ebay logoAbout EBay

EBay is a global company with headquarters in San Jose, California. Founded in 1995 by Pierre Omidyar, it grew rapidly. Shoppers can buy a variety of goods, from brand-new cars to precious antique clocks. They participate in auctions or use a Buy It Now feature to purchase products right away. While many customers have good experiences, others have struggled with eBay scams perpetuated by dishonest sellers and buyers.

How Does It Work?

Several common scams operate on eBay. In one, dishonest buyers tell eBay that their products never arrived, they get their money back, and honest sellers are out the product they sold plus the money that eBay refunded. In another scam, buyers ask to move transactions off the eBay site and then threaten to contact eBay to make false claims of bad seller behavior. They want money from buyers who are invested in keeping their eBay accounts clean and active. Another scam goes like this: buyers purchase a duplicate of the same product they receive from an auction or eBay purchase, only the duplicate is broken. Sellers are out the price of the item, and dishonest buyers have a free item. In some scams, sellers sell pirated goods, and they stop working after a while.

Cost/Price Plans

Several pricing structures operate on eBay. For example, some sellers offer free shipping, while shipping is on top of the price for other items. Some sellers use promoted, paid listings to reach more potential buyers. In addition, eBay charges fees such as listing fees and final-value fees. The company is clear and upfront about these fees.

Refund Policy

EBay lets sellers set their own returns policies. In general, the practice is to offer refunds for items that are lost in the mail or that arrive broken. That’s why many eBay scams rotate around this theme. The refunds come from the individual sellers, not from eBay. EBay also gives sellers the option to offer replacements instead of refunds. EBay does realize that misuse of this policy occurs, and it gives its users several ways to report potential policy abuse.

Customer Service Contact Info

EBay has text reading “Help & Contact” at the top of most of its pages. Customers clicking on that link can choose from topics such as bid retraction and fees and billing. EBay also offers phone chat. Its internal online contact methods for buyers and sellers cover topics such as not getting an item as described and reporting vehicle fraud.


EBay has a fairly good reputation, but it has always gotten media coverage on its scams. Understandably, some people decide that buying and selling on eBay is not worth the risk. They either do not sign up at all or leave the site. Many people do love eBay, for example, using it to unearth hard-to-discover treasures and to add to collections. For the best experiences, it is vitally important that both buyers and sellers do their homework. They should check reviews to ensure that the people they conduct business with are legitimate. Apprehensive buyers should buy only from sellers who, one, clearly outline their return policies, and two, have generous policies.

Common Complaints

  • Too lenient with buyers at the expense of sellers
  • Refunds and returns policy too permissive

Editor’s Opinion

Buying on eBay is relatively safe, although customers should watch out for scams that include piracy; it is not always apparent an item is pirated, and when it stops working months later, customers may be out of many options. It is with selling that more risk comes in, but still, only a relatively small amount of total purchases on eBay get flagged. Sellers should avoid selling more-expensive items until they get more experience; insurance is also an option.

Final Verdict: Not a scam, but you can be scammed by a buyer or a seller. Be smart about it and you’ll be alright.