Thursday, May 2, 2019

eBay Scammers

Scammers use every internet platform possible to perpetrate scams.

The auction has almost ended.   The trailer sold for more than I thought it would.   We paid $8375 for it, fifteen years ago.  It is currently bid up to $7895.   That is a reasonable amount, given the price of newer ones for sale ($15,0000 to $20,000).

But then, at the last minute, I get a message and a new bid.  The user has (0) feedback and their userID was created minutes ago.   They say they are "very interested" in the trailer and would I please call them?  The number is an (805) area code, which is San Luis Obispo, California, where it is 6:45 AM right about now.

Wow, someone got up early in the morning!   Of course, they likely are overseas and using a VoIP phone number than bounced to Nigeria or Russia or somewhere.

I quickly go online and cancel the bid, and block the bidder.  It is likely a scam.   Once I block the bid, I can see their "high bid" was over $11,000, which is a lot of money for a 20-year-old trailer.   A much newer trailer in much better condition recently sold for only $12,000, so paying eleven grand for this one is just foolish.

And I doubt they would have paid it.   To begin with, the auction wouldn't have gone up that far.  The current high bidder was outbid to $7995 with this bogus bid.   The buyer put eleven grand on it to insure they won the auction.   Then the games start.  And you know how it will go:
"Can you accept a cashier's check for over the sales price?   I am having the camper shipped to California and you can wire the excess amount to the shipper!   That way I don't have to get two checks!  Thanks!"
It is the oldest gag on Craigslist and eBay - the phony cashier's check for over the purchase price scam.   Your bank "clears" the check and you wire the money to a 3rd party (likely in Russia).  Weeks later, the cashier's check bounces.  Of course, you've been wondering why the "shipper" has failed to show up and why the "buyer" hasn't returned your e-mails.   The money you wired to the third party for "shipping" - which may be $2000 or more - is gone from your account forever.   And no, you have no recourse to the bank.

Could this be a legit bidder?   That's the problem right there.   As a seller, you get greedy - here is someone who will pay a lot for my item!  All good cons rely on the greed of the victim.  So you ignore the warning signs - zero feedback and a brand-new ID that is hours old.   Nailing you right before the end of auction is also a clue, too - hoping you don't have time to spike their phony bid.

They hope their generous offer will blind you to these nagging details.   If someone really wanted to buy the camper, they should have looked at it carefully over the last ten days of the auction and made a bid early on and then contacted me as to why they have (0) feedback.   Waiting until the last hour of the auction, is, well, irresponsible.    Even if the bidder is "real" I am probably doing them a favor by cancelling their bid - they no doubt have not had time to look at the videos or even read the description.   They might be disappointed they paid too much for it.

But again, I doubt it is real.  Who gets up at 7AM and bids on campers?  No one.

Of course, they could try to "snipe" the auction at the very end, by creating yet another new ID and then bidding with minutes to go.    That is the risk you take.   If I see another bid like this, I will simply cut to the chase and end the auction early and sell to the highest bidder.

As a seller, you do have some defensive weapons you can use.   You can cancel their bid and then add them to your blocked bidder list, which prevents them from re-bidding.  And you can cancel their bids and end the auction early and sell to the highest current bidder, rather than wait for those last few minutes and worry about a bogus "sniper" claiming the win and screwing up your auction.

It is a real problem.   If one of these zero-feedback scammers "wins" the auction and then wastes your time with some bogus song-and-dance cashier's check scheme, you end up waiting weeks to sort it all out and then have to re-list the item, which as I noted previously, usually results in the item selling for a lower price - as people think that the previous buyer backed out because the goods were damaged.