How to avoid 8 common eBay scams for a safer online experience

Guy Bauman

December 22, 2023

  • # Fraud Prevention
  • # Payment Protection
  • # Phishing Protection

Online shopping’s convenience comes with a cost: It’s fraught with potential scams. That’s especially true for platforms like eBay.

As a convenient and global online marketplace, eBay attracts countless genuine buyers and sellers. But it’s also an excellent place for fraudsters to exploit user trust. While searching for that one-of-a-kind baseball card or an out-of-print book, you might find yourself interacting with a criminal looking to steal your payment information or funds — without offering anything in return.

Luckily, there are various ways to spot these tricksters. Read on to learn how to avoid eight of the most common eBay scams.

8 common eBay scams to be aware of

eBay fraud ranges from bot users stealing personal details via chat to real people taking your money without sending anything your way. But no matter the scam, the aim is typically the same: to profit from user ignorance. 

Here are some of the most common scams to watch out for to protect your digital privacy.

1. Photo-only scams

Some sellers deceitfully list items with vague descriptions, showcasing only a photo. Mistaking the listing for the actual product, buyers end up bidding on just a picture or an empty box. To guard against these eBay offer scams, scrutinize item descriptions and contact sellers for clarification, whether that’s more photos or details.

2. Gift card scams

In this ploy, fraudsters manipulate buyers into sharing eBay gift card information outside the standard transaction process. These scammers may apply pressure or create a sense of urgency. 

Remember: Legitimate eBay transactions never require sharing gift card details via email or over the phone.

3. Counterfeits and knockoffs

While well-known for offering access to unique and hard-to-acquire items, eBay is also a breeding ground for counterfeit goods. Exercise caution with unusually cheap designer goods, always verify seller credibility, and look for eBay's Authenticity Guarantee badge.

4. Vehicle scams

This involves scammers sharing fake vehicle listings, often accompanied by convincing narratives and pictures. Key red flags include unusually low prices and requests for payment outside of eBay, typically using gift cards. Try to inspect any vehicle in person and insist on paying within the website, if possible.

5. Non-delivery scams

Here, sellers list non-physical goods or items that require third-party shipping and fail to deliver. Such listings might include digital products or items in transit from another vendor. To avoid falling prey, examine seller reviews thoroughly and favor items covered by eBay's Money Back Guarantee.

6. Third-party payment scams

A highly common scam involves having buyers pay outside the site, like with a wire transfer or other untraceable payment method. They then ask for more than the listed price or take your money without sending anything in return. Always complete purchases through eBay’s official checkout and report any sellers who suggest otherwise.

7. Incorrect label scams

After completing a sale, scam sellers might say the item shipped to the wrong address and claim the package was refused or returned. Protect yourself by closely monitoring tracking information and comparing package weights to ensure consistency with the purchased item.

8. Phishing emails

These eBay email scams involve fraudsters posing as official eBay communications, often with offers too good to ignore. Such emails might mimic eBay's Second Chance Offer program, directing payments to third-party email addresses. Always communicate through eBay's official channels and verify suspicious emails.

Key signs of a scam eBay listing

To retain robust personal digital security, think twice before purchasing from listings that showcase any of these signs: 

  • Suspiciously low prices: Extremely low prices, especially for high-value items, are a telltale sign of a scam. eBay buyer scams often lure users with deals that seem too good to be true.

  • Generic or urgent communications: Be cautious of listings or emails with urgent language or generic greetings. eBay never asks for sensitive information via email, and authentic eBay communications won’t pressure you for immediate action.

  • Unusual payment methods: Legitimate eBay transactions use secure and traceable payment methods, so be wary of sellers asking for wire transfers, gift cards, or other unconventional payment methods.

  • Inconsistent listing details: Discrepancies in product descriptions, images, or seller information are major red flags. Always cross-verify information for consistency.

  • Poor seller reviews or new accounts: Check the seller's history and feedback, as new accounts or those with negative reviews might indicate a risk.

  • Phishing attempts: Be on the lookout for phishing emails posing as eBay. These emails might contain links leading to fake websites designed to steal personal information like credit card numbers.

  • Requests for off-platform communication: If a seller insists on moving conversations off eBay, consider why — it might be because they hope to conduct fraud.

How to protect yourself against eBay scams

For the most part, eBay sellers have the best intentions. But falling for a scam can have significant consequences, like credit card fraud or even identity theft. Proactivity is worthwhile — here’s how to protect yourself from scam sellers:

  • Use secure payment methods like PayPal to enjoy increased safety against fraud.

  • Stay within eBay's platform, conducting all communication, transactions, and disputes through eBay's official channels to ensure protection under their policies.

  • Implement advanced security measures with IronVest, like email masking and virtual credit cards, to enjoy an extra layer of security that makes it harder for eBay card scams to access your personal information. Learn how to pay online without a credit card here.

  • Verify seller credibility, looking at their feedback and history. A pattern of positive interactions is a good sign, while a history of disputes or negative feedback warrants caution.

  • Educate yourself on eBay policies and procedures, including their Money Back Guarantee and dispute resolution process.

The aftermath: What to do if you get scammed on eBay

As distressing as falling for a scam is, you can mitigate the consequences by taking the following five steps soon after: 

  1. Report the incident to eBay: File a report through eBay's Security Center or directly via the listing. eBay's team can investigate the matter and take appropriate actions, including refunding you under their Money Back Guarantee, depending on the payment method.

  2. Contact your payment service provider: If you paid via PayPal or another financial service, contact them immediately. Many payment services have protection policies and can help recover lost funds in case of a scam.

  3. File a police report: In cases of significant fraud, file a police report. This documentation is crucial for further investigations and may be required by your payment service provider or bank.

  4. Inform your bank: If you used a direct bank transfer or a debit/credit card, contact your bank as soon as possible. They can take measures to protect your account and may assist in recovering the funds.

  5. Stay informed: Remain in-the-know about safe online shopping practices, perhaps by following digital security blogs like IronVest's or signing up for a helpful newsletter.

Elevate your online shopping safety with IronVest

With IronVest, online shopping is all fun, no threat. Our browser extension streamlines your online transactions and fortifies them with top-tier security features like temporary password generation and masked emails and credit card numbers. 

Get IronVest today and enjoy a less threatening digital experience tomorrow.


Q: Can you get scammed on eBay?

A: Absolutely — scammers might take payment without sending anything in return, move off the platform to try and get your personal information, or send you items unlike what you thought you bought, among other scams.

Q: How can I verify if an email from eBay is authentic?

A: Authentic eBay emails will have specific information related to your account or transactions, and all branding and web address-related content should be accurate. Always cross-check the email address and look for official eBay communication indicators. And avoid clicking on links. Instead, log into your eBay account directly through the browser for any actions.

Q: What should I do if I suspect a buyer on eBay is fraudulent?

A: If you suspect fraudulent buyer behavior, report them immediately through eBay’s report feature. Include any relevant information or communication that supports your suspicion.

Q: Will I get a refund from my bank if I get scammed on eBay?

A: This depends on your bank’s policies and the scam’s nature. Banks may offer protection for unauthorized transactions but not cover scams where you voluntarily sent money.

Q: What does eBay's Money Back Guarantee cover?

A: eBay's guarantee covers eligible purchases you haven’t received yet or those that significantly differ from the ad. It doesn’t cover items paid for with cash, checks, or money orders.

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