back to article Ukrainian eBay scam turns Down Syndrome man into cash machine

In late September, Mark Hartman received an email from eBay's Trust and Safety department informing him that his bid on a high-end road bike had been canceled because the auction was suspected to be fraudulent. There was only one problem: He had already mailed a cashiers check for for more than $1,500 to a man 2,300 miles away …


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  1. sean

    is it just me ...?

    ... or are ebay going at this in completely the wrong way?

    their site is gonna end up with a bad rep and thence no customers if stories like this continue doing the rounds. and that will happen unless ebay themselves start being just a little more active in help in people when situations like this arise.

    that would be my view anyway.

  2. Andy Bright

    Stop Using eBay

    I'm sorry for the people that lost money, and I'm not suggesting they are fools or anything useless like that. But surely having seen these scams increase exponentially over the last few years it is time to say bye to eBay and other online auction sites.

    Obviously there is a problem with trust now. It's great The Register is publicising these scams, and the more media outlets that do so the better.

    However eBay will have no incentive to change their policy on assistance if people keep using it. I know I won't. I haven't been scammed, but the warnings are there for everyone to see. Accounts are obviously too insecure, there's no legitimate policy to refund victims and zero accountability from eBay.

    Paypal is not exactly a failsafe method of payment either, because often you are not covered if you use any form of payment other than direct transfer from your bank to your Paypal account. If you use a secondary source of funding, such as a credit card, Paypal will warn you that you're not covered by their refund guarantee.

    So the answer is to stop using online auction sites until their owners offer real solutions to fraud - such as full refunds regardless of the method of payment.

    I really feel sorry for the people that lost thousands, after all they did everything they were told to do.

    eBay make huge profits from these auctions, legitimate or otherwise. They obviously don't take security seriously though, because if what I'm reading is right, too many accounts are being hijacked for this to be a simple case of "some nitwit used an easy-to-crack password". My guess (and it is just a guess) is servers were hacked, and account details were stolen then sold online.

  3. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    As if the Mules are completely innocent...

    Come now, are people that naive?

    Someone wants to send money into your bank account, you take a percentage then forward it to another bank account overseas but you cant said it as one big payment you have to break it up into smaller payments... Am i the only one that immediately looks at that and says "wow, that sounds extremely dodgy!".

    As for not being able to track it down at the other end. Western Union require you to present photographic id and sign for it when you pick up money in another country and they require full details of the person your sending to. Surely, those details can be obtained without too much problem from Western Union? That may only lead to another mule but each step brings you closer to the scammers!

    Money always leaves a trail... If the banks/money transferrers were serious in stopping scammers they could do it with ease...

  4. Richard Freeman
    Paris Hilton

    Is it just me or ?

    Let me get this straight someone (well two peole actually) purchased a car over Ebay (ok this bit is fine) then they sent a cheque or direct deposit off without actually seeing the car in the flesh as it were?

    this sounds strange to me - a couple of suggestions here though:

    Do not spend anymore on Ebay than you are prepared to lose and/or for any large purchases use a cashiers Cheque and pick the item up yourself (cashiers cheques can often be stopped and anyway if you pick the item up you do not have to hand the cheque over until you have seen the item)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Change of law needed

    In the UK we have something called the Consumer Credit Act. One of its provisions makes the banks jointly liable for any losses that a customer suffers as a result of an unfulfilled credit card transaction -- within certain limits.

    It works well, increasing confidence in credit cards as a method of purchase. Indeed, people will deliberately buy only from companies that accept credit cards, simply because they have minimal protection if they buy by any other means. It also prevents the banks from being too complacent and washing their hands of problems. If the customer loses, then ultimately the bank loses too.

    So, why not an Online Auctions act, making online auction sites jointly responsible for losses suffered by the site's buyers and sellers and making them wholly responsible for any losses by buyers where the seller is discovered to have given a bogus identity?

    Such a law would strengthen ebay, not weaken it, because it would have to adopt measures to positively verify the identity of its sellers -- and in doing so, would greatly strengthen its trustworthiness and reputation in much the same way as credit cards are trusted because of the CCA.

    However, the law would have to be carefully drafted to ensure it fully encompasses indirect frauds made possible directly or indirectly by a listing on the site and not just those listings where the seller has followed the site's rules and accepted payment through the site.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Change of law

    Anonymous coward - you are right a change of law is required. The UK Consumer Credit Act is useless against online auction sites and payment methods such as Paypal even if a credit card was used in the transaction.

    But what beats me is why anyone would hand over money for an expensive item they haven't seen first hand. (although sight of the item is itself not a complete protection as it may merely be stolen or shoddy goods).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    that's going a little far.

    I mostly agree with you, AC, but I don't see why eBay should be held responsible when people break its rules by sending payment for things outside of its site.

    Asking for payment outside the site is done to cheat eBay of its cut, (the auction never shows as successfully sold so no fees are paid beyond the initial listing, as I understand it, please correct me if I'm wrong) so it's already a victim itself in a transaction like that -- it's unfair in the extreme to then turn around and say "by the way, even though these people cheated you and the buyer ignored everything you had to say about not sending payment outside the site, you're responsible for covering his losses because he got scammed."

    If they sent payment through the site, well and good, eBay should help them because eBay profited from the scam and the buyer was acting in accordance with all the rules. If they pay outside the site, tough. They've helped defraud eBay and therefore eBay has no obligation to them.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Correction on Paypal "buyer protection"...

    Actually, Paypal has plenty of ways to weasel-out of coverage if you pay directly through a bank transfer with them (if they can't recover the money from a fraudulent seller, oops, you weren't covered after all, sorry). Buyers are only truly protected using Paypal with a credit card. That's not because of anything Paypal does, it's simply that anyone who uses a credit card for a transaction can dispute the charge directly if the seller fails to perform. Paying with a credit card offers at least some level of protection against fraud since the CC companies have rigged the system against merchants, so they have a means to recover their customers' money.

    It used to be that eBay was a good place to buy goods that were, in all likelihood, stolen. But now that greed has gotten the best of dupes like Joseph (only almost all of the rest of them should know better than a mentally-impaired fellow), eBay seems to be a good place for selling nothing but an illusion or a dream to other greedy people looking for a steal, for cold hard cash.

  9. David Wilkinson

    eBay could improve their security if they felt like it.

    Maybe they should implement a proper escrow service to hold funds prior to shipping, then released after delivery.

    Maybe sending snail mailing sellers a letter with some one use codes needed for purchase over a certain amount. Sell something for over $500, enter password & scratch off a code.

    Fraud would be a lot harder if you had to hijack a sellers account and steal their mail.

    I am just saying there are a lot of things they could do.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Am I the only one

    who views this as an attack plain and simple on the integrity of the whole ecommerce notion of purchasing things from sellers online.Ebay need to be blocked, boarded up and their servers sold, to pay these people back you run a basically crooked shop full of scams and stolen goods you need to go jail.Hang em high or at least take their credit cards.I wish the police of any country would spend the time and effort on this den of thieves as they do on chip modders and mp3 collectors.

  11. jolly

    An easy e-bay rule/message for auctions closing over £x

    I don't understand why ebay can't have a rule stating something along the lines of "if you buy an item without a credit card for more than £x (say, £2000) the seller must meet you to complete the transaction and exchange the payment for the goods being auctioned". At least then sellers couldn't use a non-credit card payment option for goods being sold overseas and buyers would be protected from sellers who insist on lots of money without first producing the actual goods.

    Why anyone would send lots of money for something they haven't seen is beyond me but a simple system where ebay emails both the buyer and seller of an auction that closes with a high sale price reminding them not to give cash or cheques for goods unseen/undelivered can't be that hard to implement.

  12. Greg

    Anonymous coward misunderstanding

    Which, by the way, leads me to talking of the cut:

    >eBay make huge profits from these auctions, legitimate or otherwise.

    someone said above.

    Note that eBay is NOT making profit from those scams (and so it is - rightfully - cheated from its cut, though not in any way because of the buyer).

    eBay is cheated of its cut simply because the auction finishes, then because it was all done correctly, eBay charges the eBay account of the seller for the fee, and the seller, depending on his settings, either is automatically taken the money from his bank account, or has to pay in a certain amount of time or be banned/prosecuted.

    Of course, the scammer expects the account to be banned in a short timeframe because as soon as the items start not arriving, the scam cannot go on.

    So there is no incitation for him to actually pay eBay's fee, and he won't (all the more so since to do that he'd have to provide access to his bank account).

    So eBay won't be seeing its share of the scam's money, which we can consider fortunate.

  13. Trevor Watt

    My eBay account got hijacked

    My eBay account got hijacked and eBay assured me that someone had guessed my password. Yet my pasword was a randomly generated 64 hexadecimal characters key. Yea, right eBay, someone just guessed it!

  14. Cameron Colley
    IT Angle

    "Let the cat out of the bag."*?

    I'm not really sure why this should be seen as a problem with eBay? Seems these people were caught by a trick far older than the internet, or the telephone for that matter. Buying anything without first inspecting the goods is risky. Admittedly, everyone does this nowadays, but most of us reduce the risk by buying from large companies that we are referred to by trusted sources -- not random strangers selling random cut-price items.

    If people haven't got the hang of the fact you don't buy a "pig in a poke"* then that';s hardly the fault of eBay or the internet.

    (*yes, I realise the origins of these phrases may be disputed)

  15. lansalot
    Thumb Down

    slow ebay..

    'Fraud' only happened to me once with a Gameboy game I bought for the kids. When it turned up, it was clearly counterfeit. So I left the guy some appropriate feedback, but as it actually worked I let it slide. About 2 months (yes, months) later, I receive an email from ebay advising me not to complete the transaction because the seller may be selling counterfeit items.

    This was long after I had already paid (through paypal, I might add) and received the item, and the feedback thing had been done on both sides.

    Textbook case of shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted. Well done, ebay !

  16. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Cancel the cheque?

    Banks can cancel a cheque, so what is this story about?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Easy solution....

    I have bid for and purchased high price vehicles and also avoided scams... prior to bid ask seller if they are prepared to deal with cash and personal pickup. If not no bid .. if yes travel with someone else and have them retain cash elsewhere until you have examined goods.. simple really.

  18. Lee Staniforth

    Re: An easy e-bay rule/message for auctions closing over £x

    ... then you'd see the scams change the price of the item to just under the threshold.

    You *cannot* code around stupidity/common sense.

  19. stalker

    Caveat Emptor

    I've bought three motorbikes and two cars off of ebay, and aside from the usual stuff you take your chances with (ehxaust starting to blow three days after I bought it, damn!) never had any problems...

    However (and heres the kicker) I always take steps to protect myself:

    1. I always run a HPI check to make sure its not a ringer

    2. I insisted on seeing it BEFORE I bid

    3. If I can't see it, I won't pay a penny till I get to look at it (even if I win) and if its not as stated in the ad, I'll walk away (I have done this before, but to be sure it was not immaculate, as stated...unless you like rusty wheel arches lol)

    4. If I have seen it and then bid I will pay a deposit, via paypal, so I'm covered, and only a nominal amount (enough to say yeah, I'm coming, but not enough that I'd be devastated if I lost it).

    No way would I send that amount of money through the post for something I hadn't seen or couldn't go collect myself, cash in hand. I really feel for these people being duped out of so much money, and yes, ebay etc should be doing more to help, but in the careful!

  20. Joe

    Simple solution?

    If someone has hacked your eBay account, they haven't necessarily hacked your email, right? How about this - whenever an eBay user tries to add a new auction, it sends them a confirmation email with a link they have to click on before it is listed. This would minimise fake auctions from hacked accounts in one simple blow!

    But, of course, we all know that the banks and eBay and PayPal don't care if customers are defrauded - because the scammers are also customers, and they're making money either way. It's just not in their financial interests to be too bothered about it.

    Finally - I don't think I'd buy anything for more than £100 off eBay without going to check it out and collect it myself!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    If only

    The authorities in this country were as accommodating. I ran an online shop until recently and I had a fraudulent order. Before I'd realised the goods were out the door.

    When I ran Royal Mail asking them to return to sender (It was a Special Delivery item with senders info on, which I verified) they flat out refused telling me it wasn't their problem. So I rang the police station near to the "customer". "That's nothing to do with us sir"

    Yea.. thanks.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Escrow services...

    ... Escrow was actually one of the first options available to eBayers. It just was never very popular because it could be abused just like PayPal and others are.

    Escrow required the buyer to pay the escrow service, who would hold the money until the buyer indicated that they had received their item. Fraudulent buyers would claim that they hadn't, they would have their money returned, and the seller was up the creek without the goods.

    That's where Paypal got its in... it was easy, it was funded directly from your bank account or credit card, and (supposedly) gave both sides an equal chance. Now that eBay owns the joint, sellers still can get the shaft from fraudulent buyers.

  23. kevin elliott

    Unfair Article

    This article paints the bad side - but leaves out Ebay's actually doing.

    My Ebay account was hijacked without my knowledge, ebay picked it up, changed the password and let me know (roughly) what was going on and warned me that I may get some warning messages as a result of the fraudulent transactions. I should ignore them.

    What confused the issue was that the initial notifaction from ebay was in german, so I had difficulty understanding it and was suspicious of phishing/other fraud.

    The article's author knows this and has seen the correspondence, but has conveniently left out ebay's side - I wonder why. Perhaps it makes the story better, but ebay deserve a fairer article.

    Ebay are facing some very sophisticated fraudsters. Detection/correction is difficult. The ebay phishing schemes are sophisticated and convincing. Ebay have gone a long way to enable us to verify the validity of messages purporting to originate from them. As I've found out, fortunately without suffering loss to myself or my rating, ebay are activly working against these scams. Perhaps they could do more, but articles like this paint a very one-sided picture.

    Dan it's time to redress the balance - do a piece on ebay and what they're doing to fight the scammers, I realise there'll be limitations on what you can publish, but they deserve a fairer press.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ebay aren't saints, but...

    ... I can't help thinking the people with "diminished cognitive abilities" in this picture are the ones who entered into deals which were clearly dubious - I'm no ebay expert (bought a handful of bits [1]) but I know that payment off-site in non-refundable form may save a few dollars or it may lose a whole lot more.

    eBay's your Sunday market writ large. There may be some decent stuff, there's a whole load of very very dodgy stuff. Would the world be a better place without eBay? Don't know. Would there be less scams without eBay? Absolutely. Are eBay motivated to do anything about it? I doubt it...

    [1] My worst online trading experience wasn't on eBay but it later emerged that the same trader is on eBay where his feedback was (to put it politely) mixed - if I'd seen it, Jamie wouldn't have got my order for £200 of nest box and islands which ended up being THREE MONTHS late... telephone and recorded delivery contact ignored, we ended up phoning a nearby address to see if Jamie actually still existed.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    eBay bashing is fun but WU make anonimity easy

    419 scammers and check scammers use mules like this all the time. You don't need a photo to get the cash you supply the name location and a security number and the scammer walks in with the same information and walk away with the cash. The lads from Lagos even have people inside WU offices. If you've been a victim cehck out and if you wish to see some of these scammers getting their their comepunce check out The people running these sites know a great deal about these sort of frauds and may be able to help.

  26. david gomm

    ebay unsuitable for large value transactions

    It would seem clear from this arcticle that the current ebay mechanisms for transaction handling are completely unsuitable for large value (>$1000) transactions.

    It would seem there is a gap in the market for someone...

  27. Greg

    Anonymous coward misunderstanding

    >Asking for payment outside the site is done to cheat eBay of its cut, (the auction never shows as successfully sold so no fees are paid beyond the initial listing, as I understand it, please correct me if I'm wrong)

    I'll gladly correct you.

    Asking for payment outside the site is not cheating eBay at all, you're getting confused with concluding the auction outside the site.

    Here the aucion is concluded ON site. It's simply that once you have finished the auction and you have to pay, you can choose whatever payment method buyer and seller can agree on, and that NOT cheating eBay of its cut at all which is based on the auction finishing with a buyer, not ever on the means of payment (though Paypal, if used, is taking another, unrelated cut, but that's something different).

    Those sales were completely legit and the buyer was not tryig to cheat/help cheat eBay.

  28. Martin Benson

    Perhaps I'm being cynical....

    ...but for heaven's sake! Why would ANYONE use eBay to purchase a seriously high value item (say, anything over a grand?). Come to that, why would anyone buy ANYTHING expensive in what is effectively a private sale between two individuals? Even if the item itself is not fraudulent, and even if the person was selling it in good faith, you've still got absolutely no comeback if it goes wrong.

    Oh yes. I know. You save a bit of money, but with a bit of increased risk.

    I may sound a bit harsh, but as far as I'm concerned, if you buy from eBay, then you are taking an increased risk in return for a possible bargain. Losing your money is part of that increased risk.

    Sorry, but caveat emptor. It should be written in HUGE LETTERS on the front of eBay. It's a great service, and the idea of shutting down eBay because some people get scammed is on a par with closing the Exchange and Mart magazine for the same reason.

    People forget. Ebay doesn't buy or sell. It provides a service (at a cost) to bring buyer and seller together. And I for one am getting sick of the whinging so-and-so's who want to get a bargain on eBay but are not prepared to accept the increased risk in trying to get that bargain.


  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Big ticket items

    Thousands of dollars? Sent to who-knows-where in payment for goods which might or might not exist? I'm sorry, but people like Pflugmacher, Liddy and Hartman are credulous fools.

    One of the basic functions of the rules around establishing businesses is to build a framework of trust within which transactions can be conducted with confidence. Things like registered addresses, registered accounts, named Directors and the like mean that you can have a fair prospect of at least squabbling with the Banks over the remains when they are done for fraud. Trading with private individuals rather than corporate entities is always going to be associated with a higher risk of fraud, and the higher the value of the transaction, the higher the risk.

    The mules should be prosecuted under whatever money-laundering legislation is in place where they undertook their criminal activities. If the court finds them mentally incompetent, then fair enough, but only Joseph stands a chance of getting off on those grounds. The others are either ignorant (no excuse) or complicit in nefarious activity.

  30. Stu

    Very dubious profit making tactics

    Its plain and simple, I've used Ebay for years, Its clear as crystal that they are simply happy to profit from ALL auctions, scams included, by their ebay (repeat) listing fees, otherwise via their extortionate PayPal fees.

    The evidence is there, they have NEVER made worthwhile attempts at resolving the trust issue, the feedback mechanism remains their primary trust checking point, and it has never been sufficient.

    Whilst the suggestions made above are great, I for one would love to see Ebay more liable for losses, it would have to be carried out globally though! I would also argue that Ebay would block this 'legislation' at every point they could. Why? See my first paragraph - theyve got to love the current status quo!

    The other simple premise that will keep Ebay from dying a death is that they list auctions that provide people with absolute bargains - and that is all that most people see. Greed is the primary motivator I think for everybody who shops on Ebay over that of a normal shop. That and rare product availability which is always a grey area.

    However I'm hoping things are changing, they appear to be, take a look at Ebays share price chart over 5 years! -

    A definite downward slope.

    I tread extremely lightly when shopping on Ebay, I look for sellers that have traded regularly, successfuly and have not shown any 'pauses' in trading since they started. I dont trade with anybody that have changed their IDs either without close scrutiny and the golden rule is to NEVER buy anything above £50. Over time I'll be lowering it as my confidence reduces.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Why are the mules not prosecuted?

    I’ve been on juries for things like tax evasion and one of the consistent things the judges say in their instructions to the juries is that willful ignorance does not get the defendant off the hook. Turning a blind eye to the wrongdoing of their partners so that they don't directly witness "anything" does not make them innocent. In other words, if their common sense should have told them what they were doing didn't pass a smell test, and it turns out they were in fact contributing to illegal acts, that’s sufficient to nail them.

    The whole “story” given to these mules when they agree to act as straw men for the scammers is sufficient to tell the mule they are joining an illegal operation.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sheer Stupidity

    There's lots of reasons to send money before seeing things you've purchased from ebay - laptops etc all cost a good few quid, yet are very each to ship.

    However, if you're buying something that's collect-only, especially a car, you'll be needing to go fetch it anyway, so it's sheer stupidity to pay anything more than a nominal deposit upfront.

    People will always be out to scam other people, it's the way of the world and the only reason we hear about it on ebay so much is that so many people use ebay.

    The only reason the percentage of scammers will be higher on ebay than in other avenues is that the mean savviness of the world's 'net users is far lower than in other situations.

  33. Anonymous Coward


    If there is any misunderstanding about what ebay is and isn't responsible for then it should put up a message on every page in big bold letters - "If you pay by sending a cheque, cash, postal orders or bank drafts to vendors then you are more tan likely engaging in fraud and helping to fund criminal organisations. By not paying via the ebay paypal system you are assumed by ebay to be aware of this and to have accepted that you may never recieve the goods you have paid for and that you will probably never get your money back. Ebay takes no responsibility for buyers lack of common sense or if they have a rose tinted view of the world".

    Oh, and the serious fraud office, financial standards authority and the office of fair trading should all ivestigate ebay and paypal right now.

  34. Jason Irwin

    There's one born every second

    If these people pay for something through an untraceable/unrecoverable means (i.e. not backed by a credit card) then that's their own fault. Can they really be that pathetically stupid?

    It'd be nice to live in a world where you can trust folks, but we don't live in that world. The fact that people still all for these scams staggers me. Don't send cash, don't pay by cheque, don't use wire transfer, don't pay for big ticket items without seeing it; and (the big one) if it's too good to be true, it probably isn't true!

    The only way to be safe on eBay is to use PayPal backed by a credit card and if it all goes pear-shaped to beat PayPal over the head with the backing of your CC company should they not perform (although PP were really helpful when I got stiffed by a deadbeat seller.)

  35. Trygve Henriksen

    Why doesn't eBay do something about the hijackings?

    When these occur, doesn't the scammer need to divert the emails sent from eBay to another account?

    Why doesn't eBay send a 'verify new email address' message to the old address before accepting the new one?

    Or at least a message that it has happened?

    (Same for snail-mail adresses. Send out a message, then, too)

    If they can do it on PayPal, why not on eBay?

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not an Online Auctions act?

    Because they're offshore? or if they're not already they will be as soon as you increase the cost of them doing business..

    Regarding the woman who couldn't travel to Ohio to persue a small claim, why does she have to? Surely the police will be prosecuting the person, if not for the fraud then for money laundering offences?

    I don't see this is e-bays problem, you don't blame the shopping centre when you buy somehting dodgy in the market hall do you?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC, Re: Escrow services...

    Anonymous, the problem with eBay's escrow was a problem with *eBay's* escrow, not a problem with escrow in general.

    In many escrow arrangements, it is necessary for both parties to sign off on final transfer or refund. Had eBay offered that, they wouldn't have suffered the rash of frauds that they did -- and everyone said so at the time.

    Solving disputes on the basis of delivery notes would have involved employing humans, which is a sin in the religion of Technoutopianism. Dealing with disputes in court eBay would mean negotiating juristictions. Another job for (spit) humans.

  38. Greg

    Please read other people's posts...

    Joe, you should read what the other say, not just come and say something false which has already been trashed before.

    ""But, of course, we all know that the banks and eBay and PayPal don't care if customers are defrauded - because the scammers are also customers, and they're making money either way. It's just not in their financial interests to be too bothered about it.""

    eBay is NOT making money out of scammers.

    Scammers don't pay eBay fees so eBay makes exactly 0 cent.

    Read above.

    As opposed to that, though eBay gains nothing frmo the scams, it would COST them to do something against it. And it seems to cost them less in lost business because of lowered image than what solving the issue would cost. That's all there's to it.

    No need to invent false reasons.

  39. Daniel B.

    Escrow / MercadoPago

    The Escrow service is available in the Latin American version, Mercado Libre. Take in mind that over here, scams are so common that the exact opposite mindset is taken on anything you can't see. We begin with the assumption that "the other party" is trying to scam me. So, you pay on the "MercadoPago" system, and the seller sends you the item. If you get your stuff, you "free" the payment. If you don't ... well this is the good part:

    - You cry wolf. Then the legalese part of the site kicks in, and investigates *both* claimants to check if it really was a fraudulent operation, or if its a case of a fraudulent buyer. So you got it, both sides covered. And *no* paypal, the "MercadoPago" system kind of covers that part.

    Of course, these systems are in place after mass scamming on the site; but its fully functional since at least 2005. Why hasn't eBay picked up???

  40. Paul

    What I dont get...

    Is why EBay dosent seem to be coverd by the same laws as auction houses.

    If they sell somthing stolen they are in the shit, the same if the goods are not deliverd after payment. How come EBay can wash its hands of these things?

  41. Haku

    Rule #1 of using eBay

    Never buy or sell what you can't afford to lose if the transaction go tits up.

    I've been using eBay for almost 8 years and had a lot of fun buying and selling stuff, in over 1000 transactions I've been scammed 2 or 3 times, but for amounts not over £30, on one occasion I was more pissed that I didn't get the item than lose the money. The early days were nice, contact with your buyer/seller was more friendly but since they introduced the no visable email addresses almost anywhere and contact through their own internal system, it all feels rather cold.

    You can buy dozens of things and not have to type anything in except the bid amount and your eBay & PayPal passwords, it all feels like a big shop now so no wonder people are getting even more pissed about being scammed with no recourse, blaming eBay for their losses.

  42. My Opinion
    Thumb Up

    Large unseen eBay purchases can be successful!

    This is in answer to those above who say an eBay buyer shouldn't part with anything more than a small amount of money without seeing what they are buying.

    I did consultancy for a couple of years for an eBay seller who specialised in used car sales.

    We built the business very quickly and in the second year sold over £3,000,000 of cars! As our reputation (ie: feedback) grew more and more people were happy to bid on the auction and win, then use BACS/CHAPS to transfer the money and a delivery fee to us, whereupon we had a natioanl delivery company transport the car from us to the buyer.

    The first the buyer would see of the car was after they had paid for it and it was sitting in their drive!

    We received excellent feedback - the secret was always to describe the car very accurately, have lots of very good photos, etc.

    Unfortunately there are scams, but more often than not it is buyers who are too greedy in their expectations and who do not take reasonable precaution when making the purchase. Has the seller sold this sort of item lots of times in the past? Is their feedback good for items of this sort? Am I sending money to an account and location that has a name related to the information I can see in the auction/feedback/from eBay?

    If the buyer acts sensibly there is no reason why they can not make a successful unseen purchase for a sizeable sum of money.

    The largest transaction we made where money was received before shipment of the car was £26,000.

  43. Simon Greenwood

    re: Cancel the cheque?

    A banker's draft or cheque is cleared funds from your account and can only be cancelled if it hasn't been cashed. It would be incredibly easy to put the cheque in the bank and then cancel the auction. Most if not all banks will honour a banker's cheque immediately and once it has been cleared there's little or no recourse without legal action.

  44. Ian Ferguson


    I've been conned a little like this but in a reverse way; I was the seller of a £300 phone, and the buyer paid through PayPal, received the goods then vanished. It then turned out that he was using stolen credit card details; the card company did a chargeback on PayPal, who then billed me for the money. I initially refused to pay but had to when they referred the debt to a collection agency.

    PayPal are owned by eBay and neither outfit were remotely interesting in even listening to my concern, let alone helping me. I wouldn't even say they have poor customer service; it is non-existent, bordering on criminal negligence. I have spent a good deal of effort on warning people NOT to use eBay OR PayPal since; my slightly selfish aim is to make sure eBay loses out financially through my word of mouth to at least the £300 cost of the phone, as I place the blame squarely on them for making the theft so easy and untracable.

    Hell, if I was less honest, I would have taken a different lesson away from the experience; that it is incredibly easy to commit fraud through eBay, and you won't get caught.

  45. Dalen


    I, for one, would never use eBay to buy anything over $100.

  46. Eduard Coli

    SafeHarbor versus caveat emptor

    eBay has always had this Jekyll and Hyde affair with it's users money.

    On one hand its all smiles, bright and shiny Safe Harbor your money is safe with us and then in very very small print caveat emptor a link to no not us, it's your problem.

    It is really hard to trust payment to a given seller on eBay as they are hands off because it would cost them money and they might incriminate themselves as accessory.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    I got scammed on ebay...

    Turns out the sellers account got hijacked (as mentioned by others). This was a Power Seller, with 100% positive feedback.

    I've lost £150, and can only hope that PayPal's "buyer protection" pays up. Fat chance: it turns out this so-called protection only applies if the money is still in the seller's account!

    Deceptive marketing? Thanks, ebay!

  48. Mark Hartman

    Me, the credulous fool

    I'm not certain of Anonymous Coward's location -- the UK perhaps -- or his/her familiarity with how business is done on ebay, but the WHOLE IDEA of the forum is to bring together buyers and sellers to exchange merchandise where it is not ordinarily possible due to enormous distance between the parties. It would be absurd to hop a plane and travel 2,300 miles to take a look at a bike for sale. For local swaps, is certainly preferred, but you just can't always find what you want on a local level.

    Secondly, I still have faith in the ebay feedback forum as a good indicator of whether or not a seller is honest or should be avoided. Of course, when an account is hijacked as in my case, all bets are off. That's the REAL issue here, after all: the security of member accounts on ebay.

    As far as trusting someone I don't know by sending personal funds via a cashier's check, I have some interesting data since nearly losing $1,500 a few months ago: Since that time I have contacted 12 ebay members regarding similar merchandise to see if they would be willing to sell their bikes using ebay's I offered to pay all associated fees and pointed out the transaction would save each of them a rather hefty paypal fee, since they are paid the full amount of the auction directly by Of the 12, all refused but one, and that particular person had a (0) feedback rating. Invariably, the reply was "There's nothing in it for me."

  49. Mark Hartman

    Paypal compensation limits

    Just an addendum to the story that Paypal limits the amount of compensation to standard merchandise to $200 unless the seller meets a rigorous set of criteria, which any scammer obviously doesn't meet. When you're talking about being scammed out of several thousands of dollars, a $200 remittance from Paypal will not go far in assuaging the anger and frustration of being fleeced.

  50. Simon O'Hare

    My Ebay scam alert auction

    I'm attempting to publicise a very widespread Ebay memory scam -

    Feel free to tell your friends and not buy USB memory sticks from t'internet.

  51. Ian Ferguson

    Re: Please read other people's posts...

    Greg said: 'eBay is NOT making money out of scammers.'

    Yes they are - maybe not from scam sellers, but certainly out of scam buyers. If you've been the victim of fraud when selling something on eBay, they couldn't care less - they'll still charge you the same.

    As I keep saying - my personal opinion, don't use eBay or PayPal. Ever.

  52. Simon O'Hare

    Forum Style

    Having followed a lot of Ebay scam stuff, the thing that really occurs to me is that it needs a forum style element so you can comment on auctions. This works very well for the various 'For Sale' forums I frequent (where items of well over £1000 regularly change hands) and nobody scams anyone.

    Changing Ebay into a community which can police itself but resort to mods would help hugely in preventing the better known but still very widespread scams.

  53. Dale Morgan

    I used to be an ebay regular...

    until about 2 years ago when i relised how dodgy it was, 6 months after I stopped using it someone hacked my account, I hacked it back and deleted all my info and never used ebay again.

    Their security is crap, the password I use can't be bruteforced, it was obviously a scripted hack and with ebay giving people free access to stick as much code as they like on their auction pages its only a matter of time until people stumble on it and get nailed by CSS/Cookie stealing.

  54. Anonymous Coward

    A real phishingly good example of the recruiting process...

    This is an actual email I received, including headers and sans my identifying information. Odd characters were the hidden links.

    potential schmuck-path: <>

    X-Spam-Checker-Version: SpamAssassin 3.2.3 (2007-08-08) on

    X-Spam-Level: ****

    X-Spam-Status: No, score=4.8 required=5.0 tests=BAYES_50,DATE_IN_PAST_03_06,



    MISSING_MIMEOLE autolearn=no version=3.2.3

    Received: from ([])


    (Sun Java System Messaging Server 6.2-6.01 (built Apr 3 2006))

    with ESMTP id <> for; Fri, 09 Nov 2007 12:38:13 -0500 (EST)

    Received: from ([])


    (Sun Java System Messaging Server 6.2-6.01 (built Apr 3 2006))

    with ESMTP id <> for (ORCPT; Fri,

    09 Nov 2007 12:38:13 -0500 (EST)

    Received: from (HELO

    ([]) by with ESMTP; Fri,

    09 Nov 2007 12:38:11 -0500

    Received: from ([])

    by with SMTP; Fri, 09 Nov 2007 12:38:12 -0500

    Received: (qmail 36075 invoked from network); Fri, 09 Nov 2007 17:38:11 +0000

    Received: from unknown (HELO localhost)

    ( with login)

    by with SMTP; Fri, 09 Nov 2007 17:38:11 +0000

    Date: Fri, 09 Nov 2007 12:34:54 +0000

    From: Madalyn Snider <>

    Subject: have the new job for You, Potential Schmuck

    To: Potential Schmuck <> [Azle]


    Message-id: <>

    MIME-version: 1.0

    X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2800.1437

    Content-type: multipart/mixed;


    X-Priority: 3 (Normal)

    X-MSMail-priority: Normal

    Sun-Java-System-SMTP-Warning: Lines longer than SMTP allows found and wrapped.

    X-IronPort-AV: E=Sophos;i="4.21,396,1188792000"; d="scan'208,217";a="129153095"



    Original-recipient: rfc822;

    X-Bogosity: Unsure, tests=bogofilter, spamicity=0.604383, version=1.1.5


    Status: R

    X-Status: NC




    Potential Schmuck: Job offer

    We have found your resume at and would like to suggest you a "Financial agent" Njli NjM4

    vacancy. We have studied your resume and are happy to inform you that your skills ZTkx MT

    completely meet our requirements for this position.

    Njl iNj

    This is a part-time position. Your job will be to transfer money between our clients.

    Your job will consist in the following:

    Receive the check by mail

    ZT AyM

    Cash the check within a business day, excluding days off

    NG RjMm

    8% of the amount are left for yourself as a commission. You take it immediately

    MWNh ZD

    The rest of the sum is to be sent via western union to us to the address which will be OW E0OW

    mentioned in the e-mail. Transaction fees shall be paid out of the same sum.

    OW E0ZT

    Your schedule will be flexible. You will need to spend on average 1-2 hours per day, Monday-Friday.

    Nj liN

    This is a work-at-home position. All communication will be online.

    Nj liN

    This job will allow you to:

    Nj liNj

    - Develop high selfrespect and esteem. MGFk ZTU0

    - Get financial independence working only 3-5 hours per day; MGF kZTU

    - Efficiently work at home; MG Fk

    General requirements:

    Nj li

    - Ability to create good administrative reporting; YjRj ZTB

    - Willingness to take the responsibility to set up and achieve goals; Yj RjZT

    - Prior customer service experience is a good benefit; YmY zN

    - Internet and e-mail skills; Experience in online work;

    ZW Ix

    During the trial period you will be paid $1,500 per month. You will also be keeping 8 percent commission

    Nj liNj

    from every check received from our customer. With the current ammount of clients your average

    YjYz Nz

    income will be about up to $2,000 USD per month. After the trial period your base salary will go up to

    Zj FmYW

    $2,250 USD per month, plus 8 percent commission.After the trial period you may ask for additional hours or

    Nj liNj

    proceed full-time.OWJ mO

    If you are interested in this position, and would like to know more, please e-mail me

    MmRk ZDYz

    We will contact you within 2 days

  55. foxyshadis

    @kevin elliott

    "The article's author knows this and has seen the correspondence, but has conveniently left out ebay's side - I wonder why."

    That would be because Ebay never responds to queries. If their automated system picks something up and fires off an email, great - but getting the customer service to even respond to repeated requests, and oftentimes even getting the PR to say something other than no comment, is impossible.

  56. Joe

    @ Greg

    Okay, no need to fly off the handle! I wasn't suggesting that eBay intentionally encouraged criminal activity.

    So my general point still stands - eBay and the banks make more money by ignoring the problem than by solving it.

This topic is closed for new posts.

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