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Category Archives: ebay

Wanna sell something? ebay.com is useless, craigslist.org is doable (but you need to be careful)

ebay is for scammers

I recently sold my Canon 7D in order to buy the new Canon 5DmkIII.  It was an adventure, to be sure.  I had no idea how much of one I was in for… and this blog details that journey.

My first ebay.com auction ended with someone bidding a few minutes before the end of the auction.  The user had created their account that day.  I was very skeptical, but I sent them an invoice anyway.  What choice did I have?  This is the email I got about an hour after I sent the invoice:

Hi, i do hope the item is in great condition as am buying it for my newly opened studio in abroad,Please if possible kindly get back to me with some
pics of the item, you can send it to …@yahoo.com. Do Confirm, should i make the payment to <myebayuserid>@gmail.com. if it is not
correct please kindly get back to me with the correct Paypal acct.
have a nice day. …@yahoo.com

I would like to have the item shipped to the address below:
SEATTLE, WA 98168 United States

The things wrong with this reply:

  1. I already sent an invoice.  All they needed to do was click on the “pay now” button (or whatever ebay calls it).  If they were legit they would have done that.
  2. The spelling and formatting were atrocious (I fixed the formatting for this blog post, but not the spelling).
  3. They were “guessing” my paypal email address, using my ebay user name + “@gmail.com”, even though the correct one was in the invoice.  This is important.  More later.
  4. They include an address that is not the same as the one on their ebay account.
  5. The address they gave me was invalid (according to maps.google.com).
  6. The address on their ebay account was on a street with no buildings (according to google street view).

I emailed the bid winner and mentioned these issues and said unless there was a good explanation I’d not ship anything.  I never heard from them.

What the hell?  How does this scam work, with no valid address?  Given the spelling and other mistakes, I’m guessing this was a scammer in training, and not a smart one at that.  If they had given me a valid postal address, it’s clear they would have sent me a forged paypal payment email, to trick me into thinking they had paid so I would ship the item.  Of course, all it takes to thwart this scam is to login to paypal (not by clicking on anything in their email!), but I’m guessing some people don’t take the time to check.  Also, they had to ask for my paypal email address because they wanted to send a fake email to it.  If they paid via the invoice I sent them, they couldn’t do that.

So, I had to go back to ebay customer support.  I finally got them to void the auction, and while on the phone with the last and most helpful ebay rep I was told all I needed to do to prevent these types of problems was restrict who could bid on my items.  While on the phone I went to my account settings and turned on things like “only allow bidders with verified paypal accounts,” etc.  In fact, I turned on every restriction they had, to reduce the chance of a scammer.  I wasn’t inclined to relist the item, but, with the assurances from the rep and the promise of these new controls, I did.

At this point I had wasted a couple of weeks since I first listed the item, and I’m just getting around to listing it again.

The second auction ends with two bids.  I send an invoice to the winner and get an email back.  Oh, no, it’s from the same scammer that won the first auction.  So much for all those special settings to prevent scammers from bidding, as both bidders had created their accounts that day.  There is no way you can create an ebay account and get verified all in the same day.  So, it’s pretty clear that ebay doesn’t give a shit about the quality of bidders.  All they care about is getting their fee.  Well, ebay, you’ll never get another auction listed by me!

I decided to try and offer the item to the second bidder.  They, too, turned out to be a scammer, albeit a different one, who replied with this not very intelligible reply:

OK i now with relatives. my address in ebay TN;Shelbyville but i wont see this item in GRAY, GA

I didn’t even reply to them.  I started another week long process of getting ebay to void the auction.  At some point, they did void the auction and credited me the $100+ that they thought I owed them on the sale.  I consider this the last time I ever deal with ebay as a seller.  Ever.

on to craigslist…

I didn’t have very high hopes for craigslist either.  But, I really wanted to sell this camera.  OK, first two replies where:

I’m getting the product for my fiancee and it needs to be sent because am
currently in the Army for a Basic training. Was wondering if i could use your
help with the shipping,That would bring the grand total to $1450 and i’ll make
payment via paypal. Send me a paypal money request for the total amount to
…@gmail.com for payment. Keep me posted once request is sent.


Thanks for your mail. Am interested in buying this and i will paying you the
asking price so consider me as your favorite buyer as i will like to have some
more pictures if you have them. I would be glad to pay for it as soon as
possible though i will not be available to come for an inspection due to my
flexible schedule. I will be paying you with my PayPal Account because it’s
attached to my Bank Account and its safe and very secure way to make payment
online. If my mode of payment is accepted kindly email me with the information
below to proceed with the payment.

I want to make clear that in the craigslist posting I clearly stated I would not accept paypal and would only accept cash, and that we would meet at the bank of your choice.

Then, I got a real-looking buyer, but Canon poached them!  She called them to ask about lens compatibility and they offered her a refurbished unit, which they claimed was really new, for about what I was selling mine.

Got a few more scammers after this.  Lots had an opening volley like this:

I am willing to make a quick buy. Can we make a deal today?

and always followed up with this:

Good to hear back from you. I’ll be sending Immediate Payment via
PayPal and would also add $100 to cover shipping and insurance. As
soon as you get back to me with your PayPal email, I’ll proceed with
full Payment. I look forward to reading from you soon.

This type of scam is clear: once you give them an email, they send you a fake paypal payment email, to try and trick you into mailing your goods to them.

I finally got another interested party, and we met at a B of A near me and consummated the deal.

All told, I spent about a month selling the item.  I think I had more trouble because the item was expensive and could easily be mailed.

The best advice I can give about selling through craigslist: make sure you engage the buyer in conversation about the item you are selling.  Scammers don’t want to talk about the item, they only want to trick you into accepting their fake payment email.  A real buyer will ask pertinent questions, and engage in a conversation.