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Insult to Injury

OK, I was scammed on eBay and I’m £310 worse off. It was my first transaction on the auction site and that’s bad enough perhaps but worse still, the chap who did it has left derogatory feedback about me. which is completely untrue.

Let me tell you about a fundamental weakness of the eBay system. For the sake of example, we’ll use my own experience.

You chase the seller around for weeks even months, because what he advertised in his auction, is not in fact what you received. You complain to eBay, Trading Standards and the Police and discover that all you can really do is take out a small claims court action against the lovable lout in question.

And so, having exhausted every avenue, you take the advice of trading standards and return the dodgy item, recorded delivery, with a covering note saying that unless your money is returned by PayPal or by cheque, within seven days, you’ll see him in court.

Eventually and after some email excuses, "I was in hospital", a letter arrives, also recorded delivery, with a note inside, which reads, “Sorry, I’m all out of cheques, so I’ve enclose £310 of cash instead”. You look inside and of course there’s nothing there but the letter was signed for and now you have to prove that you haven’t had the money. It’s very clever and is a monumental weak spot in any transaction. “Do you really want to waste your time and money chasing this man” ask Trading Standards and the police, “Or simply put it down to experience”?

So, you can be both out of pocket and the bad guy has the item back as well; which he will probably try and re-sell on an auction site all over again. Worse still, he can leave feedback for other eBay users that accuses you of fraud!

The Post Office has a special delivery service for cash but if someone chooses work the system in his favour and ignore payment instructions that request a cheque or Paypal and doesn’t use a system that properly records and evidences a transaction then sending absolutely nothing in a recorded delivery envelope, plays firmly into the hands of the criminal fraudster.

My advice then after using a few more eBay purchases that have gone well, is of course read the other party’s feedback closely but don’t be convinced by it. In my example, the bad guy had built up a convincing record over the months of very small transactions before moving on to the bigger sting with me and someone else.

Secondly, if the other party doesn’t accept credit cards or Paypal, don’t touch them. Why wouldn’t you want to use Paypal or some other means of protecting a transaction, even if it costs 3% commission on the sale?

Finally if you’re expecting any kind of refund, never sign for it until you have inspected the contents in front of the postman. This isn’t easy and may not be possible, as in this case, my wife signed for the letter and she can’t count as a witness in court.


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