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How to shop safely on Ebay

Updated on July 9, 2012

How to keep yourself safe from scams, fraud and fakes on Ebay.

So I decided to write this Hub just to help people out and share my knowledge about online shopping on Ebay. Now as we all know safety when shopping online is the main priority as well as buying what we need for a good price, however some things are just too good to be true and I'm going to help you keep your money and dignity safe when buying things from Ebay.

  1. Not every seller is genuine: Now when you see a product that you like, the price is right and it seems good it's best to always check the seller, even if they have 99% positive feedback still be sure to check it. I'm going to use the example of a Gameboy Advance game or a collectable card for this. ONE and all it takes is ONE negative feedback saying it was a fake and you should NOT purchase from this seller. Just because one person got it fake doesn't mean to say the other's bought fakes and did not realise. ALSO beware of sellers who have ??? or XXXX or something written as products/buyers as these are often fake accounts purchasing nonsense items from the same country working with the seller (if not the seller themselves) and are giving positive feedback to trick you into thinking the service is real.
  2. International sellers: These can pose another problem with fake products, fake feedback and 'too good to be true items'. Now personally I have dealt with a VERY good international seller who was true to their word, the product was legit and they gave excellent communication. But sellers who have anything slightly suspicious like 'fake, poor quality, item hasn't arrived after 30-40 days (depending on country) or seller refused to communicate about a problem' do not buy from them. Some people will however not receive an item after 7 days int and then start making complaints, it does take longer for them to arrive and depending on the country as well. Hong Kong, China etc are the worst for fake and non arrivals, Africa and such are high risk fraud countries as well as fakes.
  3. Only use Paypal: NEVER use a direct money transfer, it might seem quick and easy done and dusted but sometimes there is no proof of purchase, there is often less security and the seller can take the money and go it is much easier for a dishonest seller to get away with it through this. Ebay itself advises against it. PayPal is by far the safest option, I have had problems with a seller recently and Ebay took my side of the case, let me keep the fake item and forced a refund from their account to mine which was done within the space of about five minutes.
  4. Spotting fake products from the pictures: If an item has a blurred, distorted or lack of a picture it is most likely fake, however some people just do not have a very good quality camera. Here we are again with spotting fakes and back to GBA cartridge's. The best thing to do when purchasing an item is to read the feedback REMEMBER! not everybody will realise the item they bought is fake. If the seller has multiple items for example 10 Pokemon Sapphire games, now these are out of print 2004 GBA games so they are much harder to come by, is it likely they have 10 real games? no especially if they have a large number sold. Always buy games from your own country sellers, in the UK games have an CE marking on the front as well as a circular Nintendo sticker that reads clearly. This is how you spot the fakes, USA and JP do not have the CE marking but this does not mean they are fake, if the Nintendo sticker is squashed, hidden, blurred or is missing the game is fake. Use online guides and videos to compare an item for example, games, cards, phones, instruments, clothing. These can REALLY help you suss out the fakes from the real items. The BEST thing to do about anything you are unsure of is contact the seller, if they do not reply or give a vague answer then do not buy from them. Make sure the pictures are clear, you have seen the real item yourself, you have read the feedback and there is enough description. Remember for games, holo stickers are ALWAYS holo never matte and cartridges of a darker shade (they are supposed to be not a green cart that turns up black) are going to be real. Same for cards, blurring, distorts, fuzzy image, no holo, lighter colour is most likely a fake. This applies to all items.
  5. What about if you are unhappy with an item?: Most sellers offer a returns policy within 7-28 days depending, this however does not apply to second hand clothes and returns are a lot of hassle sometimes. Always check whether the seller accepts returns BEFORE you buy an item, if it doesn't say you should contact them and ask. If the item arrives and it is not as described you should contact the seller before sending it back, do not cut off contact with them. Now here comes the tricky part, IF A SELLER IGNORES YOU. What you then want to do is open a case, now this may seem extreme but it isn't, if the seller won't respond and you want your money back then this prevents the seller from cutting contact with you and it also prevents the seller from taking your money and leaving. They will know your serious and this alerts Ebay to a problem. Explain in detail what the issue is, do not threaten or become aggressive with the seller and only send messages through Ebay itself this gives you proof of what has been going on as it can be checked if need be. Use Paypal as this is a definite proof of purchase and do not delete anything you have bought. Always give feedback. If this gets you nowhere give them a few days before shipping the item back and once it arrives take it to customer support if the seller still has not contacted you and this will get you your refund. Never behave immaturely, threaten, abuse a seller but harassing them if they are ignoring you is okay because at least you have tried to contact them.
  6. Low feedback rating of the buyer: Buyers who have less than 10 feedback ratings, are new to the site can sometimes be fake or 'joke' bidders. If you are selling an item or buying from someone with really low feedback then make sure you put a disclaimer on your product saying you wish a less than ten feedback to contact you to make sure they are genuine are some are not and some will give a ridiculously high bid (working with another person who places a lower one) then near the end of the auction withdraw and leave you with a low winning bid. If the buyer or seller is from another country this boosts the risk level for problems.
  7. If you are concerned about anything: Always keep a record of messages, transactions and feedback as this is your saviour if something goes wrong. Always contact a seller, always check feedback, remember Ebay will 99% of the time side with the buyer so you are well protected unless something is your fault. I had a man trying to blame me because he shipped me the wrong item, was that my fault? no.
  8. If an item looks too good to be true: A seller with a large number of Ipad's or MP3 player's, phones, games, expensive clothing, designer brands, cars, car parts etc. A good, out of print, expensive or just downright amazing item is most likely a fake or a false product. Could you really buy the brand new Ipad for £50 even used in good condition? not likely. If this so called amazing item has very little information again with any ???? or any other symbol of their choice in place of text it is likely a scam. Some Ebayer's will be false bidders working with the scammers to place bids to make others think it is real so they go ahead, some out of curiosity to see if they really will get this product and some because they are genuinely ignorant and believe they will receive it. Always be careful you don't want to buy an essential car part that's normally extremely expensive, receive it to be a piece of rubbish or fit it to the car and then up crashing or something. If it looks too good to be true it probably is.
  9. Buying tickets, autographs etc: Although some are sold on Ebay and are genuine other's are not, you do not want to deal with the embarrassment of turning up to an event you have been looking forward to for months only to be turned away at the door and told the tickets are fake. Again with spotting real and fake products. Always purchase from the genuine source, you may pay more but you will get what you want, if it looks genuine, ask the seller if they have two tickets at a decent price, they are clearly shown, labelled as genuine and 100% feedback then your chances are good. Remember, autographs can be scanned, copied etc very easily remember copying your parents or teachers signature into your school planner or a letter home? same thing.
  10. Buying second hand clothes: Personally I used to HATE doing this but recently I've gotten into it after purchasing two real branded denim jackets for under £10 saving myself over £90 on them and they are in immaculate condition. However if you are buying second hand always measure your size, things come up in different sizes you may be a size 6 in one shop and a 14 in the next (it happens) or the seller may give measurement descriptions wrong, use the sizing guide for reference. Remember to check for fake brands, international sellers and feedback. ALWAYS ask questions, always use PayPal and NEVER buy used underwear, socks, shoes or jewellery as this can not only be extremely unhygienic you could be infected with someone's germs/illnesses. Always wash clothes through at least once before wearing them, you can iron and steam them or have them dry cleaned to kill the bacteria or anything in them. Always buy ones of good quality there is no point seeing a nice top from a dirt cheap shop that's only worth £5 new and paying £8 second hand, so check the brands and if possible look the brands or clothing up online. If you get it home and it doesn't fit and the seller won't have it back (which is understandable) then it's up to you what you do with it.
  11. Retracting a bid: You are well within your rights to withdraw your bids on an item if the seller changed description, you entered the wrong amount e.g. bidding 100 instead of 1.00. However you can also retract if you bidded by mistake, you have changed your mind or you bidded before contacting the seller (your fault not theirs) and you were told it was a child's item, it wouldn't fit, it was an import or whatever you didn't want to hear. If you asked them a question and believe it to be fake you can withdraw however you will have to label it as something else on the bid retraction form as there are only three options available. Bidding you are agreeing to pay a certain price including p&p for an item so be careful. You may not withdraw if it is a certain amount of time before the auction ends.
  12. A buyer refuses to pay: You should always write 'expect payment to be made within *insert chosen number* of days or bid will be withdrawn and item re-listed' If you receive no payment and it passes that many days, you must remember to contact the seller if no payment is made within 24 hours, if they ask to postpone the time and have good feedback let them off, if they genuinely ignore you or change their mind days after then withdraw it and post the item again. You can also block people from bidding on your items. It is a waste of time when they do this but you have to be careful. NEVER dispatch before payment has been made.
  13. A seller refuses a refund: Contact the seller, open a case (stops them from ignoring you entirely) and keep all messages and proof of transaction, if they still refuse you take it to customer support and they will rule in your favour, you will get your money back.
  14. Being held hostage for positive feedback: Infuriating but it happens, it happened to me last week. I was upset with a seller who ignored me, refused to cooperate, then after shipping back the item he threatened no replacement or refund until I changed the feedback, in the end I resorted to neutral explaining there were problems and got my refund after I took it to customer support. Be careful, the minute someone starts threatening if you do not want a replacement item then go straight to customer support and report, report, report, DO NOT give them positive feedback make sure people KNOW this person is a bad seller and you will get your money back!


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