Sunday, January 29, 2006

Fraud on eBay? No Kidding....

The New York Times has noticed that not everything offered for sale on eBay is genuine. They observe in relation to buyer and seller feedback, which ostensibly helps prevent fraud:
EBay's feedback system that allows buyers to post negative reviews of bad sellers is supposed to protect customers like Ms. Pollack. Yet all of the alleged counterfeiters had consistently positive ratings.

Ms. Steiner of said this situation was not uncommon. Buyers and sellers are often reluctant to leave bad reviews, lest their own reputations suffer.
I think more explanation would be helpful, as eBay's system of feedback permits sellers to effectively coerce buyers into leaving good feedback or withdrawing negative feedback.

I have purchased a number of items over the years from eBay, none of which were counterfeit. Each and every time, the seller did not give me feedback until I had rated the seller's performance. During the same period I have heard numerous complaints from aggrieved buyers who left what they claim to be accurate negative feedback about sellers, only to find that the seller posted a negative rating and comments on their account. The seller then offers mutual withdrawal of the comments, never mind the truth. eBay's policies on negative feedback are effectively seller-oriented. I don't know if they were designed to be so favorable to the seller, but I am not particularly surprised that they remain that way - eBay makes its money, after all, by keeping its sellers happy and maximizing the number of items available for sale.

In most cases the only action by a buyer that can be rated by the seller is how quickly the buyer paid for the purchased item. Given that reality, eBay should consider adjusting its feedback system such that the buyer can leave feedback about the seller at any time, but the seller cannot see the feedback and the rating is not incorporated into the seller's profile until after the seller rates the buyer. While there may be some buyers who manage to manipulate that system, for the most part I think it would lead to more accurate ratings and reduce the fear buyers face when they receive shoddy, broken, or counterfeit merchandise.

Update: Over at Crime and Federalism, Mike proposes a reasonable ratings reform of his own, and promises a future analysis of whether eBay is a criminal enterprise under the RICO statute.


  1. Good post. If eBay wanted its feedback system to be worth anything, it would say, e.g., any buyer who tenders full payment within 24 hours of the auction (and doesn't seek to return merchandise) is entitled to favorable feedback. EBay doesn't care. It's serving as a clearing house of stolen merchandise - and making a nice profit as well.

  2. Another problem is how, say, in the case of someone selling fradulent items, the people who would KNOW it's fake won't bid to begin with.

    Thus, they end up getting sold to 'newbies' who don't know they've been scammed and who accordingly leave good feedback when they get their stuff on time.

    As many have pointed out, good feedback tends to be more an indication that the seller ships on time than whether or not they're selling 'the real thing.'

  3. When it comes to counterfeit or grey market software, I suspect that many of the buyers know exactly what they are doing. But with facsimile jewelry sold as the real thing, used cars with their condition misrepresented, stolen or broken computers, etc., then yes, most victims will be new or relatively new to eBay.

  4. Have a look at the petition at to get an idea how bad fraud on eBay really is.

  5. E-Bay? and others I am sure, are ruled only by money period. It is very sad to have such a prominent business and also be known as a clearing house of anything legal or not. Why does it have to only be Buyer be ware? With the power of a company like E-Bay they could with no problem become like a big brother, as in you(buyer) beware,but know that we(E-Bay) got your back. WHY? Because they can!
    It is still O.K. to help your neighbour and to stand up to the Bullies, The ones that say either leave me Positive feedback or else, I was ripped on E-bay and it turned out that even though I paid up front and on time I got negative feedback?? Just because after asking for help and not getting it I told the truth. It is not just E-bay, It happens all over I guess in all situations, but you know what 1(one) person/or company can be the Example of standing up for what is right and heavan forbid, admit to a mistake or error emediately and then just moving forward. goodness is still very popular and Profitable. Example is BILL GATES- HE GIVES AND WE BUY.

  6. Ebay's feedback system allows lies,slander,defamation/liable to be posted without retaliation except to tell the party harmed they can take it to court. A large expense unless the fraud is for a significant amount of money. And you are not allowed to even post your proof in your me page with names.
    These sellers can simply lie about the emails/responses,times,shipping,if you even get the item.
    Those that post the lies know ebay policy well enough to know what kind of lies,name calling, bullying that is allowable enough to get over. And they know the expense you must go thru to get liable statements removed so this will continue for their career on eBay. So long as people do not see this & keep bidding & leaving good feedback for receiving a descent transaction.
    Example where this was done to me & so many others: cincinnatiscifi-
    Time gone by:
    And still:
    Yet these same sellers complaining buyers are idiots & whiners are 1st to whine to ebay when they have a way ALLOWABLE by ebay to get a negative removed from their side

  7. ebays deedback system is far from perfect but it is not merely the sellers who abuse it.

    Buyers can also blackmail via negative feedback in order to get refunds etc.

    Using the system you propose a Buyer may pay for item within 5 minutes, receive the item the next day, inform the seller he never received it and demand refund or threaten to negative the sellers feedback. Leaving the seller out of pocket and absolutely no way of warning others as he could using the current feedback system.

    Many ebay sellers hold back feedback to protect themselves from fraudulant buyers.

  8. A warning about 'feedback'. some sellers offer goods which they do not have. they have stolen the picture and text from someone's site. the listing appears genuine, particularly as they also have a large feedback profile. what they have in fact done, is hijacked an ebay identity that has been unused for a while, and created recent 'feedback' which is totally phony, involving goods which they also didn't have to sell, and buyer identities which they have also hijacked. the earlier goods, which represented genuine sales, are invariably in a completely different category.

  9. Ebay is complicit in the criminality so rampant on its site. It does nothing whatever to discourage it and does nothing whatever even when it is reported. One recent incident ( was serious enough for police involvement yet Ebay did nothing.

    I've sold several million dollars worth of used highline import cars on Ebay and ALWAYS left feedback when I received payment. It earned me an encounter with feedback extortion (a guy wanted money back after the sale) once and Ebay ignored that as well.

  10. 2 examples where diligent people going around ebay helped get sellers off or unfortunately just temporarily suspended.

    Here is a story where ebay members were contacting each other to discuss their mutual problems with a bad seller but ebay has helped the seller by blocking contact with members that do business with ebay seller ANIMEGAMINGCCGMINISTOYSNMORE ( )and he also is one of the type sellers that complained about the link being unfair for members to be able to see the bad feedback lumped together showing his bizarre personality. Ebay deletes all traces of his BAD personality that they can. this story includes links showing proof & other peoples blogs/problems with this seller yet ebay continues to use double standards to protect him for as long as they can.

  11. Read the previous links

    There are also stories on which is linked to somewhere in but does not have that ANIMEGAMINGCCGMINISTOYSNMORE listed. But having looked at the feedback for and by ANIMEGAMINGCCGMINISTOYSNMORE only new and naive ebayers would do business with that unprofessional! There is even quite a few counterfeit items mentioned in his feedback. Ebay needs to Police it self much better.

  12. Denny Martin8/16/07, 3:47 PM

    I too have been a victim of Ebay's "lack of spine " feedback removal policy. According to Ebay, I can write anything I want in a negative feedback comment, no matter how defamatory or untrue (so long as I don't cuss or divulge any personal information... heaven forbid they get sued) and they won't lift a finger to protect the integrity of their users, unless you go through their friends the Square Trade arbitrators for the low, low price of $29.95 (blood money) and they will remove it. All in the name of "free speech". Whatever, sounds like free cash... for them, or Square Trade...

  13. Ebay condones dishonesty on the part of buyers.

    I am a seller who had a perfect feedback score, until I sold an item to a buyer who clearly purchased the item for the sole purpose of leaving false and negative feedback.

    My complaints to ebay have fallen on deaf ears, other than ebay telling me to get a court order to remove that false and negative feedback.

    Ebay is a horrible site. It condones dishonesty and has no customer service.

  14. CaptainReality2/16/08, 9:52 PM

    "I am a seller who had a perfect feedback score, until I sold an item to a buyer who clearly purchased the item for the sole purpose of leaving false and negative feedback."

    What do you care? As long as your feedback is mostly positive, people expect the average fruitcake leaving bad feedback.

  15. I am a power seller on Ebay, and since they brought in this ludicrous buyer only can leave neutral or negative its attracted all the mealy mouthed tossers you can imagine to leave negatives for no other reason other that they can. I understand where you lot are coming from but the genuine seller is getting hurt by the bad buyer eliment who can do nothng else but complain.

  16. There are some bad buyers and there are some bad sellers. That is why there needs to be an even playing field when leaving feedback. It might seem to some that the only thing the seller is rating is the payment time but that is not true at all. Buyers may wait a long time to pay, not pay at all or decide the item is not what they really wanted. Or it doesn't match thier shoes, is smaller than it looked (dimensions listed of course) or is smaller than it looked or just doesn't hold all their things or whatever. Often, they want you to take a return and pay the shipping! They also buy the same item more than once and don't want both or confuse you with the other seller. I have 100% positive feedback and I see many problems with this new system. I had two non paying bidders in my first 11 sales after the change of feedback. They have nothing to fear with bidding and not paying. It is unfair to sellers. Why not allow both sides to leave feeback but along with the number of feedbacks they have, show the number of negative feedbacks they have left for others. Then a person can say, this person left them a negative but 10% of the feedback they leave is negative. You can pick out the complainers from the people truly leaving earned negatives. There has to be a better way than it is now.

  17. Note that this post is almost three years old, and eBay's policies have been revised considerably since the time it was made. The revisions help with a lot of the abusive conduct of sellers toward buyers, but I think it's pretty clear that they have also empowered a set of buyers to abuse sellers.

  18. I just experienced a very messy situation concerning ebay feedback. I sold an item and did not receive any payment or communication for over 10 days. I emailed the buyer several times with no response. I contacted ebay to initiate the relisting of the item. Ebay must have contacted him and asked for a payment. I assume this communication was to the point. He paid and then contacted with profanity because I contacted ebay about the nonpayment. You can guess what happened next. He left bogus negative feedback that was just fabricated to make me look like a shyster. I contacted ebay to no avail. Sellers beware!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.