A new online auction scam has emerged, targeting eBay sellers to steal high-end electronics and other costly merchandise. The fraud scheme uses eBay’s Buy-It-Now feature and a fake PayPal email telling sellers they’ve received full payment for the item.
If the scam succeeds, the unsuspecting seller ships their item, only to discover later days later that the PayPal payment receipt isn’t real.
Generally, eBay is a safer alternative to Craigslist if you’re looking for the best place to sell your laptop online without getting scammed. The online auction giant has a number of safeguards to prevent fraud and abuse, as does PayPal, the payment service owned and endorsed by eBay. The eBay community feedback system is also designed to weed out scammers from honest users.
But as always, persistent fraudsters continue to find new loopholes or technological tricks to exploit victims. Here’s more about this Buy-It-Now PayPal scam and how you can protect yourself the next time you sell on eBay:
Teenager Almost Loses $500 Laptop in eBay PayPal Scam
15 year-old Adam Perkins of Fresno, CA, recently received a new Apple iPad and then decided to sell an old laptop he no longer needed. The teenager listed the item on eBay, using the auction site’s Buy-It-Now feature, for $500. Someone bought it immediately.
According to ABC 30 News, Perkins then received two emails in short succession. One was a request from the buyer. Perkins’ mother told ABC 30:
“He said it’s my son’s birthday and we’d love for you to overnight it, so we broke our backs trying to send it,” Susan McConnell said.
The second email appeared to be a payment confirmation from PayPal, stating that the buyer had sent the $500 (and presumably a shipping fee) to Perkins’ account. Perkins and his mother scrambled to send the laptop but missed the deadline for overnight shipping.
That’s when they took a step back and realized they were almost scammed. The family reviewed the PayPal email. They noticed numerous spelling mistakes and grammatical errors that PayPal wouldn’t permit in an official company email — and a big red flag for a scam. After more investigation, Perkins and McConnell confirmed the buyer was a con artist.
If the scam had been successful, the buyer would have received Perkins’ laptop without paying a cent.
Warning Signs: How to Avoid eBay Buy-It-Now PayPal Scam
Buy-It-Now is a convenient eBay feature that allows you to sell an item at a set price right away, instead of waiting for a 7 or 10 day auction to close, but unfortunately it’s convenient for scammers, too. By purchasing the item via Buy-It-Now, a scammer can obtain your email address and send you a spoofed PayPal payment confirmation.
The good news is this scam is easy to avoid if you know the warning signs and follow a few precautions:
1. Check the Buyer’s Profile. Do they have lots of positive feedback? When did they join eBay? Where are they located? If the buyer has little to no ratings (or the ratings appear suspicious in any way), joined eBay within the past month and is based overseas, they’re more likely to be a scammer.
2. Search for the Buyer on Scambook. Search for the buyer’s name, email address, phone number or username on Scambook. If they’ve scammed anyone before, there may be complaints on our site from other victims. (But keep in mind that scammers change their names and email addresses as often as other people change underwear.)
2. Carefully Review All Alleged PayPal Emails. Look for red flags like poor spelling and grammar, “sender” emails that aren’t from an “@paypal.com” domain, or links to any site other than an https:// secure PayPal page.
3. Login to PayPal Directly to Process Payments. If you’re ever uncertain about whether an email from PayPal is fraudulent, close the email, open a new browser window, and login to PayPal directly. If the payment confirmation is real, you’ll see it there in your PayPal account. Make sure the payment is processed and the transaction is complete before sending any merchandise to the buyer.
Finally, always trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Both eBay and PayPal have great customer service departments specifically devoted to addressing fraud, so they’ll be happy to assist you if you’re not sure.
Share Your eBay and PayPal Security Secrets
Perkins and his mother narrowly avoided a scam by sheer luck; do you think they should have acted differently? What personal safeguards do you use when you sell merchandise on eBay? Tell us what you think in a comment using the form below.
And if someone has ripped you off on eBay, click here to file a complaint on Scambook.