~eBay Shill Bidding 005 (Case Study #5).doc
8 July 2012; last revised 16 June 2013
Note: All the statements made in this thread and the other articles linked hereto are my opinion only; readers must form their own opinions from the facts presented, particularly the aggregation of the auction bidding statistics and the analyses thereof in the numerous linked spreadsheets.
Shill Bidding Fraud on eBay: Case Study #5
Rampant, ongoing, shill bidding fraud and eBay’s calculated aiding and abetting thereof
The only difference between eBay and any unscrupulous traditional auctioneer that takes bids “off the wall”, is that eBay’s online auctions have, during the auction and for a period thereafter, a recorded, auditable data trail of bidding that can be analysed, and the following case study demonstrates, in my humble opinion, beyond any doubt
- Massive, rampant, blatant, shill bidding “wire fraud” on eBay auctions by many eBay-favoured “professional” merchants …
- The probable commercial supplying of shill bidding services—for many, who knows how many, unscrupulous major eBay merchants …
- eBay’s ever tacit, and now active, aiding and abetting of such massive wire fraud on the consumers of the world …
- Indeed, eBay is demonstrably the greatest calculated facilitator of fraud on consumers that the world is ever likely to know …
About the author of this ever-growing criticism of eBay: My name is Philip Cohen; I have been a user of eBay since October 2006; I am predominantly a buyer of “stuff” on eBay; I have a feedback count of ~300. I don’t “hate” eBay, but I have been a vocal critic of eBay since about 2007 when I had an experience with a blatant shill bidding seller and, on (naively) reporting the matter to eBay, I received from them, what I considered to be, an unsatisfactory response. Thereafter I have watched eBay very closely, as closely as one can from the outside, and this latest case study, based initially and principally on the eBay merchant, eDropOff, (and the additional examples here recorded further along in this thread), is a clear demonstration of eBay’s calculated criminality.
If anyone would like to respond to this matter directly, they can do so by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org
But first, eBay's fundamental fraud on consumers
Bidders on eBay auctions should take great care when bidding on “nominal-start” auctions (and I don’t mean just 99c-starts) because, contrary to eBay’s disingenuous claims, and as clearly demonstrated in the following case study, eBay is not
looking out for you; indeed, eBay is actively and demonstrably aiding and abetting a very great many unscrupulous professional sellers to defraud you …
Notwithstanding that eBay nominal-start auctions are demonstrably awash with shill bidding, all this criminal activity is simply a symptom of the real problem, the underlying pathology, the disease, the cancer—eBay Inc—that is effectively and calculatingly aiding and abetting and profiting from this rampant criminal fraud activity …
Unless we are still very “wet behind the ears”, when we go to a traditional auction we know that we have to take care. eBay’s fundamental fraud on consumers therefore is eBay’s demonstrably false claim to have “sophisticated and proactive” systems in place to control shill bidding and protect consumers therefrom …
Demonstrably, eBay has no such systems in place, and such a claim is therefore a “false representation for the purpose of making a gain” and that is in itself effectively criminal fraud on buyers at the majority of nominal-start auctions on the eBay marketplace, a deliberate and outrageous deception by eBay on eBay’s many trusting users, falsely leading those users to believe that the warm woolly coats that they wear on their backs are safe when, in fact, eBay is leading them into the shearing shed where eBay’s wolves are laying in wait.
eBay has been tacitly aiding and abetting, and effectively encouraging such criminal activity since the year dot, and calculatingly so since they further anonymised bidding IDs in 2008. Since that time bidders have been unable to identify and contact each other with respect to suspected fraud; they can only report such matters to eBay—LOL.
Many auctioneers believe that the criminal fraud activity of “undisclosed vendor (shill) bidding” is an acceptable mechanism to maximise a selling price, and it’s probable that many traditional auctioneers practice such unscrupulousness but it’s virtually impossible to prove such activity. Conversely, in eBay’s case there is an auditable digital data trail, the analysis of which, in my opinion, demonstrates beyond any doubt that eBay is calculatedly facilitating such criminal activity. You can also be assured that virtually whenever an eBay spokesperson’s lips are moving, they are invariably being disingenuous …
Then there is eBay’s seller-elected “private listing” auction format. More on this later but simply put, genuine bidders get no useful bidding information at all on this most devious auction format … Talk about auctioneers taking bids from multiple insects crawling up the wall … It is beyond comprehension that any honest merchant would elect to use this utterly opaque “private listing” format, and undoubtedly only utterly unscrupulous merchants will have the gall to do so. Such “private listing” auctions never have served any purpose other than to totally obscure shill bidding fraud and are, without doubt, the exclusive domain of auction fraudsters, for whose criminal purpose eBay undoubtedly and calculatingly designed this most devious auction format. That any genuine bidder could be so naive as to bid on such an auction is another story …
The principal subject of this case study
The principal subject of this current shill bidding case study came to my attention when it was reported on the ecommercebytes.com blog on 18 May 2012 that the proprietor of eBay seller eDropoff, Corri McFadden, had on 10 May 2012 sued a Purseforum.com contributor Nancy R Burke (“BeenBurned”) for defamation after Burke had alleged that seller eDropOff was shill bidding on its eBay auctions. In the initial legal action that ensued McFadden applied for and was granted a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on Burke, based apparently upon a “certificate” supplied by eBay that stated—falsely in my opinion—that there was no sign of any shill bidding on eDropOff’s auctions.
The ecommercebytes article at: http://www.ecommercebytes.com/cab/abn/y12/m05/i18/s01
The complaint at: http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/05/14/purseblog.pdf
Subsequent to the TRO, the original, offending thread on purseblog.com was removed at the request of the defendant but, of course, the rambling debate between the “sighted” who could see the ongoing and blatantly obvious “alleged” shill bidding, and an opposing group, of presumably “blind” and trusting eDropOff supporters, simply carried on on another thread:
Subsequently, on 9 July, the defamation matter was settled on terms confidential, apparently …
McFadden (“Plaintiffs”), hereby move to dismiss this action, with prejudice and without costs, against Defendant Nancy R. Burke (“Burke”). Plaintiffs and Burke have settled their dispute. In light of the dismissal, Plaintiffs further request that any pending temporary restraining orders (“TROs”), including the TRO issued on May 17, 2012 [Dkt. 25], or other injunctions involving Burke be immediately dissolved.
Note particularly the matter has been settled “with prejudice and without costs”. This case appears to have never been anything but a crude and foolish attempt by McFadden to use the legal process as a bludgeon to stifle a debate of public interest. Obviously, McFadden was emboldened by the false “certificate” supplied by eBay. What then has been the benefit obtained by McFadden from this process? None that I can see. Indeed, in the strategic sense, the tactic has backfired completely: the very expensive can of worms has been opened and the squirming contents well and truly exposed for all the sighted to see …
Then there is the plaintiff’s apparently still ongoing action against Midley Inc (the Purse Forum). I closely followed, and contributed to, the later Purse Forum debate (and have subsequently been named as one of the defendant “does” in the case); however, I am not aware that the proprietors of the Purse Forum at any time made any disparaging comments about McFadden/eDropOff. And with the combined preliminary costs of this separate matter now approaching $1,000,000, you have to wonder about the quality of the legal advice that McFadden received; then, I don’t suppose McFadden initially told her lawyers the true facts of the matter. The matter now appears to be little more that a high-stakes game of poker to see who is going to pay who’s costs … (You can follow much of the argument in this contest, including the various linked court transcripts, via the EventHorizon1984 blog at http://eventhorizon1984.typepad.com/...984_blog/ebay/
Now, if I was eBay’s chief headless turkey, John Donahoe, I would indemnify the costs of Midley, plus the damages that Midley is undoubtedly entitled to for being put through this abuse of process, to simply get the matter to go away, but I doubt that he is that smart …
Which brings us to eBay’s part in this alleged, ongoing, massive and blatant auction shill bidding fraud activity, and eBay’s ever tacit, and now active, aiding and abetting thereof …
“She [McFadden] also said eBay had vindicated her of any shill bidding activities, claiming that her eBay account manager wrote to one of her customers who was concerned about the shill bidding accusations.”
According to the lawsuit filing’s Exhibit F, eDropOff’s Strategic Account Manager at eBay, Chris Van Wagoner, wrote a letter to the concerned customer, including the following paragraphs:
“I’d like to start by saying that, as eDropoff’s Account Manager at eBay, we regret losing your valuable business. We pride ourselves on the many repeat buyers that we continue work with on a daily basis. I’d also like to make you aware that as eDropoff is one of our Top sellers on eBay, we work with them to ensure that not only are they delivering top experiences, but that they are also adhering to the many policies we have established, including shill Bidding. As a result, they routinely undergo policy investigations to allow for us to make certain of their compliance.
“With that said, we at eBay have thoroughly investigated the eDrop-off account and currently have no reason to believe that a Shill Bidding violation has taken place.”
“Laugh Out Loud (and long)” …
Again, as the case against Burke was settled “with prejudice and without costs”, may we presume that the matter stalled because the master fraud facilitator, eBay Inc., was not prepared to perjure itself by supplying the above same false testimony directly to a court.
Notwithstanding that eBay Inc is demonstrably unscrupulous in the extreme, the above cartoon by Wiley Miller has little to do with this matter as this matter is not simply about a choice between “ethical” and “legal”, it is about blatant criminality: eBay’s demonstrable, calculated, aiding and abetting of massive wire fraud on the consumers of the world …
Below is a link to a spreadsheet analysis of a sampling of about half of one percent of eDropOff’s completed auctions over the ongoing sampled period; the conclusions that I draw therefrom are purely my opinion; you can draw your own conclusions as to whether or not, on the balance of probability—or even beyond any
doubt—this merchant is shill bidding massively on the great majority of her auctions, and whether eBay can be other than knowingly complicit in such criminal activity …
The eDropOff sampling spreadsheet (currently ~6MB) … http://bit.ly/151fXZi
Some of the bidders that appear in this now large, but in percentage terms very small, sampling of eDropOff’s auctions, even multiple times, may be genuine bidders and many of those bidders who have won auctions may too be genuine buyers, albeit, in my opinion, buying at a higher price than they may otherwise have paid.
However, even the sophisticated buyer employing a last moment “snipe” is unlikely to “bag” a bargain here as the minimum selling price is usually established well before the end of an auction by the many other habitually regular bidders that bid early, and sometimes often, on eDropOff’s auctions—but then rarely win. …
Many of the IDs that I have harvested, in this sampling, even a single time, have 30-Day Summary bidding statistics that are extremely atypical and, in my opinion, there are so many, they are possibly third-party commercially-supplied shill bids; and of those with very low “% this seller” and making early low value bids, they possibly belong to other unscrupulous sellers who are making bids on other sellers’ nominal-start auctions for the purpose of diluting their own shill ID’s “% with this seller” percentage statistic.
Of course, the fact that a bidder regularly bids on more than one auction from a particular seller does not necessarily make them a shill; other factors need to be considered, such as the type of item/s being sold, the numbers of auctions being periodically run, the items a bidder is bidding on with other sellers, the timing of bids (nibbles or snipes), etc—which it is not possible for me to even attempted to summarise. Having said that, only the utterly naive (or a shill) nibble bids on such auctions. Who bids very early with nominal bids—other than a seller’s shills, or other sellers’ shills diluting their “% with” statistic, and possibly those naïve buyers who believe that eBay is really protecting them from such criminal activity?—LOL
Another point to be noted is that, notwithstanding McFadden’s claim to have been damaged by these allegations of shill bidding, the spreadsheet analysis suggests that the number of bidder/bids on her auctions appear not to have been affected—the same great number of very regular bidders still appear, and monotonously so …
Ultimately, it is not the statistics of any one or of even a few bidders that count, it is the overall pattern of bidding that strongly suggests that all is not “kosher”. It is these abnormal patterns of bidding and many surprisingly atypical Bid History statistics that suggest the probability of an organized shill bidding ring at work for, no matter how shill bidding is accomplished, there can be only so many IDs that will be available for the purpose and, as data is so analysed, abnormal bidding patterns and habitually consistent abnormal 30-Day Summaries will appear, as they have done, so obviously, on eDropOff’s auctions.
This sampling of McFadden’s auctions displays all of the red flags that I can think of: auctions cancelled/relisted; many items “sold”/relisted (one item noticed, seven times); lots of bidders, lots of bids, lots of “nibble” bidding; lots of “newbie” bidders (ie <30 days eBay membership); lots of very low feedback-count bidders; a majority of bidders are multiple-item bidders, a great many with high “% with this seller” activity; and overall far too many bidders with the most extremely atypical 30-Day Summary statistics (possibly commercially-supplied shill bidding).
I expect that a great many of this seller’s genuine underbidders will have afterwards received a “Second Chance Offer” because many of these regular atypical winning bidders “did not pay” …
With the introduction of total anonymity for (shill) bidders by eBay in 2008, eBay has made it virtually impossible to ascertain the bona fides of bidders. Regardless, the bidding patterns demonstrated in the spreadsheet suggest that rampant shill bidding is taking place on virtually all of this merchant’s auctions even for items of a lower value. The data suggests that there is possibly a third party providing a commercial shill bidding service to—who knows how many—unscrupulous eBay merchants. But, as I say, draw your own conclusions from the facts supplied, and the bidding patterns demonstrated, in the attached spreadsheet(s) …
It seems that unscrupulous eBay users can have as many eBay “user” accounts as the unlimited supply of email addresses that their email provider will provide. Apparently, no other “verification” is performed by eBay. Now, if eBay was statutorily required to verify that users were real people—as banks are usually required to do—just maybe, at least some of the commercially supplied shill bidding problem could be brought under some control; but, of course, any such control would not be in the interests of eBay’s bottom line …
The eBafia, with their claimed “sophisticated and proactive software” for the detection of such shill bidding fraud, can, apparently, still see none of this. To me, eBay’s lack of action is effectively a calculated criminal facilitation of organised wire fraud. Well, many eBay users always knew that eBay was knowingly facilitating wire fraud but this current matter simply demonstrates the fact …
Another strange aspect of McFadden’s eDropOff auctions is that her feedback count is currently (Jan 2013) ~86,000, yet in her Complaint she claimed ~150,000 “satisfactory transactions” (the discrepancy can only be explained by a great many regular buyers buying multiple items in the same week where, in such circumstances, feedback numbers are discounted); additionally, she has been selling on eBay since June 2004 and she is currently running ~80,000 auctions per annum—that indicates an even more staggering discrepancy between the total number of, apparently, successful auctions run and the feedback received therefor …
McFadden must be getting tired of paying for all that shill bidding on, and buying much of, her own stuff; on 12 April 2013 she listed a couple of high-priced items (350759029115 and 390570999221) as “Buy It Now / Best Offer”; needless to say, neither received an offer. Where does she expect the offers to come from seeing as the majority, if not sometimes all, of the bids on most of her auctions appear to be her own shills? Regardless, you only have to look at the now abysmal sell though rates of just about any professional eBay seller using BIN/BO to know that the eBay marketplace is dying—literally. But the more serious aspect for eBafia is that if all the auction fraudsters convert their listings from (shilled) auctions to BIN/BO, eBay will miss out on the FVFs on all the faux sales that would otherwise have been created—LOL …
Despite her listings stating that she ships “worldwide”, as of 13 June 2013, McFadden has restricted the viewing of eDropOff’s eBay listings to the US site only. Now, why would any merchant selling her sort of stuff want to make international buyers unwelcome? Well, having so many bidders bidding on her stuff—many of whom are habitually regular bidders (LOL)—and with an apparent sell through rate of ~95% (including faux sales, of course), maybe she has decided that she simply does not need any extra sales. What other reason could there possibly be?
Notes to the spreadsheet analysis
Bear in mind that the spreadsheet sample represents about one half of one percent of eDropOff’s completed listings during the sampled period. The fact that a bidder appears (only) a few times could still be quite significant: one bidder—je(7+) [“juliebeanyz”]—initially appeared in this spreadsheet sampling in only three auctions but is in fact a bidder that can be demonstrated as making 200–300 bids on 150–200 of only
eDropOff’s auctions in any 30 day period. This girl obviously has a lot of wardrobe space. Regardless, if we can reasonably extrapolate the spreadsheet contents against the actual number of auctions (~250/day), it would only amplify the apparent atypical patterns of bidding that so very obviously appear even on this very small sample of auctions.
That said, I have concentrated my sampling on the higher-priced sales and it is therefore possible that I have surveyed most of the principal players. … But, no, even at the lower priced end, other third-party bidding IDs appear to be active; see auction 271012130630; “nibble” bidder 2***y (~129): Total bids 808, Items bid on 129, 69% with this seller. There appears to be a steady stream of new third-party bidding IDs being introduced onto eDropOff’s auctions, so, who knows?
From early August (2012) I started including in the spreadsheet, in the columns provided therefore on the right hand side, the “Bidding Details” statistics from the “Bid History Details” pages. I also added an analysis of those rolling “30-Day Summary” statistics that, where a bidder is calculated as having bid on more than one item during that period, the total number of bids made (indicated at the moment the data was collected) is displayed, in red. Needless to say, the result of that calculation makes very obvious some extremely atypical bidding statistics …
Caveat: eBay’s “Bid activity (%) with this seller” value is rounded down (even 0.9 becomes 0); this may result in an understatement of the spreadsheet-calculated total number of bids a bidder has made in the previous 30-day period, which will be of little material consequence other than where the eBay “Total bids” is a large number and the rounded-down “Bid activity (%)” is of very low value, or even displaying “0%”.
Where my bidding statistics calculation indicates that a bidder has bid on multiple auctions with this seller in the past 30 days or otherwise appears multiple times in the spreadsheet, those bidders are coloured a shade of red; where such a regular bidder wins an auction (or would have won, had the seller not cancelled the auction) the bidder’s background is coloured yellow. The suffix “N” indicates a “newby” bidder (of less than 30 days eBay membership).
A great many bidders are suffixed with a single asterisk, these I consider are possibly shills; many others are suffixed with double asterisks, these I consider are probably–most-probably shills: they have what appears to me to be very atypical 30-Day Summary statistics; I also consider bids on five or more of a seller’s auctions, 100% with this seller only, unusual, but obviously, the type of goods being bid upon will have a bearing on that premise.
Always bear in mind that there is a healthy trade in “feedback” by unscrupulous merchants on eBay that eBay chooses to do little about (try an eBay search for items “free” or “digital” with free shipping starting at $0.01.), therefore a bidder’s high feedback count is no guarantee that an ID is not a shill: when the shill bidding fails, the shill will regularly be left “holding the baby”. The bidding ID “i***i” (~1787), with its unbelievable number of bids on a likewise unbelievable number of items every month with its equally unbelievably high number of bid retractions, is the classic example …
“Sort Date Ended” button
This sort will put the auctions/bidders in the original order of date ended as they appear on the eBay Bid History page; bidders are listed only once (highest bid) for each auction, regardless of the number of times that they may bid on a an auction, as the purpose is to identify those many bidders that appear regularly/habitually on eDropOff’s auctions, and particularly those that never win anything, not the timing of their bids, or whether they were nibble bidding, which indeed is another red flag. (And, if you think my dates/times are a little odd that is because they are Australian, AEST.)
“Sort Bidders” button
This sort will give you a picture of the number of times individual bidding IDs appear in the spreadsheet sample of auctions; those that appear more than once, or are otherwise established as bidding on multiple auctions, are coloured red, and of those that win an auction have a yellow background.
There are two more sort buttons on the spreadsheet. If the spreadsheet contains multiple sellers, these buttons will alternatively sort the bidders or auctions by the individual sellers.
Bear in mind that these eBay bidding IDs are, by deliberate eBay design, not unique; it’s possible to have two different bidders with identical IDs and occasionally identical feedback, particularly at the lower feedback count values. Conversely, the spreadsheet is static; a regularly appearing ID’s feedback value may advance over time, so, in the spreadsheet, you can also have the same ID with an advancing feedback value. Only by constantly referring to a bidder’s Bid History Details page can an identity of a particular bidder be confirmed, and even then those details are “rolling” summaries and the unscrupulous seller can wash his shill IDs clean by simply letting them lay fallow for 30 days.
For the same reason it is hard to keep track of all the “newbies” and the extremely low feedback-count bidders, particularly those whose IDs are comprised of the vowel letters that are naturally going to appear most often in IDs; needless to say, there are so many of these extremely low feedback IDs “100% with this seller”, that in itself is a big red flag.
The “red sea” of regular bidders that appear on this seller’s auctions is simply, well, overwhelming …
An eDropOff competitor: “linda*s***stuff”
Now, some may claim that all these regular bidders appear on eDropOff’s auctions simply because she is a very popular seller. If you are swayed by that premise then I suggest you take a look at a the spreadsheet analysis for another seller, a direct competitor of eDropOff’s, “linda*s***stuff” at http://bit.ly/12RFiSx
Linda is apparently a consignment seller, somewhat similar to eDropOff. Compare the bidding activity on Linda’s auctions with that on eDropOff’s. Firstly, Linda appears to start her auctions at the minimum she is prepared to accept, and that can mean that a lot of her stuff does not get even a single bid. Indeed, in comparison with eDropOff’s appearance of an exceptionally high sell though rate, Linda’s completed listings are a “sea of red” of unsold items. Strange, that contrast, is it not?
Yet Linda has a transaction feedback count four times the size of eDropOff, and Linda has noticeably less bidders and less bids on her auctions. Now, Linda does have a few bidders that appear atypical but then there are always going to be a few bidders that are genuinely atypical. Overall though, there are no patterns of bidding that suggest any shill bidding on Linda’s auctions … Indeed, the contrast between the patterns of bidding on Linda’s and eDropoff’s auctions could not be more stark.
eBay’s calculated facilitation of wire fraud
As far as the US is concerned, US Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 63, §1343, “Fraud by wire, radio, or television”, is the applicable Federal statute:
“Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. …”
Notice how broad that definition is. Any form of false pretenses for obtaining an advantage is criminal fraud. Any undisclosed vendor bidding on an eBay auction clearly falls under that definition and it is therefore a Federal crime. The knowing facilitation of such criminal activity, by eBay, is also a Federal crime.
Aiding and abetting
To further clarify the matter, let’s have a look at a summary of the US Criminal Code definition of “aiding and abetting” and see if that definition fits eBay’s actions, or lack thereof, with regard to the shill bidding activity that is demonstrably rampant on the auctions run by a very great many (probably a large majority of) professional eBay sellers:
The U.S. criminal code makes aiding and abetting a federal crime itself a crime:
A person may be convicted of aiding and abetting any act made criminal under the code. The elements of aiding and abetting are, generally:
(1) guilty knowledge on the part of the accused (the mens rea);
(2) the commission of an offense by someone; and
(3) the defendant assisted or participated in the commission of the offense (the actus reus).
In 1948, § 550 became 18 U.S.C. § 2(a). Section 2(b) was also added to make clear the legislative intent to punish as a principal not only one who directly commits an offense and one who "aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures" another to commit an offense, but also anyone who causes the doing of an act which if done by him directly would render him guilty of an offense against the United States. It removes all doubt that one who puts in motion or assists in the illegal enterprise or causes the commission of an indispensable element of the offense by an innocent agent or instrumentality is guilty as a principal even though he intentionally refrained from the direct act constituting the completed offense.—US Justice Department (1998), citing United States v. Dodd, 43 F.3d 759, 763 (1st Cir. 1995). … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aiding_and_abetting
Summary: (1) It can be demonstrated that eBay cannot but be aware that shill bidding is rampant on their auction platform; (2) It can be demonstrated, beyond reasonable doubt, that shill bidding is indeed rampant on eBay auctions; (3) It can be demonstrated that eBay effectively assists in the commission of such criminal activity by knowing that such criminal activity is occurring, profiting from such criminal activity, and, contrary to their claims, doing absolutely nothing proactively, and effectively very little reactively, to stop, or report to the appropriate authorities, such criminal activity. In the case of eDropOff, eBay has done nothing to stop what is demonstrably massive and blatant, and ongoing, shill bidding, and eBay has by their subsequent actions—including the supplying of the before-mentioned false certificate—continued to aid and abet such ongoing criminal activity.
An example: on one particular eDropOff-cancelled auction (390550879926), of the nine bidders thereon, seven (possibly eight) are blatantly obvious shills; I reported this auction to eBay for shill bidding. What do you think eBay’s response has been? Absolutely nothing! And that is, prima facie, the aiding and abetting of such criminal activity. But don’t take my word for it, take a look at the bidding statistics on the “Bid History: Details” pages for each of the bidders involved and judge for yourself: http://bit.ly/W62EmQ
Misprision of felony
“Failure to report a felony is "misprision of felony" and is an offense under United States federal law after being codified in 1909 under 18 U.S.C. § 4:
“Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
“This offense, however, requires active concealment of a known felony rather than merely failing to report it.”
Summary: Well, the issuance of a patently false certificate in the eDropOff shill bidding matter, and the taking of no action when such activity is reported to them, demonstrates that eBay is prepared to actively and knowingly conceal such criminal activity—as long as they are profiting sufficiently from it …
You may well then ask, why does eBay choose to not do anything effective to control the auction shill bidding fraud that is demonstrably so rampant on their auction system? The simple answer to that question is that eBay knows that to do anything effective about it would devastate a great many professional sellers and as a consequence eBay’s revenue would be likewise be devastated. (Regardless, sooner or later, as the eBay marketplace continues to atrophy, those desperate shill bidding merchants are eventually going to have to stop buying so much of their own stuff, and that too will devastate eBay.)
Such is the world of commerce: it appears that revenue considerations will likely always trump ethical considerations; in eBay’s case, not even the US criminal code is allowed to impede their income stream—just like the Mafia of old …
The only material difference between eBay and any other unscrupulous auctioneer is that there is an auditable data trail of bidding on eBay auctions, a data trail that, in many instances, demonstrates, beyond any doubt, that eBay is knowingly facilitating such wire fraud, and eBay is therefore a most unscrupulous, indeed criminal, organization.
If you watch eDropOff’s actual “Completed listings” you may also notice that some nominal-start auctions remain unsold and show “0” bids; often, there has in fact been bidding thereon by a number of bidders but the auction has been cancelled by the seller. What does this suggest? In my opinion, it suggests that no genuine bidder has been enticed to bid or to bid to an acceptable price.
If you look at such auctions in the spreadsheet flagged “Seller cancel”; you will notice that the bids have usually been placed by very regular bidders mostly with extremely atypical bidding statistics …
eBay has made it more difficult to research such “cancelled” auctions en masse by their recent removing of the “Sort by” option, “Number of bids: fewest first” from the “Completed listings” page—eBay does try to think of everything to tacitly aid and abet shill bidding fraudsters …
A note on the rolling “30-Day Summary” bidding statistics
These “rolling” Bidding Details statistics are, in my opinion, designed more to obfuscate and deceive than to inform. And, because of their rolling nature these statistics are only useful for a given point in time, and most of the statistics can be washed off a shill ID simply by letting the ID lay fallow for 30 days, or the realy meaningful statistic, the “Bid activity (%) with this seller” percentage, can be kept watered down by the placing multiple nominal-value non-winning bids on other merchants’ nominal-start auctions. (This probably explains the great majority of all those many otherwise pointless nominal bids that you see on many nominal-start auctions: it may not the seller bidding on his own auction but some other shill bidder watering down his own shill ID statistics.) The statistics currently supplied by eBay are:
Total bids [all sellers]
Items bid on [all sellers]
Bid activity (%) with this seller
Bid retractions (6 months)
Only the “Bid activity (%) with this seller” is of any real use in detecting shill bidding on the current auction. But, that percentage statistic also suits the commercial provider of shill bidding who, by the nature of their work, is spreading their bids about amongst who knows how many unscrupulous merchants; they may show large amounts of bidding but they can keep that percentage value watered down and when the bidding is spread over many merchants, the percentage value may in some cases round down to zero, thus further obscuring the amount of bids for that particular auction.
To allow buyers to better protect themselves from shill bidders, eBay could—just as easily—have provided the following more complete information:
Total bids, all sellers
Number bids with this seller
Bid activity (%) with this seller
Items bid on, all sellers
Items bid on with this seller
Item activity (%) with this seller
Bid retractions (total)
The two really meaningful statistics that eBay does not supply but that would be of most value are the “Number
bids with this seller” (rather than simply the percentage thereof) and the “Number of Items
bid on with this seller”. Whereas the supplied Bid activity percentage
can be watered down by unscrupulous sellers by their placing nominal bids elsewhere, the actual number
cannot be watered down, which is most probably the reason why eBay does not supply same for the benefit of genuine bidders. Still, I will leave it up to readers to draw their own conclusions as to why that is so.
The “30-Day Bid History” listing of the last 30 items bid on by the bidder may be of some use for spotting what a lazy shill bidder is placing his “watering down” nominal bids on, and can also be of value when watching a ring of say, used car dealers, that are bidding on each others auctions with little effect on the “percent with” statistic, because this listing may nevertheless show abnormal numbers of bids being placed on other motor vehicles. Nevertheless, the anonymity of bidders, items and sellers in this list means that nothing further can be investigated. I will leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions as to why eBay would design the system thus.
Also, given that individual auction information is generally available for 90 days, why would eBay then supply the rolling Bid History summary for only a 30-day period? Of course, the simple answer is that unscrupulous merchants would otherwise need three times as many shill IDs to surreptitiously do the same job over such a longer summary period …
Bid retractions: We are supplied with the number of bid retractions for 30- and 180-day periods; at least, it is more difficult for unscrupulous merchants to wash off the 180-day statistic, and where a value exists for such period it can be used to better keep track of suspect IDs; but the question that then needs to be asked is, if the “retractions” periods variables apply only to the individual IDs, why does eBay not publish the number of a bidder’s “total” retractions instead of only those for a rolling 180-days? If it did represent the all-time total of retractions, unscrupulous merchants would not be able to “wash off” that statistic at all. Once again, I will leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusion as to why eBay would design the system thus.
Now, it’s usually only a matter of aggregating and analysing the bidding statistics for a small sample of auctions, as has been done in the attached spreadsheets, to come to the conclusion that shill bidding fraud is rampant on such nominal-start auctions.
eBay will undoubtedly claim that they do supply the statistical information on which these analyses can be done; but, they choose not to supply it in a readily digestible form; they choose to deliberately obfuscate the matter by presenting the data in a limited, non aggregated fashion that makes it difficult for the hoi polloi to see the red flags. And, once again, I will leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusion as to why eBay would design the system thus. …
The following table represents what eBay could have—just as easily—supplied, if they had really wanted their trusting buyers to be able to notice suspect bidding patterns and thereby protect themselves from the shill bidding wolves: comprehensive information, up front, on the primary “Bid History” page, that would have enabled all but the most naive buyer to protect themselves from any shill bidding that would therefore have beeen more readily exposed by such better reporting. Of course, it’s most unlikely that eBay would ever present this Bid History information in this more meaningful format for to do so would indeed make it far too easy for buyers to spot the shill bidding fraudsters that—with eBay’s tacit approval—infest eBay’s auctions and prey on eBay’s trusting buyers …
I’ve also always wondered what purpose was served by eBay’s insertion of the three meaningless asterisks in the anonymous bidding pseudonyms—other than to further obfuscate matters, that is …
What the primary “Bid History” page could—just as easily—have contained
And, just for fun, I have built a couple of example tables from a sampling of the bidding IDs that I consider have extremely atypical bidding statistics and which can mostly be found with monotonous regularity on many of eDropOff’s auctions (the “Percent items, this seller” and the result therefrom, are my estimates only).
Needless to say, this sampling of IDs is only the tip of the iceberg and represents only those with the most outrageously atypical statistics; indeed, the linked spreadsheet displays a great many others with still very atypical statistics who are regular bidders and who only rarely, and probably never intentionally, ever win an auction …
The most blatant of eDropOff’s shills
You don’t have to wait until an auction is finished to do this analysis; indeed, on any day, take a look any number of McFadden’s “newly listed” auctions and you will mostly find the same bunch of regular shills (many from the above list) already bidding thereon.
And eBay, with their claimed “sophisticated and proactive” software to detect and control shill bidding fraud, apparently can see none of this mostly blatantly obvious shill bidding … LOL
eBay’s merchant-elected “private listing” auctions
I have done it often elsewhere, so I won’t bother here again commenting in any great length on eBay’s most devious auction format, the merchant-elected “private listing”, other that to say that this eBay-devised mechanism demonstrates eBay’s total lack of scruples.
Genuine bidders get absolutely no bidding information at all on this auction format … Talk about auctioneers taking bids from multiple insects crawling up the wall … It is beyond comprehension that any honest merchant would elect to use this “private listing” format, and only those utterly unscrupulous merchants could possibly have the gall to use it. Such “private listing” auctions serve no other purpose than to utterly obscure shill bidding and are, without doubt, the exclusive domain of auction fraudsters.
Simply put, this auction format is the unscrupulous merchant’s delight and any genuine bidder that other than very, very
carefully “snipes” a bid on such a “private listing” auction is simply naïve; anyone that places a maximum proxy bid early on or that enters into a nibble bidding war on such an auction, is naïve in the extreme and is undoubtedly going to be “taken to the cleaners”—with eBay’s tacit approval, of course …
Ultimately, one has to wonder how anyone could be so naïve as to bid on a “private listing” auction …
eBay’s user-elected “private” feedback
And now that bidding IDs are utterly anonymous, what can be said about eBay’s user-elected “private feedback”? Other than it allows unscrupulous, and sometimes imbecilic, bidders to wreak havoc and be less easily kept track of, for example … http://bit.ly/Vwhvsy
A major conspiracy to defraud
There is a great deal of bidding activity on eDropOff’s auctions and we initially wondered how this amount of bidding, if indeed it is shill bidding, could be accomplished. However, as the amount of data has grown it has become apparent from an analysis of the Bid History Details data of many of the bidders, that it is most probable that, who knows how many, merchants may be using the services of a third-party, commercial provider of shill bidding. Many of the bidding IDs that appear on eDropOff’s auctions, even some “newby” and low feedback-count IDs, show very high numbers of bids made on many other eBay auctions during the 30-Day Summary period, which one suspects could only have been placed by an automated mechanism. (See bidder “c***_(~210)” on auction nr 271007918094 for the most extreme statistics: 11,337 bids on 5,951 items in one 30-day period!)
Now, you may think that where a bidder has an abnormally high numbers of bids on an abnormally high number of auctions but has a low “% this seller”, that that is not suspicious. Not so. I have no doubt that a forensic examination of such bidding IDs will find that they have a high “% with” some other unscrupulous merchant that is also involved in the shill bidding ring.
You can satisfy yourself as to the veracity of this possible conclusion by examining the “30-Day Summary” data, for those regular bidders (particularly on those records in the spreadsheet suffixed with a double asterisk), which is included in the comments column on the right hand side of the spreadsheet. (This additional data was, in the main, added to the existing sheet towards the end of June (2012); many of the IDs that have not been active since May or very early June may now be on “vacation” to recover from all the work they have been doing and to “roll off” the 30-day data that they had thereby built up.)
An interesting article on such a commercial shill bidding service appeared on the auctionbytes.com blog in May 2006 and that article indicates that eBay was aware of its existence; what eBay did about it, other than mouth disapproval, I will leave for readers to speculate on:
At the determination of this current legal action that McFadden has so foolishly instigated, it can only be hoped that the relevant authorities will investigate this matter and obtain the identities of the users/merchants behind many of the bidding IDs involved in this apparent bidding ring, that is, those merchants that have contracted for the lower service fee by allowing their own IDs to be used in the ring. It should then be interesting to watch the race by those involved, to lessen the penalty that they may suffer, by giving up the third-party entity that is providing them all with the automated shill bidding service.
It would appear that every month many tens of thousands of bids are being made on some tens of thousands of auctions by this commercial supplier of shill bidding—from how many IP addresses?—and eBay has no idea it is going on? No, eBay apparently knows absolutely nothing of such shill bidding activity—not even with the “sophisticated and proactive software” that they claim to have for detecting such criminal activity—and if you are naïve or stupid enough to believe that, you undoubtedly have fairies at the bottom of your garden too ...
Indeed, following this research, I have come to the conclusion that there are probably more user IDs in the hands of unscrupulous shill bidding merchants and the commercial suppliers of shill bidding than there are in the hands of genuine users. There certainly are many more bids being made by shills than by genuine bidders … and the outrageous criminal facilitator, eBay, must know it …
Merely the tip of the tip of the iceberg …
The case of Kenneth Walton et al
—nytimes.com, 9 Mar 2001
“Three men accused of trying to sell an abstract painting for $135,805 on the eBay auction Web site last year were indicted yesterday on charges of taking part in a bidding ring that cost hundreds of art buyers a total of $450,000.
“The 35-page indictment charges the men with 16 counts of wire fraud and mail fraud. It accuses them of placing ‘shill’ bids in 1,100 auctions between October 1998 and May 2000, …
“Using more than 40 online user ID's, or screen names, …
“The F.B.I. has said that it opened its investigation after reading an article that appeared in The New York Times on June 2, 2000. ...”
What, only 1100 auctions over two and one-half years! McFadden’s eDropOff runs about 80,000 auctions per annum … and eBay can’t see any shill bidding here either …
The case of Eftis Paraskevaides
—thesundaytimes.co.uk, 28 Jan 2007
“Revealed: how eBay sellers fix auctions”
—infowars.com, 28 Jan 2007
“Customers of the internet auction site eBay are being defrauded by unscrupulous dealers who secretly bid up the price of items on sale to boost profits.
“The cases raise questions about whether eBay, the world's biggest auction site, is doing enough to protect consumers.”
eBay ultimately banned this seller “permanently”. Well, they had to, seeing that he had been voice recorded admitting to shill bidding fraud. Still, he can always simply set up another account and carry on as before …
“eBay shill bid scammer convicted”
—theregister.co.uk, 19 Apr 2010
The reader comments thereto are particularly informative …
“Warning over eBay bidding trick”
—news.bbc.co.uk, 20 Apr 2010
Minibus hire firm boss Paul Barrett, 39, from Stanley, County Durham, pleaded guilty to 10 offences at Skipton Magistrates’ Court after using two separate eBay accounts to bid on and increase the prices of his own items.
Speaking after the hearing on 16 April, Vanessa Canzini of eBay said:
“Shill bidding is illegal and it is important for people to understand that there is not, nor has there ever been, room for illegal activity on our site.
“We invest over £6m each year in state-of-the-art technology to detect shill bidding and other illegal activities.
“This acts as a strong deterrent to the small minority who attempt to use our site inappropriately but, more than this, it helps us to work with law enforcement agencies to secure successful prosecutions if anyone decides to try their luck.”
You can always tell when an eBay/PayPal spokesperson is lying—their lips are moving!
Notice also that eBay has never been the original reporter to the authorities of any such cases of fraud; they only ever “work with law enforcement agencies” after those authorities (or the media) have become involved in such matters … you can draw your own conclusions as to why that may be so … for mine, I have no doubt that it has always been “full ahead flank” tacit facilitation by eBay of such fraud …
A directory of commercial shill bidding services …
eBay critic Cappnonymous recently exposed this “Fiverr.com” website as being a directory of small marketplace “services” … http://bit.ly/UEPwmv
I have further researched this site and a list of the commercial shill bidding activities offered thereon can be perused at … http://bit.ly/UFzUNS
Of course, eBay, with its claimed “sophisticated and proactive software” to detect and control such shill bidding fraud, knows nothing of any of this …
eBay hides bidders’ IDs to obscure shill bidding fraud
eBay would have us believe that the Bidding History statistics that are now supplied by eBay are designed to enable buyers to protect themselves from auction shill bidding fraud. Regrettably, without a very great deal of effort, as has been expended in this case study, this is simply not so. eBay could just as easily have done the more transparent analysis of those bidding statistics as has been done in the case study spreadsheets and indicated in the above graphics, with or without the underlying unique identifiers, programmatically, but they chose not to do so. You can draw your own conclusion as to why they would so choose.
Additionally, the utterly anonymous, non-unique, bidding IDs make it impossible now for other bidders, who recognise shill bidding activity, to warn other naïve bidders of such criminal activity; now, we could not allow to continue that possibility of buyers being warned by others to be on their guard, could we …
I don’t have any doubt that eBay, in 2008, further anonymised the bidding IDs with non-unique IDs quite deliberately to make it that much more difficult for buyers to protect themselves from the many shill bidding merchants from whom eBay’s bottom line benefits. Indeed, with the current anonymous, non-unique, bidding IDs, where both feedback count may increment and the bidder 30-day summary also increments and “rolls”, it is no longer possible for third parties to programmatically analyse the bidding process; it has do be analysed manually as has been here done in the attached spreadsheet(s).
Such further extreme anonymity serves little other purpose than to deceive consumers; certainly the reason eBay gave at the time, to stop fraudulent Second Chance Offers, was a nonsense and is far outweighed by the resulting greater opaqueness of the bidding process that enables unscrupulous merchants to shill bid virtually at will—then, I would suggest that that undoubtedly was eBay’s underlying intention.
Now, of course, eBay would never openly encourage such criminal activity by third parties; they simply don’t look for it, and they certainly never “find” it—except in exceptional circumstances like when the media or the authorities have already become involved. No, eBay simply creates the “tools”, including the now even more anonymous and devious bidding structure, and lets all the unscrupulous merchants do the rest …
All these years I have been accusing eBay, all over the internet, of being a blatant criminal facilitator and not once have I ever had even a polite letter from them, and do you know why? Because, unlike eDropOff’s McFadden, eBay well knows they are standing on an unexploded land mine and they very wisely prefer to keep still and not be goaded into any foolish move lest the resulting additional publicity awaken from their slumber the statutory regulators responsible for protecting we simple consumers from such outrageous commercial fraudsters, as eBay can so easily be demonstrated to be.
Believe this, eBay is a most unscrupulous commercial entity; they have been effectively and knowingly aiding and abetting shill bidding wire fraud, before and after the fact, since the year dot. The introduction in 2008 of non-unique bidding IDs, that made it very much harder (impossible, with the utterly opaque “Bidder 1, 2 ,3” that they initially proposed) for buyers to protect themselves from such criminal activity, was never, in my humble opinion, anything other that an attempt to make it even easier for fraudsters and for eBay to increase their return from such fraud:
Absolutely nothing, not even the US Criminal Code, is allowed to get in the way of the eBafia’s bottom line.
However, this eDropOff matter has the potential to do serious damage to eBay given that an eBay officer has certified that there is no shill bidding to be found on eDropOff’s auctions when, patently, there is. eBay needs to be drawn into such a legal stoush, with the ensuing publicity it will generate, like they need a hole in the head. There is also the possibility (probability?) that eBay could (should) be found to have knowingly and criminally facilitated such activity—which many eBay users already believe to be the case anyway.
Who knows, maybe one day we will see those executives “in the know” at eBay before the courts. We can only hope …
If anyone knows an up and coming federal or states’ US attorney that would like to make a name for him/herself, this matter then surely is a gift; I can see the headline now:
“eBay Guilty of Massive Wire Fraud
“Found to be the knowing facilitator of massive wire fraud on consumers of the world.
“The penalty phase is to follow; penalties are expected to be in the billions of dollars; some executives may get custodial sentences.”
California could use the extra funds, too, so I hear …
The number of bids/bidders on an auction …
Another irritating little deception that eBay practices is the way they indicate the amount of activity on auctions: on the Current and Completed listings pages and the individual Item page they show only the number of bids made, not the number of bidders competing; that is, if only a single bidder makes fifty incrementing bids on an auction, that shows as 50 bids, not one bidder; it’s not until you go to the trouble of accessing the Bid History page that you are apprised of the actual number of “bidders”, real and/or shill …
eBay hides changes to users’ IDs …
Do you remember long, long ago when users’ underlying anonymous IDs were used as bidding IDs and eBafia used to suffix the ID with a little recycle-like symbol if that ID had been recently changed? Well, in my ongoing analysing of the bidding IDs on eDropOff’s auctions, I occasionally come across an ID that has changed, but there appears to be no longer any indication of this change.
Is this simply one more devious action by eBay to help unscrupulous merchants obscure their shill bidding activities? Or do they simply think that because bidding IDs are now non-unique and utterly obscure, there is no need to bother noting such ID changes? Who knows?
Still, the changing of a shill’s underlying ID does not defeat my spreadsheet analysis; if the bidder displays grossly atypical statistics for the 30-day summary period, they get flagged …
eBay changes policy on shill bidding
eDropOff’s McFadden has publicly stated that, in breach of eBay’s policy on shill bidding, she allows her staff to bid on her auctions—but only because they “really want to buy an item”—LOL …
Indeed, following the noting of this admission by other observers, the “master facilitator of wire fraud”, eBay, without notice, surreptitiously changed its published policy on shill bidding (in the US only) so that bidding by staff or family members or any other “related” persons is no longer a breach of eBay policy.
eBay critic Cappnonymous initially commented on this change, at
Only the unscrupulous and the ever more revenue-desperate headless turkeys in the eBay executive suite could possibly think that the general allowance of such undisclosed “insider” bidding could ever pass the “smell test”; then, eBay has never before worried about matters ethical or even the US Criminal Code ...
It is probable that eBay surreptitiously watered down its policy on shill bidding some time in May 2012, soon after the eDropOff shill bidding matter initially hit the fan. In December 2012 the ecommercebytes.com blog finally commented on this change and asked eBay the reason for the change. Needless to say to date there appears to have been no response from eBay … You can draw your own conclusion as to why that would so …
And, if you want an understanding of how meaningful eBay “policies” are to eBay, read http://blogs.digitalpoint.com/entry.php?b=215
More eBay fraud: Completed listings …
In some circumstances (depending on the ratio of sold to unsold items involved?), eBay shows completed “sold” items for the previous ninety
days, but for completed “unsold” items, eBay shows only the previous thirty
days. The result of this “false representation” (ie, fraud) is that, without closeer examination, the sell though rate appears to be much greater than it actually is …
Well, regardless, we can at least be sure that the unsold items, represented by the “oceans of red” in the completed listings, are indeed unsold items (all we then have to do is multiply the number thereof by three for an accurate figure for comparison)—which is more than can be said of the “green” supposedly “sold” items, particularly those items sold at auction from a nominal value-start and with hoards of bidders and/or nibble bidding thereon.
Without an in depth investigation, I’m guessing that if the number of unsold items in a “completed listings” search is excessive then eBay’s algorithm simply reduces the period of the search for unsold items so as to present the appearance of a better sell through rate.
This sort of deception we have come to expect from eBay. Only at eBafia is there an habitual production of “smoke and mirrors” to obfuscate matters; but, no amount of smoke and mirrors can disguise the fact that the eBay marketplace is slowly dying; then I guess, you can’t blame the Ho for trying to disguise that fact—he has to somehow try to prop up the eBay share price to facilitate his obscene “performance” (LOL) bonuses.
Hmmm, and I wonder then how much smoke and mirrors is contained in the version of eBay’s quarterly financials that we outsiders get to see?—LOL …
A Summary of Statute Law on Auction Fraud
The link http://bit.ly/Xwe0n7
opens a separate thread summarizing the law (and some comment) on “wire” fraud in the US and on the law on fraud generally in Australia and the UK, and I imagine that most civilized countries have similar laws to protect consumers from unscrupulous traders.
Some other links regarding eDropOff and shill bidding
“Reality TV Star Accused of eBay Shill Bidding Sues Her Accuser”
“eBay Account Rep Defends Reality TV Star Accused of Shill Bidding”
“Judge Grants Restraining Order against eBay Seller's Critic”
Link to PDF of TRO: http://www.auctionbytes.com/docs/eDr...May18_2012.pdf
“Do NOT dismiss TV host’s frivolous lawsuit, EFF urges court”
“Cappnonymous on eBay’s change to its shill bidding policy”
The reality of selling on consignment on eBay …
Some other shill bidding at its most obvious
If you want to see a demonstration of what is in my opinion shill bidding at its most obvious and proof that eBay has no “sophisticated and proactive software” for the detection and control of such shill bidding, watch the items from the eBay seller “strangeling”, eg:
Within the first two hours of listing, already sixteen bids from six bidders, and the winning bid is now the grand sum of $3.11 … Could this possibly not be shill bidding? … eBay auctions are literally “crawling” with shill bidding. And, it’s not in eBay’s interests to do anything about it; indeed, without it, their income from Final Valuation Fees on auctions would probably halve …
Check out this seller’s completed stuff. She appears to buy most of it herself at the most ridiculously high prices! It must be some sort of exercise to establish a “market” price for selling her stuff elsewhere. Regardless, if its purpose is to deceive then it is shill bidding, and that is criminal fraud ...
Seller “strangeling” appears to be another case where a third party may be supplying an automated shill bidding service, and a spreadsheet analysis is at:
And another, “kd_art” spreadsheet at
And another, “fresh_from_thestudio” spreadsheet at
So many sellers, appearing to be so often buying their own stuff at such inflated prices. I think this situation simply confirms that the eBay Marketplace, now in the sixth
year of John Donahoe’s “three-year” turnaround, has indeed started its long, slow, final journey down the gurgler …
These shill bidding examples are so utterly blatant, they are comical, but, in the meantime, eBay keeps collecting FVFs on all the faux sales …
Regardless, anyone who is not aware that shill bidding fraud is rampant on eBay auctions is invariably going to pay much more than they otherwise should. Try reselling on eBay any item you bought from one of these unscrupulous auction sellers and see if you can get back even one quarter of what you paid for it.
Some of my earlier comment on shill bidding on eBay auctions
eBay introduces absolute anonymity for (shill) bidders
eBay-Facilitated Shill Bidding Fraud on eBay Auctions: Case Study #1
eBay-Facilitated Shill Bidding Fraud on eBay Auctions: Case Study #2
eBay-Facilitated Shill Bidding Fraud on eBay Auctions: Case Study #3
eBay-Facilitated Shill Bidding Fraud on eBay Auctions: Case Study #4
The programmatic detection of shill bidding
For anyone that is interested, there is a brief discussion on “Using Data Mining to Detect Fraud in Auctions” at http://www.tgc.com/dsstar/00/0627/101834.html
“The large-scale nature of auction transactions can make it difficult to ferret out fraudulent practices using standard analytical methods. On eBay, bidding histories and user feedback records are not stored for long, … due to cost considerations and storage capacity limitations. It appears that whatever analysis eBay does conduct is on a limited data set and performed after the auction has been closed. A better approach would be to detect fraud dynamically (live) because sales need not be voided, and more data need not be stored if capacity and costs still remain an issue.”
Another interesting (old) article on shill bidding, quoting Dr Jarrod Trevathan from the Discipline of IT, School of Business, James Cook University, Queensland, Australia, can be found on the ABC Science website, at:
This article is dated October 2005, and gives some indication of the attitude of the online “auctioneers” to this problem (being somewhat akin to the old Monty Python “dead parrot” skit); in particular the attitude of the major player, eBay, who has apparently consistently ignored Dr Trevathan’s communications.
I have corresponded with Dr Trevathan who, with Wayne Read, claims to have developed algorithms that would proactively help to detect and control such shill bidding, and I quote Trevathan:
“One of the most common and disingenuous types of e-commerce fraud is undisclosed vendor [shill] bidding. Shill bidding is a devious practice in online auctions whereby the seller inserts fake bids into his/her own auction in an attempt to artificially inflate the auction’s final price. This is a problem as it forces legitimate bidders to pay more for an item. The prospect of bidding against shill bidders undermines confidence in the auctioning process. In 2008, up to $250 million may have been lost to shill bidding scams.
“While online auctioneers claim to monitor their auctions for signs of shill bidding, they do not make it clear exactly how such monitoring operates, nor can they justify how to unequivocally incriminate someone for shill bidding. … Most suspect shill bidding incidents are only investigated when a complaint is made by a legitimate bidder who feels that something is not right.
“To help identify dubious bidding practices in online auctions, we devised the Shill Score algorithm. The Shill Score is the first serious attempt to define and quantify shill bidding behaviour. A rating between 0 and 10 is given to each bidder indicating the likelihood that s/he is engaging in shill behaviour. The higher the rating, the more likely that a bidder is a shill. This rating is based on factors such as how many auctions the bidder has participated in, the number of times s/he has won, how quick s/he is to bid, what stage in the auction s/he submits most of his/her bids, etc. An individual can then determine whether s/he wants to participate in an auction depending on how high other bidders’ Shill Scores are. The Shill Score acts as both a detection and prevention mechanism for shilling.”
If anyone is interested, papers on these shill detecting algorithms by Trevathan and Read, appear at:
Clearly, this is the course that a principled organisation would be taking to detect and control the scourge of shill bidding, and it is a egregious reflection on the ethics (what ethics?) of eBay that they appear totally disinterested in any such truly effective system …
Clunkity, clunk, clunk, clunk …
eBay and PayPal are both utterly clunky, unprofessional, unscrupulous, commercial enterprises. I’m starting a collection of published articles that demonstrate this fact; and, where they are enabled, the readers’ comments thereon are usually most insightful …
“eBay fraud and me: My absolutely ridiculous experience” … http://ars.to/10FjmxC
“eBay fraud and me, the sequel: A pathetic end to the debacle” … http://ars.to/Yeb5JS
“Teenager jailed for three years over eBay fraud” … http://bit.ly/12xvP64
“EBay's PayPal cuts 445 jobs” … http://money.cnn.com/2012/10/29/tech...ment-794171184
“A Victim of eBay Fraud” … http://chris.pirillo.com/a-victim-of-ebay-fraud/
“eBay fraud under scrutiny” … http://danwarne.com/ebay-fraud-under-scrutiny/
“eBay blames users for fraud” … http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4533154.stm
“Triangulation, the latest eBay auction fraud” … http://www.doit.wisc.edu/news/story.aspx?filename=1770
“New eBay Fraud” … http://www.schneier.com/blog/archive...bay_fraud.html
“Pearls and eBay Fraud” … http://www.pearl-professor.com/2008/...bay-fraud.html
“Man arrested in huge eBay fraud” … http://technology-science.newsvine.c...3377#c20933377
“Gary Bellchambers” … http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...#axzz2KOj8P9US
“eBay is back!” … http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2013/02/...ment-794144343
“eBay's PayPal cuts 445 jobs” … http://money.cnn.com/2012/10/29/tech...ment-794919008
“eBay Restricts My Account Because …” … http://consumerist.com/2013/02/11/eb...money-sort-of/
If anyone is aware of any particularly good articles demonstrative of eBay’s “clunkiness”, please do email me the link(s) thereto.
Ultimately, if anyone wants to know what the future is for the eBay marketplace and the clunky PayPal they only have to read all the negative comments that very quickly populate the comments sections of the mindless regurgitations of nonsense from the eBay Dept of Spin that regularly appear on online media …
“Management change is necessary and inevitable” …
“The band continued to play on, even as the bow dipped lower and lower.”—The Titanic Story
’Management change is necessary and inevitable. Mr. Donahoe has been chief for just over four years, and has replaced most of eBay’s top management. “A significant change in senior leadership was necessary to take eBay to the next level,” he said. He built a team of managers who shared his dedication “to building a great and enduring company, a company that will last,” as he put it. “No one else has really done that on the Internet, and we’re excited by the possibility.” At the same time, he said, “We can’t take anything for granted. We’re almost paranoid. We get up every morning and we’re focused on delivering for our customers and continuing to innovate. It’s a fast-changing world.”‘
And on the same day, this letter appeared on the ecommercebytes.com “Letters to the Editor” … http://bit.ly/VFSAjS
And another poignant letter that appeared on the ecommercebytes.com “Letters to the Editor” some time earlier, on 31 May 2010 … http://bit.ly/Vxx2Ud
“We’re almost paranoid”, Donahoe says. And deservedly so. What an utterly incompetent and delusional turkey this guy is … And, of course, the real measure of the value that he has “created” for eBay shareholders is the (dismal) performance of the eBay share price since he took the helm: in late 2007, both eBay’s and Amazon’s shares were ~$40. Discounting the investment recommendations of the probably paid eBay shills, the smart money on Wall Street has rightly judged that eBay’s future has many question marks …
The atrophying state of the eBay Marketplace
eBay will eventually give a small–medium seller a rap on the knuckles for shill bidding if enough people complain about it. But that rule clearly does not apply to their favoured sellers; indeed, for their once most valuable seller (and I am not suggesting that he shill bids because clearly he does not), the T&S department apparently has signs displayed for the benefit of eBay staff, “NO TOUCHY JACKY SHENG”.
But, take a look at Sheng’s eBay (“eforcity”) listings: there is no sign of any shill bidding here—the great majority of items are rolling over with “0” bids. Those that do sell mostly have only few bids thereon. His completed listing are a “sea of red.” Sheng must be wondering what he has to do to achieve the sell though rate that eDropOff has. Well, it’s simple, he has to run auctions and bid on and buy his own stuff …
Then, take a look at the completed listings of eBay-favoured merchant, “toysrus”. Their BIN sell though rate is simply abysmal …
What does all this tell us about the current state of the eBay marketplace, in this the now sixth year of John Donahoe’s “three year turnaround”?
And another, just in, horror story and comment on eBay’s abuse of a once golden-haired eBay merchant:
I have tracked a number of shill bidding auction sellers over the years; some of them have been reported by others and no longer start their auctions at nominal prices but now start at prices that represent the least they are prepared to accept, and the many, and nibbling, bidders have disappeared. And that is the way it should be, given eBay’s clunky, deceptive, auction model. Unfortunately, these sellers don’t appear to sell very much these days, either. Then, I think too that there are fewer buyers these days. All that “noise” that John Donahoe was so arrogantly dismissive of some years ago is undoubtedly having an effect on eBay’s bottom line.
“eBay Lags Behind The E-Commerce Sector”
“EBay Drops on Second-Quarter Sales Concern: San Francisco Mover”
(The rumour is that they pumped so much hot air into the 2012 first quarter, there is none left over for the second quarter.)
New York Times: “Some PayPal Users Criticize Antifraud Measures”
Especially, don’t miss the reader comments on this “New York Times” article; with the exception of one multi-commenting probable eBay shill, all the many comments are in the negative.
“When Do We Start Calling eBay A [Failed] Payments Company?”
PayPal: “The New Way To Pay In-Store”
Some comment on PayPal’s clunky off-eBay products: "The New Way To Pay In-Store" (at Home Depot), PayPal Here, SmartPay, PayPal Digital Wallet, PayPal Debit MasterCard, PayPal Local and Watch With eBay ...
“Last Call by Neiman Marcus: Closes it’s Ebay Store”
Oh, dear me, the favoured “national brands” are starting to leave …
“Caveat Emptor - 3 Reasons To Be Scared Of eBay”
An independent analysis of eBay on SeekingAlpha.com. Note the shrill comments by the several eBay shills (“eBay+++”, in particular) trying to rebuff the author’s conclusions ...
“Oh No, Not Another “Reduction” in eBay Fees”
In fact, this latest “reduction” in eBay fees represents a quite dramatic increase in fees for anyone selling a item greater than $50 in value (a flat 10% instead of a tiered scale) …
Notwithstanding that we are in the sixth year of his “three-year turnaround”, the fact is, the eBay marketplace has been stagnant since John Donahoe took the helm in 2008; indeed, relatively speaking, the eBay marketplace has been atrophying, and with Visa’s and MasterCard’s online digital wallets now available, eBay’s bottom-line “hot air pump”, the clunky PreyPal, is fast approaching its “use by date”.
Then, take a look at any sample of honest auctions on eBay now and you will find many that receive few or no bids at all, even some with nominal starts, even though they may be interesting items. But, you say, eBay has recently posted several improved quarters. Well, if eBay is so desperate for revenue that it is prepared to blatantly facilitate such massive fraud on consumers, why would they not be capable of “cooking the books” too? Anyway, it’s the long-term trend that counts, not the odd quarterly flea hop that the eBafia Don feeds to the sheep grazing on Wall Street, and the long-term trend will undoubtedly show that the eBafia marketplace is continuing to settle in the water … but, but, but, you still believe that PreyPal will be eBay’s saviour—LOL.
Nevertheless, in the meantime, we all have to appreciate that the professional dealer is not going to let any valuable item, that they list for sale by auction at a nominal starting price, sell at anywhere near that nominal price; they invariably will have a mechanism for ensuring that the item reaches an acceptable price, even if they (or their shill) risk buying the item themselves. That is the ugly reality of the “traditional” auction system. Online auctions, because of the auditable data trail, could be made relatively scrupulous; unfortunately, eBay has chosen to not implement such an auditing system but instead they have knowingly enabled an unscrupulous model—because it gives them a greater return: they collect the higher FVF regardless of who buys the item, genuine buyer or shill …
eBay (aka the “eBafia”)—the greatest calculated and knowing facilitator of wire fraud on consumers the world is ever likely to know …
EventHorizon1984 Blog …
The EventHorizons Blog has kept a running commentary of various trials and tribulations that have touched eBay (including the eDropOff matter), starting in November 2009. It makes interesting reading for anyone that wants to understand what is really going on under the stewardship of the current chief headless turkey, the eBafia Don, John Edward Donahoe, and his band of utterly incompetent “made men” …
The Ongoing Delusions of a Classic Sociopath …
John Donahoe is on record as wanting eBay’s flea market image to be gone. The only thing that Donahoe in interested in is his plan for turning eBay into a full-service up-market online “Westfield” shopping mall for the retailing of new “nationally branded” products by brand owners or their major distributors.
The smaller merchants, dealers in second hand goods, and the like, have no place in the Ho’s grand retail mall plan. Nevertheless, in the meantime, and until more desirable merchants come along, weekly tenancies and much landlord abuse will be available for all those remaining small merchants who helped make eBay the great marketplace that it used to be.
(Apparently, eBay now applies monthly sales limits to their non-favoured merchants: a merchant reaches a certain dollar value of sales in the month and eBay literally switches off the lights … Please, anyone, try to explain to me the logic underpinning that insane policy, other than that eBay is redirecting that exposure to those preferred merchants that eBay is desperately attempting to curry favour with …)
It means also that auctions, on which eBay actively and blatantly facilitates wire fraud on the consumers of the world, will ultimately also be gone, notwithstanding that eBay is presently attempting to temporarily resurrect auctions presumably because eBay’s revenues must be otherwise suffering …
In the meantime, while undoubtedly still maximising views to its more favoured merchants, if eBay throws the relatively small merchants a few crumbs, it is not because Donahoe wants them to succeed, it is because now, in the sixth year of his three-year “turnaround” plan (and still choking on Amazon’s dust), his grand plan is no closer to succeeding and he must be becoming desperate (in his deliriums, only in the short term) for the additional revenues that Wall Street expects …
The reality is, Donahoe is a fool: compared to Amazon’s share price performance, the Ho’s grand plan has produced a grossly negative result for eBay shareholders (in late 2007 both eBay’s and Amazon’s share prices were ~$40, and never have eBay shareholders received a cash dividend; cash profits have been left overseas in low-tax haven countries or reserved for the eBay senior executive salary packages). And if you factor in the lack of any cash dividend, eBay’s stock price performance under Donahoe is simply abysmal.
Regardless, not even the furious pumping of the clunky PreyPal “bilge pump” will ultimately be able to stop this rusting old scow from finally slipping beneath the waves …
Anyone that does not recognise, as clearly does most of Wall Street, the reality of the Ho’s destructive folly and fanciful financial reporting (remember Enron), and that this eBay whale is never going to “fly” anywhere and will never be a stable platform, for probably any merchant, while this headless turkey is at the helm, is dangerously naïve; such people should take out a margin loan and complement the eventual eBay implosion with an investment in as many shares in eBay Inc as they can afford … LOL
Somewhere in this cartoon there’s a message for John Edward Donahoe:
“Never underestimate the power of stupid (and ‘noisy’) people in large groups!”
eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking
In the final analysis
You can always tell when an eBay spokesperson is being disingenuous: their lips are moving ...
But, seriously, this rampant shill bidding is so patently obvious, if it was not such a serious matter, some might consider it laughable, but not eBafia, they don’t think it’s laughable, because they are collecting their percentage on every fraudulently obtained higher sale price.
No doubt, if the authorities ever get around to doing something about this massive eBay-facilitated fraud on consumers, after the fact, the eBay Dept of Spin will be issuing media releases about how they helped the authorities uncover this commercial shill bidding ring—eBay does it every time. But, this time it will be a little more difficult for eBay to claim ignorance as they have already certified that there is no shill bidding to be found on this merchant’s auctions, which is effectively an aiding and abetting after the fact; still, nothing has before been too difficult for the “doctors” at the eBay Dept of Spin.
Regardless, in my opinion, McFadden is continuing to shill bid on the majority of her auctions, particularly on items of any real value, and eBay is continuing to do nothing about it. And, bear in mind that this eDropOff matter is only the tip of the tip of the iceberg …
By systematically doing absolutely nothing about such obvious ongoing fraud and, indeed, falsely claiming that they have “proactive and sophisticated” software to detect and control such fraud, eBay has always been knowingly complicit in—and has profited from—rampant shill bidding fraud on eBay users.
This matter therefore should not be only about any one shill bidding eBay seller, or the great many shill bidding eBay sellers—eBay is literally awash with them—and eBay cannot but know it! eDropoff is no more than a symptom of the problem; eBay’s false statements about the systems that they supposedly have in place to protect buyers from shill bidding, and their deceptively opaque auction bidding mechanism that then enables, indeed encourages, such fraud, is the real cancer that needs the attention of the appropriate authorities; and, therefore, this matter should also be about eBay—the greatest knowing and calculated criminal facilitator of such massive wire fraud on the consumers of the world that we are ever likely to know.
The Mafia of old would undoubtedly have been proud of eBay’s ever evolving, auction fraud facilitating business model …
If ever there was a commercial entity that deserved to have their auction system thoroughly audited by a court-appointed special master, it is this most unscrupulous organisation, eBay …
US DOJ Prosecution Policy Relating to Wire Fraud
DOJ Criminal Resource Manual: 9-43.100 Prosecution Policy Relating to Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud …
“Serious consideration … should be given to the prosecution of any scheme which in its nature is directed to defrauding a class of persons, or the general public, with a substantial pattern of conduct.”—http://1.usa.gov/10KnLPN
Well, that paragraph describes to a tee eBay’s calculated aiding and abetting of massive wire fraud by a great many unscrupulous merchants on eBay’s trusting consumers. The question is, is the DOJ ever going to do anything about this demonstrably criminal enterprise …
Since 2008 I have been criticising eBafia, all over the internet, for their criminal activities; I have collected the facts thereon and I can demonstrate, to any reasonable person, beyond any doubt, that eBay is actively aiding and abetting massive wire fraud on the consumers of the world. Yet no one in any position of authority appears to be interested in doing anything about it.
Regretfully, the trigger for action by the US DOJ appears to have something to do with the ratio of the size of the perpetrator to the victim: large corporation perpetrator, small victim(s): “ho hum”; small perpetrator(s), large corporation victim: full weight of the law … Indeed, the US DOJ recently pursued an individual, Aaron Swartz, to his death for a relatively petty matter. But the facilitation of massive fraud on consumers by a major international corporation? No interest, apparently ...
If ultimately nothing is done by the appropriate authorities to stop such blatant wire fraud by eBay merchants such as McFadden’s eDropOff et al and the commercial shill bidding ring in which she, and who knows how many others unscrupulous eBay merchants appear to be involved, and their obviously calculated and knowing criminal facilitator, eBay Inc, from continuing to blatantly defraud we simple consumers of the world, I can only make the sickening observation that, even following the GFC, nothing has changed, and greedy, unscrupulous corporations, such as eBay, appear to still have the bureaucracy effectively in their pockets …