Recently, I’d been scouring eBay looking for a new camera and lens for my wife’s photography business. What I discovered was quite shocking: pardon my ignorance, but there are a ton of scams out there on eBay when it comes to this type of big ticket technology! There were about 4 ‘deals’ I was interested in that turned out to scream of scam artists. If I wouldn’t have pulled back, talked to my wife, listened to my gut, and done a bit of research I’d be a wretched (and poorer) man crying, “Stupid, stupid, STUPID!”
Here’s a bit from my experiences, and what to watch for. Some of it might seems a bit redundant, as once you notice one of these rules being broken you are likely to see more of them being broken – I’m listing out a bunch even if they’re related because obviously some people are still being scammed.
I hope this is helpful for you. Remember, if you see just one of these rules being broken online there’s a good chance you’re being had by a scammer. Here we go:
1. NEVER, EVER WIRE MONEY ANYWHERE. NEVER EVER EVER!
I repeat: NEVER wire money anywhere – no matter how amazing and urgent the deal. It’s that important. It’s pretty much like handing over cash to a passing stranger wearing a mask – it’s not reversible. You might as well roll the cash up and smoke it. You’ll be left feeling sick with nothing to show for it. Better yet, you won’t be funding crooks. The cops aren’t likely to get your money back. It’s gone. One of these cameras was supposedly shipping from the USA, but they wanted the money wired to Estonia. Yeah right.
It’s not illegal to wire money. It can work, and yes, you do it at your bank so it feels legitimate. But when you come across a Money Wire request online, it’s a screaming, yelling warning for you to run like the dickens. Crooks love it because it works so well for them. Enough said. Don’t do it. Please, Pretty Please. Don’t wire money. Love you.
2. DON'T BUY IT IF YOU CAN'T USE PAYPAL OR A CREDIT CARD TO PAY
They seem to be pretty good for standing behind you if things go sideways. Mailing cash, cheques, or wiring money (getting the point yet?) can leave you high and dry (when you’d rather be low and drenched)
3. DON'T COMPLETE AN EBAY DEAL OUTSIDE OF EBAY
It’s against eBay policy. From what I read, eBay owns Paypal, so they won’t be too brokenhearted if you get swiped while breaking their rules. Some sellers like to do this because they make more money by avoiding paying eBay fees. If they don’t mind ripping off eBay, what’s stopping them from doing the same to you as the buyer?
If you try to send someone an email address within eBay messages they won’t let you do it unless you break it up sneakily, they’ve got blockers that can detect an email address. But really, they aren’t just covering their own butts, they’re padding yours as well. Thanks guys.
One such proposed deal entailed the seller getting “eBay” to email me a form to complete the deal. It looked pretty real. But that leads me to my next 3 points (man, aren’t I insightful?):
4. MESSAGES FROM EBAY SHOW UP WITHIN YOUR EBAY ACCOUNT, NOT JUST IN YOUR PERSONAL EMAIL
If you don’t see your message within eBay messages, the message was generated outside of eBay and they’re impersonating eBay to trick you. Even if it looks identical to legitimate eBay messages, it’s not!
5. CHECK FOR FUNKY EMAIL ADDRESSES
Take a good look at the email address of the sender, even if it’s from a big name like eBay or your bank. Big companies don’t use email addresses such as email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, amazon@-amazon1-on.ca. It should look more like email@example.com. The name might show up as “eBay”, but what is the actual address? It should be pretty clean, simple, and professional.
6. CHECK FOR FUNKY SPELLING AND WORDING
Check and see if the English is Broken and make sense not? Is spelt rong? Run Baby Run. This is the next step after checking for a suspicious email return address. The one form the crooks sent me looked very convincing. But something bothered me – the wording. eBay knows how to spell and speak English in proper sentences! I’m not saying that no one from overseas can be trusted, so if you message a seller with a question and their reply isn’t perfect, it could be ok, but if eBay itself is messaging you in “Chinglish”, wake up Francis – you’re being scammed!
7. MIND THE CLICHE THAT IF IT'S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE IT IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, AND THEREFORE IT'S NOT TRUE!
These crooks are idiots, but they aren’t stupid. One of the eBay camera deals that grabbed my attention was one of these. It was the camera we wanted, with a host of sweet lenses worth way more than their asking price. Right on the eBay page, they required you to email them privately (naughty munchkines!) for approval before bidding because they ‘were having problems with non-paying buyers’. Minding the next step, I waited until the next day to have another look at this ad. Strangely, it was gone even though the listing should’ve still had a few days to go! I found his email address on another too good to be true ad and made an offer a bit higher than his asking price. He replied that he pulled down the camera because he “Was getting too many emails about it”.
Tell me how that makes sense! A seller who doesn’t like buyers? It’s more likely he made ten grand and pulled the page before eBay caught wind of the swindle. At any rate, he wanted to accept my offer (since miraculously the camera hadn’t sold in spite of the flood of interest) – and he got ‘eBay’ to send me a Buy it Now form…
8. IF IT'S URGENT TO MAKE THE SALE QUICKLY, YOU URGENTLY NEED TO RUN
“Tell me once you get the email from eBay”, he said. A bit later it came, as I was excitedly waiting to close out this phenomenal deal. Rules were being broken. The form looked eBay-ish, but there was some strange wording going on. As I recall, he wanted the money that same day yet, a wire transfer.
As much as I was looking forward to getting this sweet camera and insanely good lenses delivered to work without my wife knowing about it, and than surprising her by hiding the goodies around the house and sending her on a delightful scavenger hunt finding one amazing piece of gear after another, I balked. I asked for assurance that this wasn’t a scam. “Read the email from eBay” (which didn’t actually show up within my eBay account he said. It was all too suspicious. I found a new listing he had, a vintage keyboard for the exact same price as my camera, with the same lingo. I reported him to eBay. They confirmed that it was a scam. Hopefully they shut him down.
9. DO SOME HOMEWORK ON THE SELLER/BUSINESS
Make Google your friend. Take the time to check out the seller’s eBay rating. The above scammer’s eBay store had 100% feedback. They even had a picture of the couple who apparently owned the store. They looked pretty old, cute, and innocent. Apparently they were garage salers who sold their finds on eBay. Their items sold were all just that, garage sale clothing etc. I don’t think there was anything over $50, and definitely no cameras. From what I could tell, they used this literal clothing store as a way to look legitimate. There was no negative feedback from the big ‘sales’ because they were are completed outside of eBay so the buyers had no way of leaving negative feedback. Look out for sellers that sell all kinds of little things, and than have this random, big ticket item that is totally unrelated to anything else they’ve ever sold.
Just last evening I was looking for a compact flash memory card. Google Adwords caught my attention, and I did something I rarely do – I clicked on it. What ensued were very attractive prices including free shipping to my home and native land (Canada…woot woot!) I almost pulled the trigger, but first Googled the company. “Is ____ a scam?” This is a great starting place that can clear things up pretty quickly.There was only one site about them that I found, which is a warning sign. If this place is so amazing why does hardly anyone seem to be talking about it? There were 12 reviews, all 1 out of 5 stars. I’d rather not have the 1 star experience.
10. HAVE A COLD HEART TOWARDS SOB STORIES
The one deal really tugged at me. It might’ve been legit, but it might not have. As I recall this deal involved a guy who wanted to bypass going through eBay because eBay was holding his funds for a few days after a deposit, and he needed the money ASAP to buy a car. He still wanted to use Paypal, so I felt there was some security there. I even did what’s smart if you’re in doubt, request some additional pictures of the product. He complied, once he was home from work. However, scam or not, as I mentioned previously – bypassing Ebay is wrong and stupid. Interestingly enough, I did a bit of research and I think it was likely that his funds would’ve still been frozen for a few days by Paypal even without going through eBay.
11. CHECK WHERE YOUR BILLS ARE COMING FROM
Me and my wife have a little greeting card and poster company called Paper Movement. Awhile ago my wife got a call wondering if we’d like to renew an online advertising directory we had with them for the next year. She knew nothing about it, and asked how much it would cost. “$600”. Wise women as she was, she said “no.” That was fine, they told her they’d be emailing her a bill for the past year. Within an hour she got a call from another company. It took her awhile to clue in that this was (apparently) another company since we had never gotten a call like this before, let alone 2 within an hour! Hindsight says this is a monster with 2 ugly heads.
In the evening when I came home from work Amberley informed me of this $600 and $450 bill we were getting for the past year. At first I was a little alarmed, as I would never have intentionally signed up for something like this. I did probably sign up for free directories on these sites, but not for any paid ones. Since when does an internet company provide you with a service for free for one year in faith that they will get paid? Oh yeah, they don’t do that. I wonder how many poorly managed small businesses have got a call like that, paid the bill, and signed up for a year of further financial punishment.
They’ve called a few times (with an unlisted phone number) since to remind us of our “debt”. When my wife sweetly informed accounts receivable that she thinks we’re being scammed she was told that it was probably a mistake and they’re credit our account. Haha. Gotcha! Since when does a company just overlook a real $600 bill? “You don’t think you deserve this bill? No problem, we’ll let it go.” That’s what I’d call grace!
Here are a few things that were tricky about this type of scam:
a. What surprised me about this attempted scam was that the bills came from Canada. It it would’ve been from Hong Kong I would probably have laughed immediately. But Canada? The bill actually had a return address on it.
b. We got a bill in the mail. However, they called first to confirm with us our address and that it’s coming. A little strange.
c. They sometime record you and play what you say back to you. Of course, they try to use it to their advantage. Just because they play something you said to a question doesn’t mean that the answer you hear yourself giving was actually the answer to the question that they actually asked the first time around. Sound editors, anyone?
d. Apparently sometimes they get mean and scary. They’ll threaten legal action. We haven’t run into this one yet, and since they seem to know we’re on to them we’ll hopefully not be getting any more calls.
Oh, I almsot forgot, this is the part of the blog where I get nasty and name names: the 2 scam sites that I’m referring to are InfoSubmit and B&D Multi-Media. Sorry guys, but you don’t get links, just bad press.
12. IF IT DOESN'T FEEL RIGHT, DON'T DO IT
It’s as simple as that. When there’s a hot deal that I really want, it’s hard for me to keep my optimism and hopefulness from running over my head and gut that are firing off warning signs. You’re better off wondering if that was a legitimate deal than finding out first hand that it was not. In the end, you’re still much better off paying more for an item from a reputable seller and actually getting it, than paying less and getting nothing.
And there we have it! Did I fail to mention something that needs to be added? Let me know!