Dealing with online auction site fraud

Online Auction Fraud is usually when as a buyer you are misled about the goods or services you are buying on an online auction site, or as a seller you are not paid or are paid with fraudulent debit or credit cards for the goods you are selling.

How do you know if you have been a victim of online auction fraud?

Both buyers and sellers can be victims of auction fraud. Online Auction Fraud is usually when:

You’re a buyer and you’ve bought a product or service and:

  • It never arrives

  • It differs from the online description/photo

  • It is of poor quality

  • It is different from what you’ve ordered

  • You are charged for hidden costs which were never advertised

  • Fake bidding with the objective of starting a bidding war and you ending put paying an inflated the price (shill bidding)

  • Black market goods or pirated goods being offered for sale

  • Important information was omitted, information that could have made you change your decision of buying the product/service

You’re a seller and:

  • Are not paid by the buyer

  • The buyer asks you to deliver the product before they pay

  • The buyer is using stolen bank details (Please also see Our Section on Credit Card Fraud)

  • The buyer will delay or come up with reasons why they have not paid

  • Providing fake escrow accounts and the money is returned to the buyer after the goods being dispatched

  • The buyer asks you to deliver to a different address than the one initially agreed on.

Approaches to dealing with online auction fraud

  1. Keep a copy of the transaction - Take screen shots of the transaction on the site and keep a copy safe.

  2. Contact the auction site - Contact the auction site as soon as possible. By flagging the transaction or the listing, they will kick off their own internal processes to investigate.

  3. Review the auction sites terms and conditions - Check the auctions policy on how it handles your situation. Some will favour giving you your money back and punishing the perpetrator. Make sure you are clear on their terms.

  4. If you suspect shill bidding report it - Each platform has a shill bidding policy. Report it to the platform so they can investigate ASAP.

  5. Contact your payment platform - Online payment platforms such as PayPal have built-in buyer protection. If you are not satisfied by the response of the auction site, you can go through payment platforms like PayPal to get your money back.

  6. Contact your bank - If you believe you have been tricked into a fraudulent transaction, contact your bank and let them know. If you used a credit card or the funds haven’t left your account yet you may be able to recover the money.

Report the crime

If you believe a crime has been committed then report it. If you are in England, Wales or Northern Ireland you should report all cyber crime to Action Fraud. In Scotland, you can see details of reporting to Police Scotland here.

How to avoid a scam on online auction sites like Amazon or eBay

  • Make sure you use reputable auction platforms and you start off with small products to get used to how the platform works

  • Make sure you read the item description carefully and ask the seller for additional information if you are unsure of something.

  • Read the Terms & Conditions of the auction website that you are using, including the claims and dispute resolution process.

  • Do not pay directly to the seller. Pay through the auction site every time.

  • Use reputable payment platforms and not bank transfers.

  • Do some shopping around to get an idea of how much the item generally costs. A significantly lower price can be an indication of “It’s too good to be true”.

  • Review the seller’s feedback.

  • Use as a shipping method a service that requires signature upon delivery and is easily traceable.

  • Use an escrow service of your choosing for items with a high value

  • Keep all records of transactions (e.g. receipts, e-mails, packing slips, etc.)

  • Do not provide too many personal details (e.g. NI number, bank account numbers, number plates, copy of personal IDs, etc.) to avoid identity theft. You can get more information on identity theft here.


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To help people like you we rely 100% on donations from people like you.