.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by jsimon12 ( 207119 ) <{tzzhc4} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Thursday October 10, 2002 @02:45PM (#4426142) Homepage
    I had a perfect example of this.

    A couple weeks ago I bought an older HP printer of eBay, the seller didn't return my calls or emails, after I sent him the money, and was doing the same for a couple other people who had bought products from him. Well I filed a fraud complaint with PayPal, and they put the money on hold along with his PayPal account. This got the guys attention, so he called me, saying he would send the item only if I dropped the compaint, I told him I would only drop the compaint once I saw the item. In communicating with the guy I found he had at least a couple other eBay id's he was doing the same with (fake auctions), so I tried to contact eBay to let them know. I was refered to some consumer groups and webpages and such, I had a list of the ID's the guys was using and some background, statements from other people who were defrauded, and the guys location (or at least the one the number went back to that I was called on), along with the various aliases the guy was using. Just boggles my mind that they would ignore this.
  • by MsWillow ( 17812 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @02:49PM (#4426180) Homepage Journal
    I'm a regular eBay buyer. I buy gem material, and ancient coins. I'd been having pretty good luck for the past three years, only getting a few items that were, arguably, not as good as described. However, in the last 6 months, things have changed, possibly due to the economy going sour.

    I've seen the "shipping and handling" charges skyrocket, from about $3 on average before to over $5 now, sometimes hitting over $10 for something that could be sent UPS for $3. I've bought stuff that was mis-identified, and had a biatch of a time trying to get a dime back from the sellers. I've even had flat-out fraud - one seller took my money, and that of several other people, then voluntarily suspended his registration, so I cannot even warn future (like, six months from now) victims.

    EBay used to provide a service, "Safe Harbour", to help mediate in these affairs. Recently, however, the FAQ on what to do about fraud has changed, and it's now totally out of eBay's hands. I've tried calling the seller who took my money and ran, to no avail. It's been consistantly either busy, or no answer. I did a reverse-lookup on the phone number, and it doesn't even belong to the seller.

    I'm just out the $20, I guess. EBay doesn't care. PayPal doesn't care. And, as long as people can get a new email account from Hotmail and Yahoo, they'll be able to do this. And, as long as the per-person bit is small, fraudsters will continue getting away with it.

    I no longer feel safe unless I'm buying from a seller with ***lots*** of feedback. Perhaps one way eBay could help prevent this sort of fraud would be to require a real email account, not some cheesy Web-based freebie. Perhaps they need to verify address information - make registration cost a dollar, then snail-mail them a temporary password. However, though either approach would help deter fraudsters, both would cut down on eBay's revenue while increasing their costs, so I really don't see it changing soon. What may help force the change is if more buyers just stopped buying things. When eBay's bottom line begins to suffer, *then* we'll see a real change take place. Until then, caveat emptor.
  • by Oliver Wendell Jones ( 158103 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @02:50PM (#4426199)
    I've purchased many, many items on ebay. I have also sold several items on ebay. I've had one bad experience with each side.

    Buying - I ordered some of those 'breast enlargement pills' for my girlfriend. It's not something I wanted for her, but she was planning to buy some of the more expensive ones from a TV advertisement and I told her we could save money by using ebay. I ordered four bottles (to get the free shipping offered) and was told I would have them within 3 business days. Two weeks later, still no pills. I wrote several times and called and left phone messages. I eventually got an e-mail stating that they had been shipped to the wrong address and a new shipment was being sent out and that I would be receiving 6 bottles instead of the 4 I had paid for. One and a half weeks later they still hadn't arrived, and I left negative feedback for that seller. In less than 2 hours after posting the feedback, the seller used PayPal to refund my money. I then turned around and ordered the same pills from a different vendor, my girlfriend used them for a couple of weeks and said that they were making her fat and so she threw them out. :-(

    Selling - I had an old Sega Genesis system and about 20 games for it that I never used any more. Posted it for sale, one guy kept bidding and rebidding and drove the price up high, won the auction and then never sent any money and never responded to e-mail. Within one week, his feedback dropped from around +10 to -5, so it was obvious that someone was abusing that account, no way of knowing if it was the true owner or not. I notified ebay and was allowed to re-run the auction a second time for no additional cost and ended up selling it to a legitimate buyer for about $20 less than what the first auction closed for.

    Since I first started using ebay, I have purchased 3 computers (all the same), 3 digital cameras (all different), a digital camcorder, jewelry, perfume, children's toys, software, hardware, flashlights, those glow-chemical bracelets, lockpicks, magic tricks, universal remote controls, more stuff than I can even remember, and those are the only two incidents I've ever had.

    I don't think using ebay is any more unsafe than most other forms of shopping, I'd worry more about buying/selling stuff through a newspaper classified ad, because you never know what's going to happen when you get to the other person's house, or worse yet, when they come to your home.

    As a side note, my two greatest ebay deals involved Bob & Tom [bobandtom.com] albums. I had a fairly complete set of their CD's, a total of 17 discs, one autographed, and one autographed poster. I sold the entire collection for $420 cash to someone living in the same town. A year later in the back of my closet I found a copy of Bob and Tom, A Day At the Race, a very limited edition cassette (only 500 copies made) that I listed and sold for $450... not bad considering I'd only paid $10 for it when it was new, which wasn't all that long ago...
  • by psplay ( 572886 ) <J@psplay.cDEBIANom minus distro> on Thursday October 10, 2002 @03:26PM (#4426523)
    But isnt every Ebay'er eventually doing it?

    Fraud is part of Ebay's culture, just some people take it to extremes more than others.

    Anyone who uses ebay for more than 3 months knows about sniping, then they sign up to auctionstealer or other sniping site to join the fun. Then they snipe on the newbies and give them a start on the bitterness ladder. Okay it's not Fraud but it starts people thinking of ways to 'beat the system'. Anger leads to hate, etc...

    Others start selling becuase their co-workers are selling. Before you know it, they are shill-biding on each others auctions once they see someone biding passionately and wildly. Its common practice.

    Then there are other sellers that take poetic license and describe goods using vague but attractive terminology, 'virtually new', or 'must be seen' to be believed. They know that some gullible people are afraid to leave negative feedback, because a evil seller will retort with the same. (Oh, the shame of having a minus on your record!)

    Most people who use Ebay for long enough, learn the tricks of the trade. It polices itself, which implies Fraud must be committed before it can be reported.

    You can only prevent fraud by controlling auctions tightly, then the whole 'neighbourhood policing' aspect of the software goes away, which is worth more to Ebay in goodwill than losing a few customers over fraud.
  • by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @03:57PM (#4426848) Homepage Journal
    It's normal that a company will be nice to the users who give them the most ammount of money while screwing everybody else.

    Personally, I've never been defrauded on ebay and this is how I do it.

    Firstly, If its a big purchase (like 500 bucks or more) I tell the seller to send it to me COD but to only specify bank checks, not personal checks. This keeps everybody honest. In all cases, I offer to pay the added expense and have the seller just tack it onto the total cost.

    If I'm selling something and the person wants to do it COD, the only way I do it is bank check. I've had people call me up and complain loudly how the person came to the door but wouldn't give them the package because they had a personal check. It's that old saying "Locks keep honest people honest"

    Now for smaller things, I'm confortable with paypal, provided that the person is "verified."
  • by SomeOtherGuy ( 179082 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @04:28PM (#4427125) Journal
    I always find it a good laugh to see people paying MORE (or the same) for items on ebay (in some cases used items) then it would cost to go to the local Best Buy or CompUSA and plop down the cash for -- and get to enjoy instantlly. You go the Ebay route and it is just like Russian Roullette. You not only pay megabucks + shipping, you are not even sure when and if you will get the item. And if you do get the item -- it may not be as advertised. I had a friend who saved 40 bucks on a robotic lawnmower. The only problem is, when he got it, it was 3 firmware releases behind and had recalled tires. Since he did not purchase it from the company, he had to pony up over 100 bucks for firmaware upgrades and new tires. The company never would have sold him such an outdated item.
  • SEC? (Score:4, Informative)

    by sielwolf ( 246764 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @06:09PM (#4428050) Homepage Journal
    Wait, wasn't there a recent court case where PayPal was now seen as a bank and thus under the regulation of the SEC? Letting fraud slide could have legal reprecussions then.
  • I recently had an unpleasant eBay experience, in which eBay simply refused to answer a fraud-related question even after I repeated it six times. They kept responding without answering the question.

    I auctioned off a web server on eBay, fetching a high bid of about $1,100. The high bidder promptly contacted me and submitted payment via eBay Payments (aka BillPoint).

    The buyer also asked me to ship the server via overnight Saturday-delivery FedEx, using his account number. This is a huge "red flag" for fraud -- only the account holder can get proof of delivery, and the account holder can ask to redirect the delivery location. When somebody says that rush shipping costs are not important, shippers should worry that the buyer's primary goal is to get the product in hand before they are "discovered" (e.g. fraudulent credit card payment).

    Since I was suspicious, I checked the online payment information carefully, and was surprised to find that my payment record reflected the occurrence of a "bypassing event" on the same day payment instructions were submitted. That sounds pretty bad -- like maybe it's a dispute or other problem that will cause the payment to be reversed (my bank confirmed that a transfer was initiated but had not yet been completed, whatever that meant).

    So I called eBay, and got run around in circles before being allowed to leave a phone message (I left several messages, none of which were ever returned). And I sent email to the official eBay Payments (BillPoint) support addresses, and got autoreplies promising a response within 24 to 48 hours. After trying several strategies, I called the buyer, disclosed my concerns, and advised him that I could not ship the server until eBay Payments (BillPoint) confirmed that the payment was complete and that the "bypassing event" was not a reversal. He said he understood.

    Over the course of the next two weeks, eBay responded to each email I sent, about 48 hours after I sent it, but although they quoted back my question to me, they would not answer or even discuss the issue of what is a "bypassing event." I suspect my responses were coming from a collection of boilerplate replies. Each time I received a reply, I wrote back, repeating the single question, "What is a bypassing event," and citing my transaction number and other data. Each time, they replied after 48 hours without answering the question.

    Finally, after two weeks, I confirmed with my bank that the funds had been transferred and they could find no record of any attempt to cancel or reverse the transaction -- and so I shipped the server to the fellow via FedEx Express Saver (3-day delivery), using his FedEx number.

    The next day (after the server was already in transit), eBay Payments finally wrote back answering my repeated question: they informed me that a "bypassing event" simply reflected that the buyer had forgotten his BillPoint password and had manually re-entered his credit card payment information.

    I have closed my eBay Payments (BillPoint) account, and I will not accept payment through their payments scheme, ever again. Since eBay has acquired PayPal, I will also cease accepting PayPal as a payment method, since I assume the same inept customer service will apply there, too.

  • by unger ( 42254 ) on Thursday October 10, 2002 @09:52PM (#4429154)
    about 1 1/2 months ago i purchased some software for a client's digital audio workstation.

    unfortunately, when it arrived it turned out to be warez.

    so, i contacted the seller to tell him the warez wasn't going to work for me, and that i needed the $110 refunded. he didn't like that much, and said i was being a jerk. that's when i realized there wasn't going to be any reasoning with him (not that that was a huge surprise).

    i tried contacting ebay a number of times, but they would never get back to me. so much for help from them.

    the seller lives in Miami. unfortunately, i live on the other side of the country. anyone in Miami want to do me the favor of going to this guy's house and and getting me some collateral worth at least $110? i'll pay you half of the $110 for the job. contact me for the seller's address. ;)

    really, what other choices do i have?
  • by Reziac ( 43301 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @03:15AM (#4430344) Homepage Journal
    Some tips I wrote up for someone else who got ripped off on ebay -- this applies mainly to computer hardware, but the principles can be adapted to any type of merchandise.

    I've spent a LOT of time digging around for hardware (and other stuff) on Ebay, following various auctions and dealers, and have read a lot in and asked around in many of the user forums there, and have reached several conclusions
    about sellers:

    ALWAYS read ALL of a seller's NEGATIVE feedback before bidding. (If you use ebay a lot, you may want to subscribe to http://www.vrane.com's feedback checker service.) Good vendors won't have more than 0.15% negative feedback. More than 0.3% negative feedback is a redflag; more than 1.0% is usually a bad dealer or a con artist.

    Positive feedback numbers and content CAN be rigged via the "penny auctions" loophole, so positive feedback in itself is fairly useless.

    ALWAYS read ALL of the "NEGATIVE FEEDBACK LEFT FOR OTHERS" *by* any seller you intend to deal with. How they respond to their own bad deals is a *VERY* good indicator of how they'll be to work with in the event that what they send you is defective or is not as represented.

    Sellers who use *L00K* and/or bogus phrases in their item titles (just WTF is "emulator friendly" anyway??!) are the ebay equivalent of spammers. I no longer even view items with such titles.

    ALWAYS check regular online vendor outlets, Pricewatch, etc, first. Typically, used computer hardware sold on Ebay winds up going for 150% of the new retail price, just because most people have no clue what components really sell for. (I've seen used HDs go for 300% of retail, and used memory going for TEN TIMES the local new price!!)

    Sellers who start every auction with "$1.00" or "$0.01" prices are more likely to be cons than those who start with something realistic. People who sell hardware *regularly* on ebay are MORE likely to be cons than are people who only sell hardware here occasionally.

    ALWAYS email the seller prior to bidding, and ask some question about the item, even if you already know the answer. The tone of the response you get can tell you plenty about how they'll be to deal with. If you get NO response, "go look it up yourself", or a CANNED response, or if they dodge any of your questions, DON'T BID.

    If they take ONLY cash or money orders for computer hardware, DON'T BID.

    When in doubt for ANY reason, DON'T BID.

    BTW for categories other than hardware, the above all apply except that there are good sellers of other stuff who do it all the time.

    (This material is public domain. It's already been posted in the ebay discussion forums, where several of the GOOD hardware dealers came out of the woodwork, and applauded the concepts.)

  • by Flounder ( 42112 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @07:09AM (#4430996)
    I'm a small time seller trying to make some money through fraud. I am incensed that the "Power Sellers" are allowed to commit fraud with no repercussions from eBay. Yet, the small businessman like myself is screwed out of millions of dollars of stupid buyer's money. It's favoritism! It's nepotism! It's discriminationism! It's alot of other -ism words!
  • Phantom bidding (Score:3, Insightful)

    by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @12:47PM (#4432987) Homepage Journal
    I've had phantom bidders try to get me to pay more than I bid for an item. The seller contacted me after the auction and said "Oh, I just happen to have another of these items, would you like to buy it at the winning price?"

    I told him I knew he'd been phantom bidding, and he could go eat the eBay fees. If fewer eBay users were gullible idiots, phantom bidders wouldn't be such a problem--they'd end up losing money.

    Having said that, there's clearly a problem in that eBay makes more money the higher the final bid--so it's in their financial interest not to act on charges of (successful) phantom bidding.

Parkinson's Law: Work expands to fill the time alloted it.