back to article eBay shill bid scammer convicted

Paul Barrett, a minibus hire firm boss from Stanley, County Durham, has been convicted of bidding against items he was selling on eBay in order to drive up final prices. Barrett, 39, was found guilty of ten offences under consumer protection laws passed in 2008 and 2009 to bring UK law up to European Union standards. He …


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  1. MnM


    eBay spends £6m a year saying it's countering fraud on the site

    /unique insightfulness

    1. Anonymous Coward

      No no no....!

      No... eBay dose spend £6 million a year combating fraud - meanwhile probably making £600 million a year as a result of various frauds its members partake in! If fake products sold on their site is classed as fraud that is, i'm not making any suggestions, just joking of course!

    2. Tom 35

      6m Countering fraud

      That is fraud that may reduce their fees (like taking the sale outside).

      Fraud that affects users? Who cares, not their problem. Scams that boost the selling price? That would boost the fees too, right? Bonus!

  2. Anonymous Coward

    So he commited fraud then

    Given he was only investigated due to fraud of winding back the spedo on a van by trading standards then one has to ask - why mention the bid boosting aspect! Also why are ebay trying to jump in going yeah we spent alot of money countering fraud when they didn't initiate any of this. All ebay did was provide details to the trading standards people - least how it looks from my perspective. Kinda sad to see ebay trying to gain from other peoples hard work, which is what there doing by even making any form of statement on this - especialy as they didn't drive the initial enquiry. Now ebay could of with software easily of spotted him bidding on his own auction - but did they spot that and then raise a procecution - no they did not.

    Trading standards 1

    Ebay 0

  3. Ralph B

    One Down, One Million To Go

    And then there are the long-term eBay feedback-fraud accounts. Take a look at - an account operating since 2004, exchanging puffy feedbacks comments on multiple fake-looking sales with a coterie of co-conspirators.

    What's that about? I dunno, but the fact that it can go on for 6 years with eBay stomping on it doesn't give me a whole lot of confidence of doing business there.

    1. Dom 3


      @Ralph B; dunno what evidence you have. What I see is a French trader buying CDs from the States for almost nothing and selling them in France for a profit.

  4. The Fuzzy Wotnot


    So he bid against himself using a pseudonym which contained his own name and could be linked back to the name under which he was selling the original item. This guy was allowed out in public on his own let alone run his own business?!

  5. MarkieMark1

    One - of how many though?

    Nice to see a scammer caught, although what, no chance of jail? Besides, Ebay must love the publicity even though there must have been an overwhelming case to persuade them to even lift a finger

  6. kissingthecarpet

    What an idiot

    If one is going to do that, surely one would a) use a different internet connection if possible, and b) not use a nick that contained the same name( probably best to pose as a different sex).

    Difficult to detect then, I would think - unless I'm being stupid & missing some obvious flaw in my reasoning.

    1. Just Thinking

      OK for one off sales

      It would probably be pretty easy to detect if someone was doing this sort of thing on a regular basis.

      I am assuming it is difficult to set up an unlimited number of seller accounts (you have to identify yourself to get the money).

      How would you hide the suspicious bidding patterns? The same group of people always bidding for all your sales, but never winning? That group of people never bid for anything else? None of them are ever logged in at the same time, etc

      It would be very difficult to hide from some unknown algorithm checking for unusual links between accounts - assuming eBay bothered to do this.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        easier than you think

        It's rediculous easy and it is far harder for Joe Blogg to spot it because ebay has made the bidder user id's hidden and as long as the bidders use different IP addresses and their user names are located in different zip codes then ebay ignore any reports.

        I have spoken to several sellers that know of shill bidding rings where the ring is spread across the USA and they arrange the bidding and use the reserve system to push the price of an item to the reserve and then get the unsuspecting bidder to make a bid in an attempt to win the item and it magically goes above reserve.

        Yet the same sellers when they use the buy it now option with an auction put a lower buyer it now than the items would go to under their shill bidding and usually get a first bid and no further bids. Usually it is on an item that has been "sold" several times over and then they give up and try and punt it off cheap.

  7. Graham Marsden

    One down...

    ... how many more to go...?

  8. Rob 5

    This explains a lot.

    When ebay started hiding bidders' IDs, we all thought it was to prevent us from analysing bidding patterns to ID shill bidders.

    Turns out, no analysis is needed, they're that thick. shanconpaul and paulthebusman. FFS!

  9. Neil Greatorex


    "eBay welcomed the conviction and said it spends over £6m a year on countering fraud on the site."

    Maybe eBay should have instigated the investigation, however, as usual it's someone else:

    "North Yorkshire Trading Standards began investigating"

    Dunno where the £6m goes, but it certainly ain't in investigating shill bidding. eBay as a resource is next to useless now, what with shill bidding, increased fees, buy-it-now & the fact you *never* win an auction for *less* than your maximum bid, sod em!

    Amazon is a much better place..

  10. Jon Grattage


    His name is honest, at least.

  11. Elmer Phud

    Not exactly Darwin but . . .

    'paulthebusman' FFS

    1. Andrew_F

      Re:Not exactly Darwin but . . .

      Not exactly Charles Darwin, but John "canoe man" Darwin maybe.

  12. Steve Evans

    Yeah right...

    ebay might welcome it, but they do sod all to stop it.

    This incident was stumbled upon by accident by trading standards!

    ebay don't even do basic checks like multiple accounts on the same IP one bidding on an item and the other selling.

    They even tried hiding the bidders completely, making all auctions anonymous until there was a huge "you're having a laugh" outcry.

    They're on commission after all!

  13. NightFox


    All those things you suggest.... WHY?

    Buyers hardly ever check sellers histories for any evidence of shill bidding, and despite the simplicity of automated checking and the apparent $6m ebay have spent "countering fraud", it does absolutely zip to detect or prevent shill bidding - it just leaves it all to the buyer in a caveat emptor styleee.

    So why go to the bother of using a different internet connection and a different sex ebay account name? This is hardly money laundering.

  14. John A Blackley


    So he bid against himself using two accounts with the same Christian name in them. Not the criminal mastermind of the western world then.

  15. Anonymous John

    Re "which had had its mileage reduced illegally."

    There's a legal way of doing it?

    1. Balefire

      @Anonymous John

      IANAL but I think it is legal for an importer to reduce the odometer to the correct number of miles if the vehicle is imported from a country using kilometres instead of miles. Most just note the difference on the relevant paperwork though. For example, my car's odometer shows 36k more than it's true miles as it was imported from Japan (had @94k on the clock).

      Can be a real pain when it comes to MOTs and my insurer needs reminding every time I renew that I havent managed to run up nearly 50k on a 25k policy!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I'm pretty sure that changing an odometer is perfectly legal as long as you don't try to pass off the mileage as genuine. That is to say, you can set the mileage to anything you like as long as you make the buyer aware that you have done so. Sounds stupid enough to be true to me.

      On another note, doesn't/didn't ebay have a counter that said something like "% of bids with this seller" so you could see if somebody was repeatedly bidding up the same seller? I presume this disappeared when all the ****** appeared in usernames.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Well they do try....

    yes eBay does try. They try to make it impossible for people to spot shill bidding. You just have to look at the bidding for some of the sellers that sell 99% of every item they list. Statistically that is very difficult to do unless you are selling something worth a great deal of $$$ for a penny with free shipping. Not! when the seller is selling something for several times the true market value. While all others selling similar or even the same item sell their for a few dollars or don't get bids at all.

    Yet eBay will turn a blind eye to these sellers that use the shill bidding and reserve system to rip off unsuspecting bidders off but pushing the price to just below the reserve so that the next bid becomes the buyer and if they accidentally go too high then it reappears a couple of months later back on ebay.

    It would be different if these items were an item where there was several of them but when this seller is selling unique items and they receive the feedback for the item then list the same item with the same blemishes and flaws.

    How do I know....

    I sold this person one of the unique items that has been sold a total of 6 times in 3 years. This bird bath or feeder is valued at, in even a high end antique store, a mere $39 and we sold it for $30. No only that it was chipped and cracked (makes it easy for us to spot each time). On each occasion this bird bath has hit a magical $350 dollars! EVERY TIME! Then every 90 days it appears again on ebay. The buyer gives feedback praising the wonderful quick delivery and the seller gives feedback thanking them for being great customers.

    It makes a mockery of eBay when they say they are spending a piddling little $6 million when they should be spending 10 times that instead of penalizing the honest eBay sellers with seller ratings when they allow the crooks to sell by making the bidding anonymous!

    Ebay is as much a party to the Shill bidding as the people that are doing the shill bidding!

  17. Philip Cohen

    Fraud on eBay? No, I don't believe it

    One down, only a couple of hundred thousand to go ...

    "eBay welcomed the conviction and said it spends over £6m a year on countering fraud on the site."

    And is not that the nub of the problem? eBay is spending (only) £6 million annually to rid the site of “fraud, including buyer protection programs and employees whose sole job is to monitor infringement issues”.

    On his way to virtually bringing the eBay marketplace to its knees, one person—the eBafia Don himself, the sociopath John (Peter Principle) Donahoe—was effectively taking home $20 million annually—and still we can’t get rid of him either …

    Let’s face it, anything to do with the proactive protection of its consumers from fraud is an expense that the bean-counting toads at eBay have little intention of incurring. Indeed, just the opposite, eBay has chosen to deliberately, and criminally, facilitate the defrauding of its buyers by unscrupulous sellers, by their masking of bidding aliases, from which they profit from higher FVFs.

    And, I keep wondering when they are going to pay stockholders a dividend out of all that cash they supposedly have stashed away overseas. Or is this whole business simply a short-term “pump and dump” exercise for the benefit of the options-holding executives?

    For those with a longer attention span, an evening’s entertainment of details and facts on eBay’s deliberate facilitating of wire fraud on its consumers world wide and a list of links to a number of PayPal horror stories is contained in my post at:

    Donahoe/eBay/PayPal: Dead Men Walking

  18. John Tserkezis

    Re" which had had its mileage reduced illegally.

    > There's a legal way of doing it?

    Sort of. Apparently, when changing countries, vehicle odometers are not checked with the relevant authorities in the country of origin.

    So, when the vehicle is presented to the authorities at the new country, (with the freshly turned back odometer) they take it as gospel, and from then on is documented legally.

    Of course, this is *technically* illegal. But, if you can't prove it - it didn't happen.

  19. max allan

    Shill bidding, so what?

    If the buyer bids what he wants to pay, then yes he might have spent a bit more than he could have done, but still only paid what he wanted.

    It's not like you're making people pay more than they bid somehow.

    If they originally bid more than they wanted to pay, tough.

    It's like people who complain about sniping. If you wanted to pay more for the object, put a higher bid in. If you weren't prepared to pay more for the item, then you've been outbid, deal with it. Maybe it was only by a penny at the last second, but if you'd bid 2p more, then you still could have been sniped. Always bid what you want to spend!

    Yes, some stupid people will get caught out, but who cares, they're stupid.

  20. A J Stiles

    Not worth bothering with

    Is it just me who thinks that as far as problems go, shill bidding isn't worth bothering with trying to stop? It's one of the oldest scams in the book, a straightforward appeal to greed. People have been doing it as long as they've been buying and selling stuff.

    There's already a built-in disincentive against shill bidding: if one of the vendor's shill accounts wins the goods, then the listing fee -- which goes up with the sale price -- is wasted.

    If you don't bid more than you can afford to spend (some would even say "more than you can afford never to see again"), you won't get burned.

    Mine's the one with the DVD box set of "The Real Hustle" in the pocket.

  21. Whitter
    Thumb Down

    eBay claim is fraudulant?

    Does eBay actually spend $6m for the express purpose of detecting and preventing* fraudulant selling/bidding?

    If not, that's a false buisness claim - a.k.a. fraud.

    *Yes, that's the bit we all doubt.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    moving target

    how many fraud cases have ebay actually handed over to the authorities then? A suspicious zero?

    A personal experiance; When ebay was told of a faudster and I having jumped through their hoops I was compensated, however was surprised to see that ebay then permitted the user name related to the id to be changed and its location to be changed - this was a user that sytematically sent out electronic goods that did not match their description, behaviour verified after contacting many previous customers of theirs to see if they had the same problem. Ebay satisfied that user was deceptive.

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