Introduction: Detecting Shill Bidding on EBay

Introduction: Introduction: Detecting Shill Bidding on EBay

So the other day I was bidding on an item on eBay. For the majority of the auction I was winning at about $1.00. Yay me! About an hour before the end of the auction I got a notice that I had been out bid. No big problem, I didn't want to bid any higher on the item so that was that.

Or so I thought! When I checked my eBay account later on I found that I had won the item at my maximum bid. Not thinking anything of it at the time I paid the vendor. But something niggled at me. I was sure I had been out bid. Looking through my email spam folder I found an email from eBay that the bid had been retracted, something I didn't know you could do.

I checked the bidding history of the sale and found that yes several bids were made and then retracted making me the highest bidder. I checked some of the sellers other sale items and saw the same bidder had done the same on another auction from this seller.

I then checked the bidders bid history and in the last 30 days 100% of their bids were on items for that seller and 100% were retracted.

Not liking to deal with fraudulent practices I contacted the seller to cancel the sale because I suspect fraudulent bidding. I also reported the sellers other auction that had fraudulent bidding and contacted eBay about the issue.Yes I won the auction at my maximum bid but I should have genuinely won it at $1.00 unless a genuine bidder out bid me, knowing this would have ruined my enjoyment of the item.

I decided to write this article to assist others in how to find out if they have been cheated.

Step 1: What Is Shill Bidding?

Shill bidding is when a seller uses a separate account, be it one of their own, a friend or a family members or they ask someone to bid on their auction to artificially raise the price of the auction. In this case the bids were placed and then retracted once they had reached my maximum bid level.

Shill bidding is against eBay's policies and illegal in many places.

Here is a link to eBay's shill bidding policy

Step 2: So You Think You Have Been Swindled? How Do You Find Out?

EBay keeps records of everything it seems, and this makes it pretty simple to find out if you have been cheated.

The first step is to go to the listing of the item. Next the the "Winning bid" (see picture) there is a link that shows you the bids made on the auction.

Step 3: Bid History

Clicking on the link will bring you to the Bid History page for that listing. This page shows you A) All the bids made in that auction. And B) any bids that were retracted. (see picture)

Clicking on the name of the bidder who retracted the bid t***s in this case will take you to their bidding history.

Step 4: Bidders Bid History

This page shows the bidders bidding history in the last 30 days.

In this case the bidder made 6 bids on 4 items in the last 30 days with 3 bid retractions (6 in the last 6 months) the really suspicious part is the fact that 100% of the bids were made to the same seller.

It was this information that led me to contact the seller to request the sale be cancelled and to get a refund, as well as contacting eBay themselves.

If the auction is still running you can report it using the Report Item link on the right hand side of the listing page.

Step 5: Conclusion

Well there you have it. Pretty simple and I hope I have explained it well enough. I hope this helps people not get cheated on eBay. But fair is fair, only report someone if you are sure they are shill bidding and conversely never cheat an honest seller.

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    1 year ago

    Yes. This is a common thing happening on eBay! I'm a comic book collector & this is a problem that's running rampant with comic book sales!


    3 years ago

    I just got shill bid on ebay. I bid the price of the item by previous sales of the last item, plus a small premium that represented my idea of my trouble if I had to find the item elsewhere. I won, but examining the last bid, it was from a "user" who was brand new, and only bid on one item: mine. And only placed one bid. IE., that account was obviously created just to shill that one item.

    I paid a fair price for the item. I would not have bid the item past what it was worth. What really bothers me about this is that the seller felt they needed to be dishonest to get their price. Why not just sell at a fixed price?

    I have lost money to ebay sales before (scammer shipped me defective merchandise then disappeared). To me the rule is: don't assume anything on Ebay is honest. Ebay aids and abets this kind of behavior.


    5 years ago

    So, I gather the shill bids are placed hoping to induce you to raise your bid, and then when that doesn't work they retract the phony bids at the last moment or they'd wind up buying the item. Seems like you beat them simply by sticking to your maximum bid and not falling for the bait. Most people do get caught up in the bidding competition, so I bet shill bidding works more often than we know.


    Reply 5 years ago

    Basically they are bid until they find your maximum bid then retract their last bid so you are the "winner" and they get more money. Yes I set a maximum bid and stuck to it, but artificially raising the price by shill bidding is against eBay's policies not to mention immoral.