How to Spot a Scam on eBay (As a Seller): Essential Tips and Warning Signs

eBay is a huge part of my online selling business. Not everything that I sell can be sold on Amazon, and some returns from Amazon I also sell on eBay. However, it’s not all good. There are issues with eBay, in the form of scammers. It only makes up a tiny percentage of the userbase, but scams do happen.

By learning how to spot scams, you can protect yourself and ensure a secure and profitable eBay experience. This is the reason for this article. You’re not on your own though, as I will explain in the form of eBay seller protection.

When dealing in online transactions, it is crucial to be aware of the red flags that may indicate a potential scam. This article will guide you through recognizing the warning signs to prevent falling victim to scammers while selling on eBay.

By following these tips, you can confidently navigate the platform, grow your online business, and maintain your reputation as a trustworthy seller.

As you venture into the world of eBay selling, always remember that staying informed and cautious is your best defense against fraud and deception. Once you’re equipped with the knowledge to identify and handle scams, you’ll be well-prepared to thrive in the eBay marketplace.

Understanding the Basics of eBay Scams

Concept of eBay Scams

As a seller on eBay, you need to be aware of the various scams that may target you and your listings. eBay scams mostly involve fraudsters who take advantage of the platform to exploit honest sellers.

Protecting yourself against scams is crucial for maintaining your reputation and ensuring a successful selling experience.

Common Types of eBay Scams

I’ve been a victim to a number of scams, but I have learnt to adjust my processes so that I can fight back against scammers. Here are 5 of the most common types of eBay scams, which myself and others in my community have been a target for.

The Damaged Item Scam

I call this the classic scam, as it’s definitely the most common. You will sell your item, but your buyer will claim they have received the parcel, but it’s been received Damaged.

If you are ever in this position, ask the buyer for an image of the damage, alongside the packaging that the item was sent in. I’ve had this in the past, but the scammer forgot to damage the box, meaning there was no possible chance that the item could be damaged, whilst the box remained in perfect condition.

You won’t win all of these cases, but you will be able to upload the images to your courier and claim back from them. You can also accept the return and then re-sell the item on as damaged/used.

The Empty Box Scam

In this scam, the buyer claims that they received an empty or partially empty package, implying that you did not ship the correct item. They may demand a refund or replacement. To prevent falling victim to this scam on eBay, provide tracking numbers and consider using a shipping service that records the package weight.

The Non-Delivery Scam

We’ve had a lot of these over the years too. However, in the UK our postal services are getting better, with Royal Mail now offering photographs upon delivery.

It’s quite sad when you think of it, this is what the postal companies have to resort to!

The Non-Delivery Scam is where your buyer claims that they have not received their item. If you haven’t got photograph proof that it’s been received, unfortunately it’s a difficult battle to win.

I had this quite often in 2021 using UPS. I won’t use them anymore, as they have a policy where they can leave items on Doorsteps, behind bins & it just opens you up to a lost item claim.

If you have a postal service that takes Proof Of Delivery (POD), use them! It may be 10% more expensive, but it saves you losing 100% in a claim.

The Return Scam

The Return Scam is a little bit evil! I remember my first one, so let me explain. I sold a Playstation 5, the buyer ordered to a click and collect Sainsbury’s. He collected the item, and then opened up a case immediately advising that the HDMI port did not work on the console.

I asked for some pictures of the back of the console, which is when I found it was a scam. They sent a picture hiding the serial number of the device, but at this stage there was nothing I could do. eBay wouldn’t side with me, they never tend to!

I advised them to return the item, and that the serial number of the device is tracked. If it matched, I would process the return. If not, no refund.

They proceeded to return an empty jiffy bag. I knew right away a PS5 console wouldn’t fit inside of this! I contacted eBay, but this case was escalated.

Seller Protection came into play, and I received a refund. However, annoyingly, so did the buyer. They had a free games console.

Change of Address Scam

I’ve never had this one before, but It used to be very popular. Someone would buy your item, then message you to ask to post to a different address. They’d add something like ‘Im out of town visiting family, can you send it to their address please’. However, eBay only covers you when sending an item to the eBay Purchase address.

This means if you send the item elsewhere, you can be scammed. You will lose the case, regardless. Always make sure to use the eBay address provided.

Identifying Suspicious Behaviour

Spotting Red Flags

It’s essential to be aware of possible red flags when dealing with potential buyers on eBay. Always trust your instincts and exercise caution. Be particularly cautious if the deal seems too good to be true, or if the buyer is acting too eager and requesting a quick sale. These are signs that something is amiss.

Pay attention to unusual demands, such as insisting on a specific form of payment or asking for personal information that is not required for the transaction. A genuine buyer will generally be more patient and polite, so extreme urgency can be a sign of a scam.

Analysing Feedback

Feedback plays a crucial role in verifying the trustworthiness of sellers and buyers on eBay. Take the time to analyze a buyer’s feedback, especially if they have multiple negative or neutral comments. Keep in mind that nobody is perfect, but a recurrent negative pattern can be a cause for concern.

Also, be wary of buyers with newly created accounts and no feedback, as scammers often create new accounts to avoid being traced. Your vigilance is vital in protecting yourself and ensuring a secure and successful transaction. Remember, you have the right to refuse service to anyone you believe is a risk. Be confident and knowledgeable in your approach, and use the tools and resources eBay provides to safeguard your selling experience.

Recognising Fraudulent Payment Methods

As a seller on eBay, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential scams and recognize fraudulent payment methods to protect yourself and your business. In this section, we’ll cover some common types of scams and warning signs to help you stay safe.

Spotting Fake PayPal Emails

Fake PayPal emails are a common method scammers employ to deceive sellers. These phishing emails look like legitimate PayPal messages but are actually designed to steal your login credentials or personal information. Here are some red flags to help you identify a fake PayPal email:

  • Incorrect or suspicious email address: Genuine PayPal emails come from an “” address. Scammers often use variations (e.g., “”) to deceive users.
  • Generic greetings: A real PayPal email will address you by your first and last name or your business name, while a fake one might use generic terms like “Dear valued customer.”
  • Urgency or threats: Scammers usually request immediate action, such as updating your account or verifying a transaction, and may make threats like account suspension to create pressure.
  • Grammatical and spelling errors: Poorly written emails with mistakes are more likely to be fraudulent.

Always verify any emails received by logging into your PayPal account through the official website and checking your notifications, never click on the links provided in suspicious emails.

Understanding the Risks of Wire Transfers

While wire transfers are a legitimate method of transferring money, they are also a preferred method among scammers due to the inability to reverse the transaction once completed. Sellers should be cautious when dealing with buyers who insist on using wire transfers for payment, as this may indicate a scam. Some potential risks of wire transfers include:

  • Untraceable transactions: Once the money is sent, it can be challenging to trace or recover the funds.
  • No buyer protection: eBay’s buyer protection does not cover transactions made via wire transfer.

For a safer payment experience, it’s recommended to use a trusted payment service like PayPal, which offers protection against fraud and quick, secure transactions.

Avoiding Gift Card Scams

Gift card scams are another type of fraudulent payment method that can target eBay sellers. Scammers may attempt to pay for items using gift cards, particularly eBay gift cards, which are meant for purchasing goods on the site, not as payment for selling items.

Some warning signs of gift card scams include:

  • Buyers asking to complete the transaction outside of eBay: This not only violates eBay policies but also means you’ll lose any protection provided by eBay.
  • Buyers requesting payment in gift cards: This is a red flag, as gift cards are easy for the scammer to redeem but nearly impossible for you to recover the funds.

To avoid falling victim to gift card scams, never accept these as payment for your items and always follow eBay policies for seller protection.

Safeguarding Against Cons Involving High-Value Items

Dealing with High-Value Items

When selling high-value items such as vehicles, iPhones, or designer products on eBay, it’s essential to be cautious of potential scams. Keep an eye out for counterfeit goods, as they can appear very similar to the genuine article.

  • Market value: Make sure the price of your item is in line with its market value. Be wary of offers that are too good to be true or significantly lower than the market value, as these could indicate a scammer trying to lure you in.
  • eBay Motors scam: This scam involves the fraudster pretending to be interested in purchasing a vehicle listed on eBay, but requesting additional services or payment methods that are not part of eBay Motors. As a seller, always stick to eBay’s official payment methods and terms of service.
  • Counterfeit goods: Don’t be fooled by deals on fake items. Confirm the authenticity of products you buy or sell, especially with high-value items like iPhones. Look for official documentation, receipts, or serial numbers before you list an item for sale.

Comprehending the Fine Print

Understanding the fine print and eBay policies will help you safeguard against scams when selling high-value items.

  • Vehicle listing: Familiarize yourself with eBay Motors listing policies, as vehicles come with specific requirements and protections. For instance, know that vehicles should be listed in the ‘eBay Motors’ category, not the general merchandise section.
  • Payment methods: As a seller, always use eBay-approved payment methods. Avoid accepting payments outside of the platform or wiring money directly to a buyer, as this may expose you to scams and jeopardize your eBay protection.
  • Shipping and returns: Clearly state your shipping and return policies in your listings. Make sure you have a reasonable and clear timeframe for returns or refunds. This will protect you from buyers who may try to abuse these policies.

By being vigilant and informed about eBay’s policies and best practices, you can effectively safeguard yourself against potential cons involving high-value items.

Dealing with Buyers Breaking eBay Rules

Understanding No Items Listing Policy

As a seller, it’s essential to be aware of eBay’s policies to ensure successful transactions. One important rule is the “No Items Listing Policy.” This policy restricts buyers from creating listings solely for non-tangible items like advice or personal services. Such listings go against eBay’s guidelines and can lead to account suspension if not removed.

If a buyer is trying to purchase a non-tangible item from you, kindly inform them of eBay’s policy and suggest they look for alternative platforms where such transactions are allowed. In any case, always remain professional and respectful in your communication.

Managing Changed Address Cases

Another scenario you may encounter as a seller is when a buyer changes their shipping address after the transaction is complete. This may put you in a difficult situation as shipping to a new address could jeopardize your eligibility for the eBay Money Back Guarantee. To handle such cases, consider the following steps:

  1. Cancel the transaction: If the buyer insists on the changed address, you can mutually agree to cancel the transaction, and then the buyer can update their shipping information before purchasing the item again.
  2. Verify the address: In some cases, it might just be a minor change or correction. Evaluate if the new address is trustworthy by checking if it’s linked to the buyer’s confirmed eBay account.
  3. Communicate with the buyer: Always keep an open line of communication with the buyer. Discuss the reasons for their address change and try to find an agreeable solution for both parties.

In summary, as an eBay seller, it’s crucial to be aware of eBay’s policies and effectively communicate with your buyers to resolve any issues that may arise. Responsible handling of cases involving eBay rule-breaking will ensure a smooth selling experience.

Protecting Yourself as a Seller

Seller Protection on eBay

To protect yourself as a seller on eBay, familiarize yourself with eBay’s seller protection policies. By adhering to these policies, you can take advantage of the platform’s protections and avoid scams. Always use eBay’s messaging system when communicating with buyers, as this creates a record and enables eBay to step in if there’s any conflict.

eBay’s Money Back Guarantee is designed to protect both buyers and sellers. Ensure that your items are accurately described, and provide clear photos to avoid claims of misrepresentation. Ship items promptly and follow the recommended shipping timelines. In the case of a claim, ensure you respond promptly and professionally, and always follow eBay’s guidance.

Secure Shipping and Delivery

The shipping process is a common place for scams to occur. To protect yourself, always choose a reputable shipping company and consider investing in insurance, especially for high-value items. The Post Office offers various shipping options that include tracking numbers, insurance, and signature confirmation.

When shipping items, take note of the following:

  • Choose a reliable shipping method such as USPS, FedEx, or UPS.
  • Insure high-value items to protect against damage or loss.
  • Require signature confirmation for items over a certain value. This prevents non-delivery scams.

Shipping Tips:

  • Pack items securely to avoid damage during transit.
  • Clearly label packages with the buyer’s address.
  • Retain proof of shipment and tracking information.

By following these guidelines, you can minimize the risk of scams and ensure a positive selling experience on eBay.


As a seller on eBay, it’s crucial to both recognize and protect yourself from scams. Always be vigilant in examining offers and messages for red flags. Maintain clear communication with potential buyers, and document your transactions in case disputes arise.

eBay provides various tools and resources to help sellers avoid scams, such as member identification tools and buyer feedback. Make use of these features to better understand the credibility of buyers. Additionally, follow eBay’s recommendations for payment methods and avoid accepting payments outside of the platform.

Ultimately, trust your instincts as a seller. If something feels off, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Remember that through diligence, knowledge, and proper use of eBay’s resources, you can minimize your exposure to scams and protect your business.

Tom P
Hi, I'm Tom Paddock! An Amazon & eBay seller, who has helped over 10,000 people start their own online business. I provide cutting-edge techniques to help sellers with Online Arbitrage, Retail Arbitrage & Wholesale on Amazon.
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