Auction/Classified Ad Scams

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".

Counterfeit Payment
Bounced check, fake money order - often combined with 'Overpayment' scam to compound the fraud.

Overpayment Scam
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.

Counterfeit Goods
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).

Shipping Fraud
Often used with vehicles. Overpayment is sent to cover shipping charges which must be sent to the shipper (see Overpayment).

Sending Junk
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.

  1. Low priced high-ticket items, like TVs, phones, laptops, or jewelery — especially if there are multiple items for sale, especially if the price is way below similar items on sale by other vendors.
  2. Brand-new sellers with no sales history. (Look for the seller ranking/rating).
  3. Sellers requesting payment by Western Union or using an unfamiliar Escrow service or payment in foreign currencies, or sellers wanting to pay more than the auction price, with instructions to send the remainder to a third party (esp. in Africa).
  4. Auctions that begin and end over a weekend, since eBay customer support is light during those days.
  5. Seller telephone numbers or addresses that can't be verified, sellers who are based in unusual countries (Nigeria, Korea, Romania, Bulgaria etc).
  6. Sellers with good feedback ratings that have not bought or sold anything for a long time (hijacked accounts).
  7. Sellers of high value branded items who have a lot to sell at very low prices (Counterfeit products is a huge industry on eBay).

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 follow-up email. The phrase 'over-egging the pudding' comes to mind...

SquareTrade. Image

Dear  xxxxxx ,

My name is Fred Brewer from the eBay Safety Center.

We know that you have been contacted by Darren Corfu for the second chance offer in his auction #7345877992 and we also know that the item is located in United States and the seller is in France . The shipping will be made from United States by his wife and the payment will be made in France to Mr. Darren Corfu who is a verified seller and you will be protected by us. As will be stated in the invoice, the seller has $6,048.50 in our account and if something will happen ( you will not be satisfied with the item ) in max 5 days you will receive your money back. So you can see the item before you give your money for good.
So it is not a problem if you send the payment through Western Union Money Transfer. We secure this transfer!
To complete the transaction, you will need to follow the steps from the invoice and make the payment. In any other case you will not be protected.

Payment instructions:

To submit the payment with WesternUnion Money Transfer, you have to:

Click here to locate the agents in your area Go to one of them and send the payment to the verified name of the seller..
Once the payment was sent, email the seller the following information:
1. Exact 10 Digit Money Transfer Control Number;
2. Exact senders name on file with WesternUnion:
3. Your street address on file with WesternUnion:
4. City and country where you sent the money from:
5. Amount sent:

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This is the original Contact email

Second Chance Offer -- Buy The Item You Recently Bid On  From collectibles to cars, buy and sell all kinds of items on eBay

Good news! The following eBay item on which you placed a bid is again available for purchase:

c.1880 MINT/COLOR Wreaths/Hearts applique quilt/Indiana Item number: 7345877992

Your Price :

US$ 777.00

Don't let this get away!

Second Chance Offer
The seller, is making this Second Chance Offer because the high bidder was either unable to complete the transaction or the seller has a duplicate item for sale.

The selling of this item through Second Chance Offer is in compliance with eBay policy and you will be able to exchange Feedback with the seller and will be eligible for all eBay services associated with a transaction, such as fraud protection.

eBay does not charge an Insertion Fee to send a Second Chance Offer. Sellers pay only the Final Value Fee when the offer is accepted.

Act Now - This Offer Expires Soon
To take advantage of this opportunity, please act quickly. To see this item, click on the following page: To purchase this item please contact the seller by replying to this email message.
To learn more about Second Chance Offer, please visit:

Thank you for using eBay!