Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Some Ideas on How to Identify Scammers

Here's some suggestions on how to identify - and therefore protect yourself - from scammers. These are red flags, something which gives you a clue. Not every one of these means the eBay seller is a scammer; however, if you see several of these showing up simultaneously, think long and hard before you commit any money to this purchase.
  • Look for poorly-taken photos. If they are blurred, or distant, or just are lousy photos, it's a red flag. The scammer who took my identity last August slipped in a very badly-taken photo of a Macintosh computer on my selling site. The photo showed no details of the computer, was taken from quite a distance, was a side-shot, and there was only one photo. I don't sell computers, and still don't know how that scammer managed to list a computer under my name. However, more than 20 people bid on that computer, and the about-to-be winning bidder was willing to pay more than $1200 to be the new owner. Little did he/she know they were going to pay for something they would never receive, since I didn't have any Macs, and couldn't ship one to them.
  • Are the descriptions minimal? The less description, the less possibility the seller actually has the item in his/her possession to sell to you.
  • Is the seller offering to sell you this item outside of eBay? Oops - he already knows there is no eBay protection for a buyer once a deal is made privately. A scammer loves it that eBay really won't get involved should a complaint be made, and often runs the reserve a bit high so that their item doesn't sell, then attempts to make a private sale with the top bidder.
  • Does the seller demand money orders, or even worse, Western Union? Another red flag is when a seller refuses to accept checks or credit cards, because they can be used against him later as evidence.
  • Does the seller refuse to answer email questions you send before the auction ends? That ought to catch your attention.
  • Does the seller state in their eBay listing some unidentifiable location they are selling from? Like, maybe, "Hinterlands in the Midwest" or "My Old Green Farmhouse" or somewhere else that you won't be able to identify?
  • Does the seller have a really low feedback number, or one which is really new (say, within the last month), or has a feedback percentage lower than 98%? All are red flags to consider. Still, scammers are becoming more sophisticated - one of the reasons my identity and user name were stolen was because they wanted to use my 100% perfect, high-number feedback, which gave them instant credibility and trust. They also like to change their User Names frequently, making them a bit harder to track (although eBay can track them, but doesn't really want to get involved).
  • Is it an expensive item you are bidding upon? Scammers aren't very interested in $10 items; they want to "earn" a large amount of money quickly, and then move on. Be cautious when bidding hundreds or thousands of dollars, and take a hard look before you send a seller a large amount of money.
These are just some ideas. Again, remember - not all of them mean that the seller is a scammer . There could easily be a good reason for why the above has occurred (i.e., people who just don't know how to describe an item properly, are brand new to eBay and obviously will have a low fb number until they become established, who are lousy photographers, or who just don't want to bother with persoanl checks or credit cards).

It's when you see several of these indicators - in the same listing - that you should re-think your bidding. Whatever it is that you are bidding on, it will sooner or later be back up for sale again, hopefully under a real seller's listing. Move on to something else, and don't fall for a scammer!

You must protect yourself from the bad guys, because they can do a lot of damage to your finances, not only short-term but also long-term. The only person you can count on to protect you is YOU.

No comments: