How do Auction (and online Classified Ad) Scams work?
Probably the largest and oldest online scam, scammers use various ploys to part you from your cash and/or goods. Victims are harvested from auction sites (eg. eBay) and Classified Ad sites (Craigslist etc). Runs from simply accepting payment for an item that is never sent through to wholesale fake/counterfeit goods selling. Can generate huge profits from the unwary victim. This is a list of the most common classified/auction scams:
Non Delivery of Purchase
The simplest form of fraud - you pay for an item (by check, money order or other online payment method) but the item does not arrive. May be excused by the vendor with claims of postal theft, delays or even fraud - "I sent you the item, you must have received it and be pretending it's missing".
Bounced check, fake money order - often combined with 'Overpayment' scam to compound the fraud.
Payment fo more than the item costs, with instructions to 'send on the rest' to a third party (usually Western Union, usually to a recipient in a foreign country). Often used for Cars and other large items.
Items not as described - often clothing, jewelery, purses, fashion items. Items may be virtually identical with logos, tags, price labels etc but quality is usually poor. jewelery will be sub-standard (eg. plate not solid gold, lowgrade diamonds).
Often used with vehicles. Overpayment is sent to cover shipping charges which must be sent to the shipper (see Overpayment).
Payment received and shipping confirmed but item turns out to be junk (eg. a phone book instead of a laptop). Also broken items, bait and switch items.
Here are some signs that the item you are buying/bidding on is probably a fraud.
eBay Auction Scams
Transactions performed outside the eBay framework are responsible for a huge number of scams and bypasses the quality control systems (feedback, vetting, payment control) in place. eBay have cracked down on this massively in the past few years by keeping contact information secret until an auction has ended. The practice still goes on though, with scammers contacting auction bidders and offering exclusive deals direct from the seller, or even offering 'second chance' deals to underbidders on other, genuine auctions. If in doubt, check it out!
Be extremely suspicious of all and any emails appearing to come from eBay - One popular scam is a spoof eBay survey with a bonus of $20 for completion. It asks for a credit card number (and even the PIN number) to credit the money to. THIS IS A SCAM. Here is an example email:
Dear Valued Member,
You have been chosen by the eBay online department to take part in our quick and easy 6 question survey. In return we will credit $20 to your account - Just for your time!
Helping us better understand how our customers feel benefits everyone. With the information collected we can decide to direct a number of changes to improve an expand our online service. The information you provide us is all non-sensitive and anonymous - No part of it is handed down to any third party groups.
it will be stored in our secure database for maximum of 7 days while we process the results of this nationwide survey. We kindly ask you to please spare two minutes of your time in taking part with this unique offer!
Many Thanks and Kind Regards - eBay Customer Department
Second Chance Scam
An eBay user was the losing bidder on eBay for an antique quilt. Two days later they received an official-looking 'Second Chance Offer' bid email. The idea is that if the original auction winner drops out for some reason, the seller can contact the underbidder and sell it to them instead.
The user was overjoyed, but after accepting the terms, the email reply (purporting to be from eBay) was so strange that they were immediately suspicious, not least because they wanted payment by (you guessed it!) Western Union!
This is the original Contact email
What Is This?This Email with the Subject "" was received in one of Scamdex's honeypot email accounts on and has been classified as a Scam Email. The sender shows as , although that address was probably spoofed. We recommend that you do not attempt to contact any persons or organizations referenced in this email, as you may expose yourself to scammers and, at the very least, you will be added to their email address lists for spam purposes.