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Buyer beware of Ebay "gifts" !! Answered

There is a quite concerning trend happening with mostly Chinese sellers on Ebay.
Before you panik: Ebay is happy to help in these cases and will refund you if the seller does not cooperate.

Here is how the "scam" works:
You buy an item that is of least some value.
For my cases it was always items above the $50US mark.
In the listing you will spot a hint that for some festivities, specail day in the calendar or just for good luck you will receive an additional and free gift with your purchase.
Usually these gifts are of little to no use and included in the actual item delivery as they are tiny.
Now some dodgy seller realised that with the free shipping options available in China it is quite easy to provide tracking information for free as well.
As a result you GIFT is used to provide the Ebay tracking for the item you bought.
Some days after ordering yu wil then find a small evelop in your letterbox...
No obvious connections to ANY order you made ANYWHERE on the envelop so you open it.
Then you find the meaningless gift and a crappy note informing you that your actual item was sent using a different service.
A non-working tracking number for services like track17 is provided as well.
Only hint you find it is Ebay related is the seller name at the bottom of the note.
Checking your purchase history in Ebay will then show your item has been delivered and that you shall leave feedback now.
The seller won't respond to any messages with your concerns.

Here is how the solution works:
Contact the seller and clearly state that Ebay selling rules have been violated by providing false tracking information for the item you bought.
Demand a full refund based on that breach.
If no response within 24 hours contact Ebay.
This contacting however is now quite complicated due to the fact that the seller fooled Ebay into thinking you already have your item.
There are two ways that still work.
a) Call them or click the button to be called.
State the breach, seller name and item number in question.
b) Use the resolution center.
For this you need to click a bit through the options to see all you transactions and from there select the item in question.

A) will be the fastest way, B) works fine too if you prefer all in writing instead of a call.
The whole issue can be as meaningless as your item arriving a day or two later.
But if the trend catches on then it is no problem for a seller to close business and do so with one big win before closing doors.
It is never just a single "mistake" of this kind, it is either a test to see how trusting people are to be fooled later or a direct attempt to scam you.
Being a clear violation of Ebay's selling policies for once the buyer is actually secure here, just out of pocket from the day paid till the refund arrives.
The refund usually is issued within 3 days after the seller did not respond the correct way to EBAY.
Once you informed Ebay the whole case will also be added to your resolution center where you can see updates and have the option to react to what the seller answers.
You can also leave negative feedback for such transactions and the seller won't be allowed to give you a negative feedback for it.
Just be careful not to click on any of the stars!
You CAN leave feedback without any star rating in any category listed!

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PotatoDemon

22 days ago

Thank you! That is very useful and good to know. The thing is, it can be extremely difficult to deal with foreign (in this case, Chinese) scams due to the distance and the fact that they can simply get rid of the company name they have currently and go under a new one.

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Downunder35mPotatoDemon

Reply 22 days ago

You are right with the problem, especially if you consider that Ebay has no real interest to prevent it.
They act quickly now with their buyer protection but ignore the root of the problem.
I reported endless lists of sellers using multiple accounts but according to Ebay all is fine LOL
Considering Ebay takes at least 10.9% of every single sale made the money is a good driver here.
And that is just the basic fee, excluding all selling and listing extras you can add.
Let me give you two prime examples:
1. Multiple accounts.
Especially in the cheap electronics region China is the sole source.
What we see in local shops comes first from China.
It is then no surprise to realise that certain items are listed multiple times by the same seller but with seemingly different locations and seller names.
Take the NanoNVA Network Analyser.
Do an Ebay search for it and compare the listings and availabilities.
For multi item listings it is always missing and for normal ones the available stock matches exactly what some "other" seller has available.
China, Hong Kong, Singapore is usually the area the seller claims to be in.
The listings are identical to the dot with even the same spelling mistakes.
I tried 3 of them and despite having different names all three invoices came from the same Paypal account.
Ebay has no issue with it, Paypal states it would be a company and with that different persons might use it - LOL
You can do the same for a lot of items, I usually start by opening tabs for all identical listing images and then check the seller names.
2. Multi Item Listings - I so hate them!
You look for example for a new electronic gadget or just some parts you can't find locally.
For me it is often as basic as copper tape or thin acrylic tubing.
The search gives you results (if sorted for the cheapest) that are just impossible.
Like 50m copper tape for 99 cents.
You open the listing and sure enough you are presented with your item in the image and text but a scroll box for multiple items.
Usually what you searched for is not available or if it is then at a much higher price than the average from other sellers.
In way too many cases this type of fraud goes as far as listing totally unrelated stuff - which is against Ebay policies.
With the NanoVNA I had sellers listing server power supplies and Ebay was fine with this as appearently a network analyser is used for networks, so having server parts with it is good. LOL

In the past 2 years I reported about 30 fraudulent sales where I did not get the item I ordered and paid for.
All were either refunded by the seller after Ebay stepped in or by Ebay if the seller already disappeared.
On top of that I reported about 100 seller accounts using identical items, listings and discriptions, in most cases even the exact same other available items for sale in the exact same amounts.
Only in 4 cases Ebay suspended a selling account and in only one case the seller was banned.
Does not mean any of the copy accounts was affected or that the sller did not resume business after less than a month.
For those the worst is that the negative feedback from the past few weeks was removed.
It is actually quite sad to realise that Ebay is pretty fast when I call them with just my name and item number.
They are now down to not even asking details anymore.
A quick look into my purchase history, the seller and then they have a claim openend for me :(

I used the review an item option once to not only list how good said item was but also to list all the fraudulent sellers that I had to report until I finally got one unit delivered.
The result was an instant ban for my activities.
Took me about 2 hours on the phone to make Ebay realise that if all the listed sellers go unpunished and selling than Ebay acts fraudulent as well - at least according to AU laws.
Needless to say they apologuised and removed the ban right away but also my review.
The seller are still doing business today, for some their negative feedback for the past 12 months exceeds 200 complaints of the worst kind.....

A thing a lot of people don't even know is Ebay is also the sole owner of many local online selling platforms.
You know, those that started in newpapers back in the day and added an online presence.
In AU Gumtree is the prime platform and Ebay took it over silently.
Other countries have multiple selling platforms and if you dig deep enough than chances are none are still independent from Ebay.
The key here is to leave the platform as it is but to include Ebay selling ads in your results plus of course related ads on the page itself.
And despite owning the platform Ebay "honors" the original agreements and terms.
Means there will be no Paypal available or any form of buyer protection.
Little by little these platforms are flooded by fraudulent sellers and ruin the reputation and trust of those buyers using it.
And around here all those fancy platforms like Amazon, Banggood and so on all lack exististence.
Sure some now allow you to order and get the things delivered but compared to the US the number of items available is a joke, same for the shipping and handling fees that can be more than the item you buy.
Ebay is for quite a lot of things the only option now unless you are willing to pay twice as much.

Why is all this fraud so concerning you might wonder?
99.9% of buyers will never have any serious problems using Ebay, same for the private sellers.
So let me give you an example that highlights the underlaying issue:
You or I want to start using Ebay.
And since all is so nicely protected with verifications and all we use our real name, real email address and a real phone number.
To top it all up, thanks to Paypal we also freely provide our bank and/or credit card details.
Once you stuff up you loose your Ebay account, won't ever be able to use Paypal again and might even be in trouble with your financial institution.
For a local sale gone really wrong you might even end up with criminal charges coming from the buyer of your item.
Now, on the other side, if you are in China and want to make a quick buck you don't have to worry about any of this.
If your intention is exporting goods than you are a winner already.
There is basically no fees involved for running a small export business, no taxes either.
And companies specialise on providing companies to individuals.
Means you pay a small fee and get a fully working warehouse for your needs in return.
You specify what you need in stock and the storage company fills you rented space.
You forward orders and the warehouse does it all for you, giving the shipping infos back to you or your linked Ebay account directly.
With no postage costs for exporting small parcels or envelopes you don't have to worry about anything.
But even if you start small and from your home the motherland protects you already.
Bank accounts used for this won't offer any function for a transaction to be reversed from outside China - all requests in this regard will be denied.
This is well known to Ebay and with that they usually insist to have a credit card linked for Chinese sellers plus an address confirmation.
Good thing is there is a china service for this as well.
With no one able to physically verify any address over there without going to China you simple get something similar to a P.O. box.
A real address in some big building where actually no one at all does any business.
Often hundrets of small businesses are "officially" located in these buildings.
All incoming mail is sorted and forwared to the actual address of the service holder.
It sadly does not end there though.
Phones and credit cards for export reasons are available too.
Buying a phone with a working sim card still registered in someone else's name is easy as, same for having a landline forwared for free to your mobile.
In the western world rechargable credit cards are getting harder to get with every month passing.
Main reason is the fraud done with them.
If you can still get them then usually you need to provide proof of identity and load the card up from your bank account before you get it.
In China you get specialised services for this problem and they work great!
The money that goes into your Paypal account is transfered out as soon as a specified amount has accumulated.
But of course it won't be transfered to the same bank account that is linked to it.
Means neither the original account, nor the one the money goes to is touchable by Paypal.
Explains why more and more frauds are refunded by either Ebay or Paypal directly but not from a sellers account ;)
The specilised credit cards there work in a similar fashion.
Having several bank accounts just to hide the traces of a single person running a family business is often a bit too much.
A credit card though makes it far easier as you can use it to verify multiple Paypal accounts if you have to but Paypal does not check if a credit card is linked to multiple accounts.
And well, Ebay does not really perform any checks at all in regards to Paypal accounts, bank accounts or credit card linked - that is why Ebay invented Paypal in the first place ;)
Ebay does not even check if a seller uses the same creditials as an already existing seller as long as another family member gives the name or a slightly different address/phone number is provided.
You can basically get 20 cell phone numbers and register 20 Ebay accounts using the same Paypal account.

My last case of gift fraud by using the gift to track the item that never arrives, Ebay claimed the violation causes and instand ban for the seller.
When the seller asked me to close the case and provide positive feedback despite the item still missing Ebay stepped in and refunded right away without even waiting for the sellers response.
When I called them to ask about the status and how to proceed from my end now I was told I can just close the case once the money is back in my paypal account.
It was also pointed out that do to the second violation the sller will have his account terminated.
A quick check a week later, thanks to bookmarks, showed the seller is still in business with the same account used to scam me and even lists the same fraudulent way with highlighting that you get a free gift.
An Email enquiry to Ebay about this fail to remove the seller is still without a reply for now 8 days, all I got so far is the automated response that it was received.
Upon calling Ebay I refered to my latest case and the correspondence from Ebay in regard to the seller being terminated.
Sadly I was informed that instead of ban and considering the status as a power seller with over 99% of positive feedback, only sacntions and forther tracking of his performance were imposed.
When I asked why my negative feedback was removed I was informed that I got refunded and that would nullify the transaction.
With no transaction taken place a feedback can not be given LOL

After this last blow I went through my list of identified fraudsters and started adding up what they have on offer.
For those with hundrets of listings I sorted by price as good as I could and averaged the amount based on number of listings first.
Then I had a quick check on the number of available item in some listings and if most of them have "endless supplies" (more then 10 available and hundreds sold) I averaged by assuming 250 items.
All quite inaccurate I know but I also know I left the number of items on the lower end and that I accounted more for the dirt cheap items than the really costly ones.
So still in favour of the fraud so to say.
My final calculation came down to a combine financial value, excluding shipping and import duties of just under $300.000US.
Now please consider that my list is just made up from the cases I either had to deal with myself and those I identified later thought this by identical listings.
I excluded those I identified by finding the same paypal account in my statements that originated from different sellers.
I also excluded all auctions by these sellers!
The real number could as well be twice as high...
But if you only take 10.9% of the above number you get a net profit of $32.700US - who then cares about refunding 10 or 15 bucks here and there....

Suggestions I made multiple times to both Ebay AND Paypal:
All selling accounts exceeding a certain volume that lifts them above the average Joe cleaning out his garage need to be verified in accordance to proper laws.
Means the seller needs to provide official documents like driver's licence, passport or such that are fully linked to the account.
Accounts need to be cross referenced for double entries and offending sellers banned and removed for good.
All bank details need to match the sellers true identity, in the case of a company the owner must be the same person as the account holder and bank account holder.
No "shell companies" allowed either.
Money received must stay frozen in the seller's Paypal account until feedback is left or a case is closed - for all incoming money that is to prevent future fraud if a case is opened.
Accounts linked to Paypal need to be subject of further checks, like randomly transfering a small amount of money into it and then to withdraw it a few days later - if that fails it means the accounts are set up to be used for fraud.
Needless to say that severe Ebay violations should mean a seller really is fully removed from the platform instead of being allowed to continue and on top of that to have all negative feedback removed that came from severe claims.
The best I got so far in response is that my input is valued and that it will be considered ROFL
They consider now for about two years to improve secruity for the buyers properly and to remove fraudulent sellers.
I guesstimate that during that time Ebay made about 2 billion Dollars with the help of sellers that should no longer be able to do business.
Only good that Mr. Trump does not do Ebay, otherwise he would have banned Ebay from doing business with China already and included it in the trade war LOOOOOOL