For at least a decade, eBay's "seller feedback" has provided a great way of checking whether a deal seems genuine before going ahead with it. Lately however, account hijacking has plagued the online auction website, making it more likely for ordinary punters to get scammed.
Account hijacking occurs when reputable sellers unwittingly reveal their eBay usernames and passwords to scammers. The scammers then log in and pose as these sellers, usually offering non-existant goods at too-good-to-believe prices.
One irate eBay user explains how it works:
Dirtry no good people around the globe are hijacking innocent eBay users' accounts. They basically send them an email that asks them to log into their eBay account via a link in the email. But the link sends them to a web page that looks JUST LIKE the eBay sign-in page and when the user logs in not knowing any better, they are actually entering their password into a database that these no-good deadbeat hackers have set up.
So, how to detect an eBay scam? Barnson.org offers the following tips:
1. Check the seller's history. Not just their feedback rating, because these days so many accounts are getting hijacked, but actually what they have sold, how much they've sold it for, what their payment requirements were, etc. For instance, the feedback history on [an eBay scammer offering a remarkably cheap laptop] ... was great. But all he had ever sold were sporting goods, and he had only ever accepted PayPal. This is a sudden, out-of-character change. Even if it were legit, that sudden of a change would leave me leery.
2. No Western Union or Money Orders out of the country. It doesn't matter how good the deal is, it's not a good deal when they walk away with your $1000 and you have nothing to show for it.
3. As much as I hate to say it, check their grammatical habits. "Nigerian Scammers" have a peculiar writing style. It's an immediate red-flag to a potential ripoff.