Content updated 12/20/2023, original publication 02/09/2015

E-commerce platforms have become part of our daily lives: there are few items that cannot be bought or sold through these sites. One of the pioneers in this area was eBay, which also included the possibility of holding auctions, so that each person could offer the price they saw fit. As with anything that enjoys popularity and great interaction among users, scammers are also present and therefore it is necessary to review the most common scams that circulate on eBay and learn how they can be avoided.

#1: A very expensive photograph

It is possibly the most frustrating and incredible hoax of all, and it even had cases in 2020. Sellers list a high-demand product such as a PlayStation5 and when a buyer wins the auction, a printed photograph of the item is published. Technically, they say, this is what the publication was about from the beginning. Yes, as pretty as it is, very expensive to be just a photo…

Read the feature list and the listing in detail, and be suspicious of anything that will get you a great tech gadget for less than you expected to spend. Also, research the seller and pay attention to their history and previous transactions, as they might have signed up just to do this trick. Fortunately, victims of this type of fraud usually receive a refund from eBay.

#2: Dangerous invitation

The supposed buyer invites payment for the item outside the platform. Thus, the seller loses all the protection that eBay can offer in the event that the operation is carried out within the site. While this appears to be a basic and easily detected scam, scammers are often persuasive, making up sob stories about why they can't use eBay and even going so far as to offer extra money for the product. If the order is accepted, the scammer will most likely contact the platform and indicate that the advertisement was false and that they never received the item.

Do not follow conversations and/or transactions outside of eBay. While in certain cases that may mean saving money, you will surely be left empty-handed. Additionally, it may be advisable to contact the platform and report this type of suspicious behavior. This way you protect yourself and other users.

#3 The exchange of a “broken” item

You're selling something common, maybe an iPhone. A buyer wins your auction, makes the payment, and you send them the product. So far, everything is going well. But the “buyer” then gets in touch by sending photos of an iPhone with a broken screen, claiming that you sold them a fake phone, or that it broke on the way. He complains to eBay, and with nothing more than his word against yours, the site sides with him (because the customer is always right, right?) and urges you to give him a refund. . Thus, the scammer keeps the perfectly functional phone and also the money.


Difficult: The best defense is preventative, making sure to ship valuable items with insurance paid for by the buyer. And while it is possible to say “no returns” in the description, this only deters genuine customers.

#4: The empty box

In this case, the seller sends the package with the corresponding product, but once received, the buyer claims that it was actually an empty box. He then files a fraud claim with eBay and demands a refund. The result? The buyer keeps the product and the refund, leaving the seller without money and the item.

In these cases there is little to do: the first step should be to report the buyer to prevent them from continuing to scam. On the other hand, you can try to enter into a dispute with the buyer, but being professionals in these matters, it is usually a lost cause.

#5 The purchase that never arrives

In another of the most reported scams, the buyer sends money for an item, and it never arrives. This especially happens with certain categories that are not protected by eBay's money back guarantee. Which is it? Specifically, transactions for high-value items such as vehicles, services, travel tickets, real estate or NFTs, among others.

A good start is to verify the reputation of the seller: if the comments are extremely positive, it should draw our attention, since the scammer can carry out small operations and then carry out a big deception. So the best way to be protected is to not purchase those categories that are not covered by eBay's money-back guarantee.

#6 The deception of the product not received

In many scams, cybercriminals take advantage of eBay policies for their benefit, but in this case, they use PayPal Seller Protection. What is it about? It is a rule that establishes that the seller must demonstrate that the item was correctly delivered. What the scam allows is that for operations less than $750, a delivery notification is sufficient; but if it is more expensive, it must have a signature. Without a signature, it has no validity.

A good way to prevent scammers from achieving their goal and from being able to falsely claim that the item was not delivered, is to simply take into account the rule and require the buyer to sign the notification at the time of delivery.

#7 Very generous buyer

A generous and giving buyer? Is it possible that there is someone who wants to pay more than what the seller asks? It sounds strange… But in any case, there is a type of scam in which the supposed buyer offers a higher price than the published item. Payment will be made by check, the product will be shipped, but only a few days later the seller will find that the check bounces, and you will be left without money and without the item.

Since it can take up to two weeks for the bank to cash a check or up to 15 days, it is advisable to receive the money before shipping the product.

#8 An intentional mistake

What is this hoax about? The scammer posts an item and sends it to the buyer at the correct address, but with the wrong name (intentionally). The buyer, understanding that it is someone else's package, returns it to the company or office responsible for the delivery. This causes the package in question to be marked as “Rejected” or “Returned”, which consequently voids the buyer's money-back guarantee offered by the platform. For his part, the scammer gets your package back and keeps the cash.

There is no concrete way to avoid this deception, but one option is to open the packages that arrive at your home by verifying the address listed there and the tracking number.

9# Gift card: the gift of the scam

More than 200 million dollars: that is the figure that scammers raised thanks to this scam during 2022 in the US market. What is it about? They urge the victim to pass on the gift card information, either by posing as a trusted seller, offering a high-value item at a much lower price, or creating some type of sense of urgency.

The first step is not to share the code with anyone and only use it at checkout on eBay. When used like money, it is a product coveted by cybercriminals.

#10 Fishing on eBay

What is phishing? In the sending of fraudulent emails through which cyber attackers try to impersonate a company, organization or official personality, with the sole purpose of obtaining personal information from their victims. In the case of eBay, scammers take advantage of the platform's second chance offer program, and through an apocryphal (but convincing) email they request payment for the purchase to a third party account. The result? The transfer of money to the criminal's coffers and empty hands due to not having received any items.

For one, check your eBay inbox from the Offers/Deals section of your My eBay page. Also, check the subject of the email and the body of the email, and if it is a phishing attempt, report it so that the scam does not continue.

#Bonus track: The job offer

Users on X (read Twitter) have reported a scam that uses the name eBay, to offer a job offer very difficult to reject on WhatsApp. The benefits? A very tempting salary, with flexible and very limited hours. The objective? Obtain the victim's personal data, and in some cases even obtain banking information, to impersonate or extort.

First, the golden rule: if the offer is too good to be true, it probably isn't. Other good practices are to contact eBay through official channels to confirm the offer, and if advance payment is requested to obtain a job, be suspicious, as it is possibly a scam.

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