More eBay cautionary tales

Often, when the words eBay fraud are spoken, they're accompanied by an accusatory finger pointing to the seller.

Often, when the words eBay fraud are spoken, they're accompanied by an accusatory finger pointing to the seller. But as I described in Selling Your Laptop on eBay buyers are quite capable of trying to pull a fast one, too. (My column detailed two different fraudulent attempts to purchase my Sony Vaio laptop on eBay.)

Since that column appeared, I've heard from several laptop sellers who say they've been victimized by fraudulent buyers on eBay .

I've included excerpts from e-mail I received from two such sellers. Next week I'll share tips I've gathered from sellers (and from my own experience) for safely selling your laptop on eBay.

To Russia, With Trust

James B. Furst of Eugene, Oregon, relates the following story -- a tale not for the faint of heart.

"A few years ago, I decided to sell on eBay a relatively new Toshiba laptop my wife had purchased for me as a present. (I didn't need the laptop.) A guy who said he was an American living and working in Russia contacted me and bought the computer. He transferred the money to me via PayPal and I shipped the computer.

"A day later, eBay and PayPal both e-mailed me, claiming I had 'accessed the buyer's account fraudulently.' PayPal said it was going to investigate the sale. I sent them copies of all the e-mails that were involved in the transaction. In the end, PayPal accepted the buyer's version of what happened and gave him his money back.

"I tried to get my laptop back by contacting the Russian post office...but their postal system is much worse than ours. I even filed complaints with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission. But it was way too late for them to do anything about it, even if they could have.

"So, I lost the laptop and the money."

In a situation like this, the buyer may have used a stolen credit card obtained through a phishing scam, says PayPal spokesperson Sara Gorman. Financial institutions such as PayPal are required to compensate consumers who have had their accounts fraudulently accessed and they may hold the seller or merchant responsible for payment, Gorman explained. That's why it's important for all sellers to carefully review and follow the guidelines of PayPal's Seller Protection Policy

Hijacked to Africa

Crooks have been known to bid up an item as an eBay auction is ending, using unauthorized methods such as hijacked eBay user IDs.

That's what happened to Mary Lou Arnold of Fountain Valley, California.

"Twice in one week, our notebook auction was won by [someone using] a hijacked eBay account," she writes. "Our hijacker changed unused eBay US accounts to a shipping address in Nigeria and bid up the auction in the last three minutes."

When the fraud was discovered, eBay deleted the listing, which denied Arnold the opportunity to extend a "second chance" offer to legitimate bidders. (EBay allows sellers to give losing bidders a chance to buy an item after the conclusion of an auction in which the item didn't sell. But when eBay deletes a listing, it's as if it never existed. So there's no way to send legitimate bidders a second-chance offer.)

"EBay has to do something about this, other than removing the listing," Arnold writes. "It makes bidders more unlikely to bid again on your auction because eBay does not give a reason to the bidders for having removed the auction. EBay should monitor older, unused accounts for, and protect from, this type of fraud."

Here's eBay's response to its practice of removing listings that end in a fraudulent purchase, repeated from my earlier column on this topic: "The current process where we cancel the listing is optimized around immediately refunding the seller's full fees (listing fee and final value fee). We realize that this solution can also have its drawbacks--specifically the inconvenience to the seller of having their listing removed and also the inability to offer Second Chance Offers to any underbidders, which is why eBay is always looking for ways to improve its services to its users."

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James A. Martin

PC World
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