13 eBay Scams: How To Spot Them and Avoid Them

We’ll go over the red flags for 13 of the most common eBay scams and how to protect yourself while online shopping.
We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Online marketplaces might be great places to find vintage or hard-to-find pieces, but they’re also popular places for scammers to find unsuspecting victims. From phishing to chargeback scams to unreceived items, con artists are becoming increasingly clever in their eBay scams for both buyers and sellers.

In this article, we explain the most common eBay scams: how they work, what to look out for, and how to avoid becoming the latest victim — by using identity theft protection.

In this article
9 eBay buyer scams to watch out for
4 eBay seller scams to watch out for
How to boost your cybersecurity on eBay
Best identity theft protection for online shopping
How to identify a scammer on eBay
What to do if you’ve been scammed on eBay
Will eBay refund money if scammed?
eBay scams FAQs
Bottom line

9 eBay buyer scams to watch out for

From cars to clothes to collectibles, eBay is a popular online marketplace for users to shop and find rare items.

Unfortunately, it’s also a hot spot for scammers and con artists. Here are the most common scams for eBay buyers:

1. Phishing scams

Phishing scams are among the most common ways to be scammed on eBay. Fraudsters send legitimate-looking emails or text messages soliciting personal or financial information. They may impersonate a customer care representative or someone from eBay to offer help for your account. They may even include an eBay logo and a spoofed eBay email address.

Remember: Just because something looks real doesn’t mean it is real. Beware of any unsolicited message requesting personal information or claiming something that sounds too good to be true.

2. Incorrect name on shipping label

A relatively new scam is when fraudulent sellers ship an item with an incorrect name on the shipping label. While mistakes happen, this is also a red flag. The scammer sent the incorrect name with the hope that the buyer will return the item.

But where’s the scam? eBay's money-back guarantee is voided if you paid for and received a package but returned it because of an incorrect name. If you send it back, the scammer gets the money and the item, and you’re left with neither.

3. Non-delivery scam

eBay offers a money-back guarantee, but not all items are covered. With non-delivery scams, fraudsters can accept payment and disappear.

This type of scam usually targets non-tangible goods and items excluded from eBay’s money-back guarantee. These items could include websites, real estate or businesses for sale; services; cars; digital content; classified ads; NFTs, travel tickets or vouchers; and heavy machinery.

4. Counterfeit products

From high-end luxury goods to collectibles and memorabilia, eBay is a treasure trove of highly sought after or hard-to-find products. Scammers will list counterfeit products at market price, tricking you into buying a fake product at a high price.

If you’re shopping for a high-end item, eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee ensures eligible purchases are legit before sending to the buyer. However, it’s still best to avoid these listings that are too good to be true so your credit card information isn’t stolen.

5. eBay gift card scams

In this scam, fraudsters pressure you to hand over your eBay gift card information outside eBay’s official channels. They may gain your trust by impersonating a legitimate seller, offering a high-demand product for a much lower price, or claiming that paying via eBay gift cards is the safest way to pay.

Gift card scams can be especially damaging because there’s virtually no way to retrieve the funds. Gift cards are like cash; once it’s gone, it’s likely gone for good.

6. Triangulation fraud

This complex eBay scam can be hard to spot, especially because — at first glance — it seems like everyone comes out ahead.

Here’s how it works: An eBay buyer makes a traditional purchase from a seller on the eBay platform. The buyer receives their purchased item and an additional gift of significant value. When the buyer contacts the seller, the seller tells them it was an accident and to keep the gift.

In reality, the goods were purchased with a stolen credit card. When the owner of the credit cards realizes their cards have been stolen, they’ll request a chargeback and get refunded. The buyer gets to keep the purchased item and the gift, and the seller can keep the cash from the goods.

Although this may seem like a good turnout for everyone, the buyer could lose their account or be looped in as an accomplice to fraud. If this ever happens to you, be sure to report the fraud to eBay as soon as possible.

7. “Photo only” scam

In this scam, shady sellers trick you into bidding on a product, but it’s just a photo. They post a picture with little or no details about the product itself. They usually include a disclaimer in the title or the listing that it’s a “photo only.”

This type of scam targets sought-after or higher-priced items, like new gaming consoles, that people rush to buy.

8. Fake customer service

In this classic impersonation scam, fraudsters pretend to be customer service representatives and lure their victims offline by posting fake eBay customer service ads. They include illegitimate contact information, and when you contact eBay, you’ll actually be talking to a scammer.

They often ask for account information like login credentials and two-factor verification codes to “verify” your information. Or they may ask you to click on a link or download malware, granting remote access to your device.

9. eBay Motors scams

eBay Motors makes it easy to find parts for your cars, trucks, SUVs, motor vehicles, and more, but you can also find pre-owned vehicles and classic cars on the site. As convenient as it may be to buy a car online, eBay Motors has its own share of scammers.

Like many eBay scams, this one starts with a fraudulent product listing laden with red flags, like a vague product description, a heavily discounted price, or offers to handle the shipping costs.

4 eBay seller scams to watch out for

While an eBay scam can easily dupe buyers, sellers are also targets for fraudsters. eBay sellers should watch out for overpayment, chargeback scams, and false buyer claims.

10. Overpayment

eBay’s online auction platform aims to wage a bidding war resulting in an above-ask purchase price. In this overpayment scam, a fraudulent buyer will offer an exorbitantly high purchase price, well over the asking price, but they’ll pay with a fraudulent check.

If you sent the item before the payment cleared, you’re left with nothing but the bounced check.

11. Unwarranted chargeback

With unwarranted chargebacks, scam buyers purchase your product. Then, once you’ve shipped the item, they request a chargeback from their bank or PayPal. They get to keep the goods and get their money back.

Unfortunately for sellers, the eBay money-back guarantee mostly protects buyers. eBay must determine that a buyer has violated the abusive buyer policy before removing any negative feedback and taking action against the buyer.

12. Empty box claims

This type of scam occurs once the transaction has occurred. Someone purchased your item, you shipped it in a timely manner, and everything checks out.

Until the buyer raises a dispute claiming you shipped an empty box. This type of scam is especially challenging because there’s no way for eBay to determine who is telling the truth. Unfortunately, eBay’s money-back guarantee usually sides with the buyer, so you could be out of product and payment.

Fraudsters also claim their item was never received and request a refund. The buyer is entitled to a full refund if the item doesn't arrive.

13. Broken item scam

Buyers will use fraudulent tactics to obtain refunds while keeping the purchased goods.

In this scam, a buyer issues a dispute claiming the item they received was broken. In some cases, fraudsters buy duplicate items to replace a (broken) item they already had. They aim to replace their item and return the broken item to you without paying for their replacement.

How to boost your cybersecurity on eBay

There are inherent risks in using an online marketplace like eBay, where you exchange goods and currency with literal strangers. Still, it’s possible to spot and avoid eBay scams.

The next time you’re looking to buy something on eBay, remember these tips to boost your cybersecurity:

  • Research the seller or buyer history for any suspicious activity. If there’s little or no activity, that’s usually a red flag.
  • Read the fine print on listings to ensure you know what you’re bidding on. Check the seller’s return policy or see if the item is covered by eBay’s money-back guarantee.
  • Always communicate and complete transactions through eBay’s platform.
  • Never exchange personal information over email.
  • Install antivirus software on your device. If your computer is accidentally infected with malware, antivirus software can help keep you and your device safe.

Best identity theft protection for online shopping

Online shopping in today’s world is an everyday occurrence. Protect yourself and your assets by investing in an identity theft protection service to help prevent identity theft.

  • Aura: This identity theft protection service offers not only credit monitoring and account surveillance but also extra features like a password manager and virtual private network (VPN) for an extra layer of security.

    Get Aura | Read Aura Review

  • LifeLock: LifeLock identity theft protection plans offer multiple monitoring features including dark web, home title, and social media monitoring. Its Ultimate Plus tier offers up to $3 million in identity theft insurance, while the Standard tier offers up to $1.05 million in coverage.

    Get LifeLock | Read LifeLock Review
  • Identity Guard: IdentityGuard not only monitors your accounts and personal information, but it also offers a password manager and extensive monitoring all for an affordable monthly price.

    Get Identity Guard | Read Identity Guard Review

If none of these fit what you’re looking for, look at our guide to the best identity theft protection services to find one that suits your needs.

4.9
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Aura Identity Theft's website
Aura Identity Theft
Up to 68% off Family Annual Plans
  • Excellent identity theft protection service
  • Includes a password manager and VPN
  • Robust tools for children’s security
  • Provides VantageScore and not FICO score updates

How to identify a scammer on eBay

Whether it’s an eBay scam or a scam on another platform, all scams have common warning signs. Knowing the warning signs is the first step to prevent becoming a victim of a scam. Below, we share tips to help identify scammers on eBay:

  • Familiarize yourself with the eBay website. Learn common practices so you know if something is amiss. For example, a seller asking you to purchase via a third party is definitely out of the ordinary and likely a scam attempt.
  • Be suspicious of any attempt to obtain your personal information or account information. eBay will never ask to confirm your password or account details via email.
  • If something sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
  • Avoid emails with attachments. eBay will never send an email with an attachment, so if you receive one, it’s best to delete it right away.
  • Watch out for generic greetings like, “Attention eBay User.” In official eBay communications, eBay will always use your registered first and last name and your eBay username.
  • Look for fake websites. Even if a website or email address uses eBay, it may still be fraudulent. Legitimate eBay websites have “eBay.com/” in them. There won’t be anything between the period and “eBay,” and there won’t be anything after the .com and the first forward slash.
  • Beware of any eBay shoppers and buyers requesting or offering unusual terms like covering excessive shipping costs or offering unreasonably low prices.

What to do if you’ve been scammed on eBay

You aren't always out of luck if you’ve already been scammed on eBay. You can take these steps to get your money back and help others avoid becoming victims of scams:

  1. Open a refund request with the seller. This must be done for eBay to review your dispute.
  2. Report the seller to eBay.
  3. Leave negative feedback to prevent other users from being scammed.
  4. If you paid through a different platform, request a refund.
  5. If you think the scammer has access to your financial information, monitor all accounts and consider investing in identity theft protection services.

Will eBay refund money if scammed?

eBay’s money-back guarantee helps protect buyers and sellers from most eBay scams, but there are caveats. For example, the transaction must be completed on eBay’s platform, not a third-party site.

Additionally, there are limitations and categories that are exempt from the money-back guarantee. In many cases, your bank can also issue a refund if you’re the victim of a scam, as long as you can show some documentation.

If you’ve been the victim of fraud, it’s important to act quickly to mitigate more damaging consequences. Report the buyer or seller to eBay, file a police report if necessary, and vigilantly watch your financial accounts.

If you’ve shared any personal, sensitive information or have reason to believe your account has been compromised, place a freeze on your credit and look into identity theft protection plans.

eBay scams FAQs


+

How can you tell if an eBay seller is legit?

While eBay scams can be tricky to discern, many sellers on the online platform are legit. Look for a seller with a reputable selling history, fair pricing, and a transparent product description.

If you message the seller, they should respond quickly. Any seller unwilling to provide further information may be trying to dupe you.


+

Can a buyer be a scammer on eBay?

While slightly less common, eBay buyers can also be scammers. The broken item scam is a key example of a buyer scam.


+

How do you know if a buyer is scamming you?

If you’re selling an item on eBay, there are a few red flags to watch out for to ensure a buyer isn’t scamming you. Watch for buyers wanting to pay outside of eBay or wanting to pay much more than the listed price.

Bottom line

eBay scams have existed since the platform's inception and continue to change and evolve. Phishing, empty boxes, damaged items, unwarranted chargebacks, and overpayment are all examples of eBay scams that leave buyers and sellers in a tough spot.

Knowing what to look for in an eBay scam is your first layer of protection. From there, we recommend the online security trifecta — use a VPN, install antivirus software, and invest in identity theft protection to keep your digital presence as safe as possible.

4.9
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Aura Identity Theft's website
Aura Identity Theft
Up to 68% off Family Annual Plans
  • Excellent identity theft protection service
  • Includes a password manager and VPN
  • Robust tools for children’s security
  • Provides VantageScore and not FICO score updates

Author Details
Courtney Daybell is a professional writer interested in online privacy. With a bachelor's degree in communications from Brigham Young University, she has written for more than 15 years with a strong foundation in print journalism.