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eBay Shill Bidders Found Selling Their Services

eBay says shill bidding happens when anyone – including family, friends, roommates, employees, or online connections – bids on an item with the intent to artificially increase its price or desirability.

Despite stated policies against the practice of shill bidding on auctions, the problem still persists. Worse for buyers, it isn’t at all difficult to find people online willing to engage in shill bidding to nudge prices up for sellers – for a price. That’s right, you can “buy” shill bids.

That price isn’t even very much, as seen on the Fiverr website, which bills itself as “the world’s largest marketplace for services, starting at $5.” A search for “auction bidding” found a number of would-be providers willing to shill bid.

“Do you have an item that you really want to sell? Adding an early bidder generally will help you in many ways,” reads one pitch. “Auctions with bids on them appear higher on eBay’s Best Match search ranking and there’s definitely a psychological notion that items with bids are more desirable.”

“Members cannot bid on or buy items in order to artificially increase a seller’s Feedback or to improve the item’s search standing,” according to eBay’s shill bidding policy. “Shill bidding is also illegal in many places and can carry severe penalties.”

Fortunately not everyone who wants to help others with eBay wishes to go about it this way. Several Fiverr listings offer to assist with publicizing listings, or providing templates for items to be sold. Elsewhere online at places like Freelancer.com and others, plenty of people with expertise in writing, images, and related skills offer legitimate services for a price.

We asked eBay if it was aware that people were offering shill bidding services to its sellers and how big of a problem shill bidding is on its marketplace. The company did not respond by press time.

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David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.