Scammed on eBay? Here's How To Get Your Money Back

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    Did You Get Scammed by a Shady eBay Seller? Don’t Panic!

    When Simon Lane was looking for a new John Deere tractor for his farm, he thought he hit the jackpot when he found one on eBay at a below-market price. It was only later when he realized that the entire listing was a scam, and that he (along with 18 other victims who fell prey to the same scam) was out over $10,000 [*].

    While online marketplaces, such as eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace, can be great resources to locate deals or difficult-to-find items, these sites can also attract con artists and scammers. 

    The most devious criminals find ways to avoid eBay’s buyer protection features and get would-be buyers to send them either money that can’t be refunded or sensitive information that can be used for identity theft

    If you went looking for a deal and got scammed on eBay by a seller instead, it's not a lost cause. 

    In this guide, we’ll explain how the most common eBay scams work, the warning signs to look out for, and what you can do if you’ve been scammed as an eBay customer.

    How Do eBay Scams Work?

    eBay scams typically follow the same playbook as other online marketplace scams:

    • Fraudulent sellers create fake listings that include misleading information or prices that seem too good to be true.  
    • If you engage with the seller, they’ll either trick you into paying for fraudulent or broken items, convince you to send them money outside of eBay’s platform (so you can’t file a dispute), or lure you into giving up personal and financial information which they can use for identity theft. 
    • In many cases, scammers use high-pressure sales tactics that make it hard for victims to notice red flags. 

    The good news is that if you know how to shop online safely and spot common scammer techniques, you can avoid falling prey to these scams. The bad news is that eBay scammers are always enhancing and adapting their schemes to trick you into giving up money or sensitive information.

    Related: How To Tell if Someone Is Scamming You Online →

    How To Identify a Scam Listing on eBay

    Most eBay scams stem from fraudulent listings or misleading sellers. If you think an item might be fraudulent, you can look for clues in the seller’s history, feedback, and inventory. 

    Here are some red flags that could indicate a scam listing: 

    • The listing is only posted for a short duration. Scammers often want to close their sales quickly to avoid being caught. While there may be a valid reason for a short time frame (like with tickets to an upcoming event), proceed with caution and do additional research before buying or bidding.
    • The seller doesn’t have a long feedback history. While there are legitimate new sellers, be wary of those without a reasonable feedback history. Be sure to check for other warning signs before buying. 
    • The deal is heavily discounted or too good to be true. Be cautious of deals that appear too good to be true — especially for heavily discounted, high-value, or hard-to-find items (like iPhones and other electronic items). Scammers know that you’ll ignore the warning signs if you think you’ve found a “good deal.”
    • The seller requests that you contact them or pay for the goods outside of eBay. Using eBay’s payment and communication system is the only way to make sure you’re covered by eBay’s money back guarantee and buyer’s protections. Additionally, paying for items off-platform goes against eBay’s policy and can result in your eBay account being suspended. 
    • The seller wants you to use a payment system that can’t be reversed (such as cryptocurrencies, wire transfers, Cash App, Zelle, or Venmo). Scammers ask you to use alternative payments because these can’t be traced or reversed — leaving you without recourse to get a full refund. Plus, this goes against eBay’s payment methods policy.  
    • The seller’s feedback is mainly for small ticket items, and they only recently added more expensive goods. Scammers will sometimes initially sell inexpensive items (like cheap jewelry or stuffed animals) to pad their reviews and get a high seller rating. If a seller has just started selling higher-priced items, they could be trying to trick you with their overall positive rating. 
    • The seller has extra long shipping timelines. Most items shipped within the same country shouldn’t take long — a week or two (maximum) if it’s a bulky item. Delivery dates that are unexpectedly long (or high shipping costs) can suggest you’re dealing with a scammer. 
    💯 Pro tip: Protect yourself from eBay scammers with Aura's all-in-one digital security solution. Aura constantly monitors your most sensitive information, bank, credit, and investment accounts, and more for signs of fraud. Learn more about how Aura keeps you safe online

    The 9 Latest eBay Buyer Scams (and How To Avoid Them)

    1. Empty box and “photo only” scams
    2. Tracking number scams (shipping to the wrong address)
    3. Non-delivery of items not covered by a money back guarantee
    4. Shipping items with an intentionally wrong name
    5. Counterfeit or fake goods
    6. Triangulation fraud (free items bought with stolen credit cards)
    7. Asking for payment outside of eBay
    8. Phishing emails offering you a “second chance” to buy an item
    9. eBay Motors scams

    Here’s how these common eBay scams typically play out:

    1. Empty box and “photo only” scams

    eBay scammers post popular or hard-to-get items. They then try to trick you into rushing through a purchase so you’ll ignore any warning signs of a scam. For example, scammers may offer great deals on the latest gaming consoles, video games, or vintage items (like out-of-print Lego sets). 

    But hidden within the description, it will say that the listing is for the box only

    Example of a "box only" eBay scam listing
    “Box only” listings are designed to get you to speed through the purchase without looking at the details. Source: Snopes

    In another variation of this scheme, scammers list high-demand and expensive items for a low price; but somewhere in the listing, they state: “This is for a photo only” or “Actual item may appear different than photos.” When your package arrives, you discover that you purchased only a photo of the item. 

    The scammer is hoping you’ll hurry to get a “good deal” or use the “Buy Now” feature to get the item before someone else does. 

    The good news is that eBay has a “No Items Listing Policy” — so victims of this scam may be able to get their money back.

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    • Never rush a purchase. Take time to read through the listing and check the details.
    • Read every listing thoroughly to ensure that you understand exactly what you’ll be receiving.
    • If you’re uncertain about what you’ll be receiving, contact the seller through eBay’s messaging system so that your conversation will be documented. 

    2. Tracking number scams (shipping to the wrong address)

    In this scam, fraudsters take advantage of eBay’s seller protection program. To protect sellers from dishonest buyers who claim they never received their package, eBay requires a valid tracking number for each sale. 

    But shady sellers can intentionally send a fake package to the wrong address so that they can provide a real tracking number to both the buyer and eBay. 

    When the buyer contacts the seller to say they didn’t receive the item, the seller claims the tracking information shows the item was delivered — so the scammer doesn’t have to refund the buyer’s money.

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    • Before you try to make a claim, first contact the seller to see if there was an honest mistake. 
    • If the seller isn’t willing to help — or there are warning signs of a scam — file a report with eBay.
    • You can also contact your local post office to try and determine where the package was delivered (and its weight) to gather further evidence for your claim.

    📚 In the news: Jamie Blue of Cameron, North Carolina, purchased an above-ground pool on eBay — but it never arrived [*].  

    Realizing something was wrong, she tried to dispute the charge through her credit card company but was denied because the seller had proof of delivery. Next, Jamie reached out to her local post office and discovered that the package was not only delivered to the wrong address but only weighed two pounds.

    Related: How To Know If You’ve Received a Fake USPS Tracking Number

    3. Non-delivery of items not covered by a money back guarantee

    In this scam, sellers never send items you’ve paid for. While it seems like eBay should cover losses for a scam that is this obvious, there are some specific situations in which purchases aren’t covered by eBay’s Money Back Guarantee.

    You won’t be covered for non-delivery of items including:

    • Digital content (including NFTs and other intangible goods)
    • Real estate, websites, and businesses for sale
    • Services 
    • Travel tickets or vouchers
    • Classified ads
    • Motor vehicles (these are covered by Vehicle Purchase Protection instead)
    • Certain types of business equipment
    • Items sold by Sotheby’s

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    • Look for warning signs of a scam — such as not receiving a tracking link, or getting tracking information that doesn’t work. 
    • Try to avoid buying items in categories that aren’t covered by eBay’s money back guarantee.
    • Review the seller’s terms to ensure that you’re protected if the seller doesn’t follow through with sending the item. 
    • Read reviews and feedback before purchasing to see if anyone has reported being scammed by the seller.

    Related: Change-of-Address Scam: Why Scammers Want Your Address

    4. Shipping items with an intentionally wrong name

    In this scam, fraudsters go through the sale as expected — you receive a tracking number and there aren’t any issues with the payment process. However, when you receive the package, you notice that it shows your correct mailing address but is addressed to a different person.

    Scammers are hoping that you’ll assume the shipment was a mistake and return the package. If you do, eBay will consider the transaction as returned or refused, which means you’re no longer covered by eBay’s Money Back Guarantee, and you can no longer dispute the sale

    One Reddit user learned the hard way about this scam upon discovering that the seller was actually billing a different person as part of a potential identity theft scheme [*].

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    • Check your tracking information to see if your item is marked as being delivered, which would suggest the package is yours.
    • Check the address on the package. If it’s yours, open the package to see if it’s the item you ordered (or includes a receipt for the order). If it’s not, contact eBay to report that the item doesn’t match what was in the listing. 

    5. Counterfeit or fake goods

    eBay is full of listings for legitimate high-quality items. But scammers also list fraudulent or fake goods and try to get you to pay full price for them. 

    The listings will often state that the item is authentic and include photos (stolen or faked) that will lead you to believe you’re purchasing the real thing.

    Be especially careful if you’re linked to an eBay listing from a social post. Some scammers post on social media about authentic goods and then link to an eBay listing for a fake, fraudulent, or unbranded version. 

    These scams can often be large operations — like in the case of two Florida entrepreneurs, who were recently convicted of setting up dozens of eBay and Amazon FBA storefronts and selling ~$1 billion in counterfeit Cisco equipment [*]. 

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    • Dig deep into a seller’s reviews. Many scammers will sell cheap items to boost their overall rating before trying to scam people on more expensive listings. 
    • If a listing says the item is authentic, but you receive a counterfeit item, report it to eBay and ask for a refund.
    • Be cautious of buying authentic items being sold at well below market value. Before buying, contact the seller through eBay’s messaging system to ask for additional information to help you verify that it’s not counterfeit.
    • Check to see if the photos are stock photos or listed on other sites. You can do a reverse-image search using tools like TinEye to see if the photos are used somewhere else.

    6. Triangulation fraud (free items bought with stolen credit cards)

    Triangulation fraud is a sophisticated eBay scam in which fraudulent sellers use stolen credit cards to siphon funds from unsuspecting victims. 

    Here’s how it works: 

    • eBay users buy items as usual from a seller (for example, a refill of coffee pods). 
    • When the package arrives, it includes an unpurchased item of significant value (like a brand new Nespresso machine). 
    • If you reach out to the seller, they’ll explain the item was sent by mistake, but that you can keep it as a “free gift.”
    • But what’s really happening is that the seller has used stolen credit card numbers to purchase the goods, while pocketing the money that you sent for the items. 
    • When the legitimate credit card owner realizes that they’ve been defrauded, they file a chargeback that will most likely be covered by the bank or business where the card was used. 

    This scam is particularly hard to catch since, on the surface, everyone comes out ahead. The buyer gets a good deal and eBay makes a percentage off the sale. But as a buyer, keeping goods bought with a stolen credit card can put you at risk of losing your account or being investigated as an accomplice to the fraud.

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    • If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be especially cautious if you’re buying a common item and the listing is significantly cheaper than other options. In those cases, try to buy from an established eBay seller with a long selling history and lots of positive feedback.
    • If you get a freebie, assume it’s a scam and that the scammer is using stolen credit cards. Immediately report the fraudster to eBay support.

    Related: Brushing Scam: Is This Free Amazon Package Legit or a Scam?  

    7. Asking for payment outside of eBay

    eBay’s policies and security systems only protect you if the transaction occurs directly on their platform. 

    If a seller urges you to pay off the platform — especially through methods that aren’t reversible or traceable, including wire transfers, gift cards, cryptocurrency, Zelle, or Venmo — it’s almost guaranteed to be a scam.  

    Once sellers have your money, they’ll stop responding to you and never send the item. And because you didn’t use an approved payment method, you can’t dispute the transaction. 

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    • Be familiar with eBay’s payment policy and make sure you only use approved payment methods. 
    • Always communicate and pay using eBay’s system so that you’re covered by their buyer protection program. 

    💡 Related: Avoid These 8 eBay Gift Card Scams At All Costs

    8. Phishing emails offering you a “second chance” to buy an item

    It can be very frustrating to narrowly miss out on an item you wanted. That’s why eBay has a legitimate Second Chance Offer program that sellers can use when they have more of the item, the winning bidder didn’t pay, or the reserve price wasn’t met. 

    Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of this system and may:

    • Send fake emails to eBay users who didn’t win an auction item and claim they have a “second chance” to buy it. 
    • Use the eBay messaging system to indicate there’s a second chance to buy an item, but request that you wire the purchase price amount to a non-eBay email address. In this case, the con artist is often assuming the identity of a legitimate seller whose account has been hacked or who doesn’t know this is happening.

    If you fall for a fake second chance offer, you’ll pay the scammer but never receive the item.

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    • If you get a Second Chance Offer, check that the message is in your eBay message inbox as well as in the Bids/Offers section of your My eBay page.
    • Check the email subject line carefully; eBay never sends a subject line stating, “Message from eBay Member. You can forward fake emails to spoof@ebay.com
    • Never wire money to a seller or send a check directly.
    • Keep all communications and payments on eBay. (Never let the seller persuade you to move the conversation to an off-site email or messaging platform.) 

    Related: How Do Hackers Get Passwords (and How To Stop Them)

    9. eBay Motors scams 

    Buying a car through eBay Motors can be convenient — but any large purchase makes you a target for scammers. 

    During an eBay Motors scam, fraudsters create a vehicle listing and include a sob story about why they need to get rid of the car (usually to do with a family member who is sick or leaving on military deployment). 

    Example of an eBay Motors scam asking for payment in gift cards.
    Example of an eBay Motors scam asking for payment in gift cards. Source: eBay

    Then, they’ll ask you for a wire transfer or other non-reversible payment before they “ship” the vehicle to you. However, it isn’t until you send the money that you realize the vehicle doesn’t exist. 

    Other signs of an eBay Motors scam include:

    • Statements that the paperwork and car are being stored in an eBay warehouse (there is no eBay warehouse).
    • A seller who refuses to meet in person. 
    • Requests for additional fees throughout the process for shipping, gas, or other expenses. 
    • Pressure to close the deal quickly.
    • The seller offers to handle the shipping process and set it up (usually, it’s the buyer who has to take care of this step).
    • A deal that seems too good to be true or includes a sob story as to why the vehicle is being sold.    

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    • Become familiar with how vehicles are sold on eBay. Learn what your responsibilities are and when you’re protected during the sale process. 
    • Always sign into eBay (or use their mobile app) to find a vehicle, and complete the checkout process directly on eBay.
    • While you may have to make a deposit for a vehicle purchase, don’t pay by gift cards or other untraceable methods like wire transfers.

    Did You Get Scammed on eBay by a Seller? Do This

    If you’re the victim of an eBay scam, there are steps you can take to recover your money and protect others from the scam:

    • Open a refund request with the seller. eBay won’t engage with your dispute until you’ve attempted to solve it with the seller. 
    • Be cautious of sellers who keep putting you off or claiming that they’re “working on” fixing the issue. They may just be trying to prolong their scams without getting reported. 
    • If you’re unable to resolve the issue yourself, report the seller to eBay. 
    • Afterward, make sure to leave negative feedback about the seller. This will help warn other potential victims. 
    • If you paid via a different platform, request a refund through the processor. Here’s how you can request a refund through PayPal. You can also find out what to do if you’ve been scammed via Zelle, Venmo, and Cash App.  
    • If scammers have your personal or financial information, monitor your credit report for signs of fraud or identity theft.
    Take action: Aura constantly monitors your SSN, bank account, and other sensitive information for signs of fraud. You’ll receive an alert of any suspicious activity and get 24/7 help from our team of fraud resolution specialists. Get your 14-day free trial today.

    What Does eBay’s Money Back Guarantee Cover?

    eBay’s Money Back Guarantee helps protect buyers and sellers. But you have to follow eBay’s policies to be covered.

    For example, to be eligible for a refund you must complete and pay for items on eBay.com using a payment method approved by eBay. 

    As a buyer, you may be eligible for eBay’s money back guarantee if:

    • You didn’t receive the item as promised by the seller.
    • The item you get doesn’t match the seller’s listing. This can include receiving a wrong or damaged item.
    • You attempt to return an item; but the seller doesn’t follow the policy as stated in their listing.
    • The item you purchased isn’t on eBay’s excluded item list.

    As a seller, you’re required to follow eBay’s policies, including:

    • Delivering items as described in the listing.
    • Following through on their stated return policy.
    • Providing a resolution if a buyer reports a problem.
    • Taking action within the required time frames.

    How To Avoid Getting Scammed by Shady eBay Sellers

    Knowing how to avoid fake listings and scammers on eBay can ensure that you have a safe, positive experience. 

    Here are 11 ways that eBay shoppers can protect themselves against questionable sellers.

    1. Check the fine print of any listing that you want to bid on, and be sure you understand the seller’s return policy along with whether the item is covered by eBay’s money back guarantee.
    2. Research the seller’s history and inventory for signs that they could be a scammer.
    3. Document everything throughout the purchase and delivery process.
    4. Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails or texts.
    5. Always contact and interact with sellers using eBay’s platform.
    6. Don’t give eBay sellers your personal information.
    7. Know the value of what you’re buying, and don’t get blinded by “too good to be true” deals.
    8. Be wary of listings that are up for sale for only a short duration, especially  high-value or hard-to-get items that are heavily discounted.
    9. Track your shipment, and follow up within the shipping policy time frame.
    10. Never pay for goods outside of eBay or via payment systems through which you can’t get a refund or initiate a chargeback.
    11. Consider signing up for Aura’s identity theft protection with credit monitoring. 

    The Bottom Line: Shop Safely on eBay

    Unfortunately, eBay scams are on the rise, and they occur despite eBay’s attempts to provide a safe marketplace to buy and sell.

    Becoming familiar with the scams described in this guide, and knowing how to spot the telltale signs of a scammer, can help keep you safe. 

    And for added protection, consider signing up for Aura!

    Browse, shop, work, and play online — safely. Try Aura free for 14 days.

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers