Online Auction Fraud

eBay sales may have grown 51% last year over the previous year, but general online complaints jumped by 66.6% over the previous year to some 207,000+ complaints in 2004. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), stated in its yearly report that 71.2% of all complaints received pertained to auctions.

Online fraud is a growing problem on the internet and the auction segment is far from immune. The IC3 reports that most complaints consist of late or no shipment of products, items that don't match advertised condition and bogus payment or escrow services.

If you decide to offer "all items to be shipped within 24 hours", make sure you keep your word, and go to great lengths to honestly represent and describe the item in your auctions. Your bidders will appreciate your honesty and it will eventually show up in your feedback.

As consumer fears increase, there are a number of common sense ways to help protect you from fraud, as well as enhance your reputation as a trustworthy seller and set you apart from the crowd.

Watch Out for Bad Checks, Money Orders and Cashiers ChecksYears ago I had a buyer who complained rather loudly when I didn't ship an item as soon as I received the check in the mail. In hind site it was a good decision to hold the shipment since the check ended up being fraudulent. Bad checks, money orders, and cashiers checks are rampant in ecommerce today. The simplest way to offset the danger of bad paper is not to ship the auction item until the check, money order or cashier check clears your bank for payment.

Overpayments

Never accept any overpayments for any item. One of the more popular scams today is for a buyer to send a cashiers check for an amount that is higher than the agreed upon final price. They then claim it was in error and ask the seller to kindly return the overage when the item is shipped. Off goes the item, the overage amount in good money, and the defrauded seller finds out too late the cashiers check was fake.

Use an Escrow Service for High Priced Items

The primary purpose of escrow services is to protect buyers and sellers from fraud. Basically what they do is to accept the money from the buyer and hold it until the buyer receives and approves the merchandise. Please note that fake escrow services are increasing on the internet. If a buyer contacts you after a sale and recommends an escrow service you are not familiar with BEWARE. At present eBay only recommends one escrow company: www.escrow.com. For information go to http://pages.ebay.com/help/confidence/payment-escrow.html

Records, Records, Records

Keeps a copy of every transaction detail from the original auction listing to the last email. You will need that kind of proof to validate your claims if you should find you need to file a complaint.

Protect Yourself by Being Educated

At the very least you need to be knowledgeable about your legal obligations as a seller and familiar with the fraud protections and policies for the auction sites and payment processing services you use. eBay and Paypal have extensive sections on their websites dedicated to fraud policies and protections. You should take the time to read through these or similar information pages for the sites and services you use on a regular basis and be very familiar with the material.

A few of the key recommendations from Paypal's Protection for Sellers section include:

Ship only to the address listed on the Transaction Details page

Use a shipping service with tracking

Check out the buyer's reputation

Accept payment from only one Paypal account per buyer

Limit credit card payments

Enhancing Your Safe Seller Image

Here are a few tips that will help improve your image as a safe seller for your bidders.

Identify Yourself - Make use of the about me pages to let your customers know who you are, how long you've been in business and how much their business means to you. Be honest.

Feedback Ratings - Auction buyers want to see 100% positive feedback.

Methods of Payment - Make it easy for your customers to buy but consider convenience, cost and security in choosing any payment method you offer.

Full Disclosure - Your auction listings should clearly state the condition of the item you're auctioning, your shipping/insurance and return policies.

Bonding programs - A number of bonding programs are available on the internet. One of the more popular is BuySafe (www.buysafe.com). In a bonding program the seller agrees to certain obligations such as shipping on time, representing the item correctly, and standing behind the transaction. In return the seller can display a seal on their auctions showing bidders they are honest sellers and providing transaction insurance in some cases up to $25,000.

Other programs you should be familiar with include:

IDVerify
SquareTrade
Trust-e

If You Become a Victim of Online Fraud

You need to know exactly what should be done in the event you are victimized. Make your plan now, before it happens. The most recommended steps to take if you are victimized are listed below but please keep in mind these are general recommendations and you should have you own plan based on your needs.

File a complaint with your auction site
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
File a complaint with the IC3
File a complaint with the National Fraud Information Center
Contact your local and state law enforcement agencies
Contact the local and state law enforcement agencies in the perpetrator's home area
File a complaint with the shipping company you used
It the perpetrator is a business and a member of the Better Business Bureau you should also file a complaint there.

Further reading

Paypal Seller Protection Policy (go to your Paypal account)

FTC recommendations http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/online/auctions.htm

To read the entire 2004 IC3 Internet Fraud Report http://www1.ifccfbi.gov/strategy/2004_IC3Report.pdf

More Important Fraud Links

Find Your Local Police http://www.usacops.com
FBI Internet Fraud Unit http://www1.ifccfbi.gov/index.com
FTC Internet Fraud Unit https://m.ftc.gov
USPS Mail Fraud http://www.usps.com/postalinstpectors/fraud/

© Copyright 2005 Steven Woodward - All Rights Reserved

Steven Woodward is the owner, editor and publisher of the Auction Sellers Network (ASN); a web site for individuals and companies who are serious about utilizing the online auction marketplace for their business. In addition to topical articles, ASN provides an extensive resource center, news feeds, member forums and classified ads. For more information or to become a member please visit http://www.AuctionSellersNetwork.com

No permission is needed to reproduce an unedited copy of this article as long the About the Author tag is left intact and included. We do request that we be informed where it is posted and reciprocal links will be considered.

More Resources

Unable to open RSS Feed $XMLfilename with error HTTP ERROR: 429, exiting

More Auction Information:

Related Articles

Game Theory, Nobel Prize, & Auctions - Auction Primer Series - Part 1
William Vickrey, highly regarded as the founder of auction theory, was an economics professor at Columbia University when he published two papers outlining his views on auctions:"Counterspeculation, Auctions, and Competitive Sealed Tenders", 1961, Journal of Finance"Auction and Bidding Games", 1962, Recent Advances in Game TheoryIn 1996 he received a Nobel Prize "for fundamental contributions to the economic theory of incentives under asymmetric information." It's important to understand that asymmetric information is an essential component of auctions, where potential buyers have varying levels of knowledge about the value of the item.
Your Auction Headline Or Title - The Most Important Part Of Your Auction
The words you select to describe your item will have a tremendous impact on the final price it receives or if it receives any bids at all. This is because no matter how great the item is you have up at auction, if you use words that don't lead prospective buyers to it, no one will ever see it.
5 Secrets To Make A Killing on EBay
Secret #1: Find a 'real' wholesale and drop ship companyDo you know what one of the biggest problem is to be successful on eBay? 'What should I sell"? I can tell you, I get many emails per day from eBay sellers, asking me what they can sell. Let me explain this more in detail.
The Ins and Outs of Dropshipping on eBay
Dropshipping is an attractive marketing technique, but when you take it to eBay it becomes a real phenomenon. There are tens of thousands of people running dropshipping business as you are reading this article.
Save on EBay Fees with Free Image Hosting
Experienced sellers at online auction sites such as EBay will tell you that the single most effective tool of persuasion is a good image. Multiple images are even better.
How to Win on eBay
I've bought over 100 items on eBay over three years and am ready to share my knowledge of how to win at eBay and buy from reputable sellers.1.
Dropship Your Way To Ebusiness Success
Q: I would like to start my own eBay business, but I really don't want to invest in a ton of inventory until I can get a better handle on what might or might not sell. I read another column about dropshipping, but I'm still a little fuzzy on how the whole process works.
Traditional Marketing Techniques for eBay Auction Ads
Ya know, I sort of giggle when I look at an ad on eBay that's just a black and white description of the item or product that's up for bid. It wasn't long ago at all that I would have done the exact same thing, but once I understood some traditional marketing techniques, not just been exposed to them; everything looked totally different.
Ten Sure Fire Ways To Lose Bidders
The way some auction sellers approach their auctions, it's clear there are as many ways to lose bidders as there are to skin a cat. If you spend enough time in the auctions you'll see a lot of basic mistakes, but the question remains: why do so many people consistently make the same mistakes over and over again.
Six Steps Towards Successful Buying at eBay Auctions
Buying on eBay can be very rewarding, either in terms of being able to pick up items cheaply or for hunting for hard to find items. Although generally the experience is good, there are instances where things can go badly wrong.
Profit through Other Peoples eBay Errors
There are many issues that influence how an eBay auction ends. Timing, Description, Title, Photos, the list could go on and on.
Image Hosting For Online Auctions
Use eBay picture service or host your own photos?If you use the eBay picture service, your first photo is free. But each additional picture will cost you $0.
Effective Online Car Sales on Ebay Motors
Remember back when selling online was a new experience? Dealers tried everything to sell their vehicles online. Today's market has expanded to include several hot online marketplaces.
Auction Seller Guide To Success
When its time to clean-up around the house, some people havea hard time deciding what to keep and what to throw out.What they need is an incentive.
How To Stop Ebay Buyers From Sniping Your Auction For Less Than Its True Value
There are many savvy eBay buyers who use automated bidding programs, which are referred to as sniping software. Sniping allows the eBay buyer to place an unseen bid in the last seconds of an eBay auction allowing them to win the ebay auction at a very low price if there was no reserve.
How To Sell Santa's Slip-Ups
Shoppers spent more than $15.5 billion this Christmas on gifts on the Internet alone.
How To Profit Using eBays Saved Search Feature
Did you know that eBay will help you locate products you can buy cheap, then flip for a quick profit? No? Then listen up, because I am about to let you in on a little known feature of eBay that can literally stuff wads of cash in your wallet in less than 24 hours.This is an eBay tool that I use every day to locate products that I can buy and resell or buy cheap and keep for myself and my family.
Why Its a BAD Idea To Promote Hot Selling Products on eBay
Do a quick search on Google, Yahoo, or your favorite auction resource site, and you'll quickly discover there are several software programs targeted to vendors who want to promote hot selling products on eBay.The infatuation with hot selling products exists because sellers believe if you target items that have a robust sales pattern, you'll have a better chance at profiting on eBay.
Selling on Ebay-Get Started in 7 Easy Steps
Ebay auctions are definitely the easiest and fastest way to start earning money online. Ebay.
Making Money on eBay is Really Easy
If I can do it you can.Let me tell you my story.