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Fri Aug 24 2007 21:41:31

eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect

By: Ina Steiner

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In January, eBay's Trust & Safety department took away some transparency when it came to researching an auction's bid history. Once the bidding on auctions reached $200, eBay masked bidders' identities as part of an initiative called Safeguarding Member IDs (SMI).

Today, eBay announced it will bring back limited transparency to bid history. They will still hide the bidder's identity, but the masked identity will remain consistent across auctions, so users can track the bidding behavior of competitors. 

eBay made the announcement Friday afternoon, telling users it would be replacing the current aliases (Bidder 1, Bidder 2 and Bidder 3) with a masked ID that consists of two random characters from the member's User ID - for example a***b. For any given member, this masked ID will be consistent across all auctions over $200 for which they place bids. At the end of the auction, the winning bidder's User ID will be displayed on both the item and bid history page. (Sellers will still be able to view the actual User IDs for bidders on their listings through the Bid History page.)

eBay rolled out SMI in January because the problem of Second Chance Offer (SCO) scams had gotten so bad. Fraudsters would send fake SCO emails to non-winning bidders in a high-value auction. The emails, which were made to look like they were coming from the real seller, told runner-up bidders the winning bidder had backed out, and they could purchase the item they had bid on.

While eBay said SMI helped in preventing fake Second Chance Offers, buyers were upset that they could no longer track their competitors, nor could they try to determine if the seller was shill bidding on their own items in an effort to drive up the price. eBay said Friday that while SMI was effective, it "took away some of the magic of that makes eBay so unique."

eBay also said it would bring back the bidder's actual feedback score next to their User ID. In addition, eBay said it will now allow bidding right from the bid history page.

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Perminate Link for eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect   eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen

Sat Apr 12 21:29:32 2008

''eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect.''

You are joking, of course? I see this development as exactly the opposite: part of a deliberate plan to hide shill bidding so that eBay no longer has to worry about it!

eBay introduces absolute anonymity for (shill) bidders

Revised 13 April 2008

A comment principally on the whole-of-auction absolute anonymity of bidders recently introduced to Australia (and more recently to the U.K.) by eBay, including responses to the various, sometimes nonsensical, statements being offered by eBay in support of this decision—with apologies to all the shill bidders out there.

For those of you with a very short attention span I will summarise my comments on my principal concern, the issue of “shill” bidding:

It is said that “Justice must not only be done; it must also be seen to be done.”

It follows therefore that “eBay must not only be free of shill bidders; users must also be able to see for themselves that it is free from shill bidders.”

Putting aside for the moment eBay’s existing “shill-bidders’ hide” facility, “User ID kept private,” if eBay thinks that making all bidding aliases absolutely anonymous (ie, “Bidder n”) will not make shill bidding easier or that experienced eBay users will now trust eBay, of its own volition, to rid eBay of the shill bidding that will undoubtedly now run rampant, then eBay management is living on a different planet to that on which I reside, and I have no doubt that such anonymity will ultimately have a detrimental effect on eBay’s business.

Actually, they are on a different planet: they have already stated elsewhere that “… we do not immediately remove a member from our site if shill bidding is detected” because eBay believes “… that people are basically good and sometimes people need an opportunity to be educated instead of removed” (ie, eBay needs to protect its income stream). The problem with this policy is that it appears that the only shill bidding eBay is ever going to recognise is that which is so blatant and habitual that such sellers do not deserve and should not get further chances! And, what then about the extra consideration these shill-bidding cheats have taken from unsuspecting buyers who have bought in good faith (and trusted eBay)?

Clearly, eBay does not have any automated processes for the detection of shill bidding (we all can direct eBay to obvious instances of such activity); eBay apparently relies solely on the reporting of such suspected activity by users—yet eBay has just removed the user’s capacity to more easily notice such activity ... Dah!

Further, I would not be surprised if eBay could not be held to be complicit in any shill bidding that can be proven as eBay, for what would appear to me to be a  petty if not a disingenuous reason has chosen to lessened the capacity (to practically zero) for buyers themselves to be on the alert for and thereby attempt to protect themselves from such despicable activity.

If the various governmental “Offices of Fair Trading” had any backbone they should have the power to make eBay undo this absolute anonymity nonsense as the simple fact is it serves no purpose other than as a blatant hide for shill bidding—in which eBay appears happy to be complicit.

For those of you with a longer attention span, the full detail of this and some other eBay matters at:
a fully formatted pdf file on request from

Perminate Link for eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect   eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Sat Apr 12 21:43:54 2008

This bears repeating until every one of us complains to the FBI, Scotland Yard, and comparable law enforcement agencies in the various ebay international venues.

If enough people file reports, then the complaints are more likely to be taken seriously except here in the United States where the administration encourages deceptive business practices.

Last fall, Ina carried a story about an ebay executive who stated the ebay was taking steps to increase the Average Selling Price (ASP).

There are only three ways ebay can influence the ASP.

1. Increase fees
2. Devise a system making shill bidding impossible for members to detect
3. Both of the above.

Shill bidding is a CRIME.

This new anonymous bidder system, in my opinion, aids and abets FRAUD.

Aiding and abetting a crime is a CRIME.


Perminate Link for eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect   eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen

Sat Apr 12 21:46:43 2008

I am confused. Your original story suggests that eBay backed down from absolute anonymity (eg, "Bidder n") in favour of a bidder-specific anonymity, a contraction of the user's ID (eg, "a***b (n)").

Although the US still has such bidder-specific aliases, we in Australia went straight to absolute anonymity ("Bidder n"), and in the UK, where they also had had bidder-specific aliases, this has just been changed to absolute anonymity. What is going on?

And, of course, any half-wit will understand that absolute anonymity serves only one purpose: the obscuring of shill bidding.

Perminate Link for eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect   eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect

by: SiliconValleyCEO

Wed May 7 14:11:30 2008

W O W I have not used ebay for a year or so - at that time I noticed ''Bidder 1'' on auto auctions but I was not bidding so I didn't care. Now, I see that ALL bidder names and history has been blocked and replaced with a  ''summary.'' As a CEO myself, I smell 'profit motive' here. The most obvious statistic missing from the ''useless summary'' is ''Number of Auctions this Bidder Lost'' - a shill bidder must loose most auctions because if they win all the time they are not selling anything. Ebay can statistically analyize its database and come up with a average figure for how many times bidders loose acutions. Obviously they don't want you to detect shill bidders - so it drives up the item price making more money for eBay.
Also previously we could look at the prior purchases of the bidder and often detect unusual patterns that could indicate fraud - for example, ''missyB'' only selling gun racks, power tools, truck parts - but never any household items or clothing. Or, people claiming to be electronics ''dealers'' but selling such an odd collection of stuff you could presume they are selling stolen property. Gee, is eBay boosting its bottom line during these hard economic times making it easier to sell stolen property on its site? Is it boosting its bottom line by making shill bidding easier? You be the judge.

Perminate Link for eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect   eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Wed May 7 15:01:11 2008


You're right on target, IMO.

Ebay's self serving, duplicitous cant about "security" is simply a lie. Hidden bidder IDs do NOT enhance security -- they enhance shill bidding and ebay profits.

Ebay announced last fall they would soon be taking unspecified measures to improve the Average Selling Price. Ebay might as well send engraved invitations to some sellers inviting them to shill bid at will. Proliferation of illegal shill bidding certainly improves the ASP.

As for ebay encouraging fencing through policy manipulations, law enforcement agencies will tell you that ebay is the largest venue for stolen goods in the world.

This kind of utterly irresponsible corporate behavior literally borders on criminal. Both shill bidding and providing a venue to sell stolen merchandise are illegal.

Why no one has filed complaints with the California Attorney General baffles me.

Perminate Link for eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect   eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect

by: shillbidder

Sat Aug 9 18:08:39 2008

shill bidding is a buyer's way of making money, no one is forcing you to bid on a certain item....and you should so homework to see how much an item is worth

and remember if u get a good deal that means someone on the other end just lost money

what a bunch of losers u guys r.....

Perminate Link for eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect   eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect

by: PhilipCohen

Sun May 31 18:37:42 2009

For anyone interested, a case study of a classic, blatant shill bidder on eBay, and a comment on eBay’s attitude thereto at

Perminate Link for eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect   eBay Makes Shill Bidding Easier to Detect

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen

Sun Nov 29 03:03:44 2009

For all those eBay “buyers” who are still trying to find a bargain on eBay and are (hopefully) agile enough to avoid all the shill-bidding professional sellers that now infest eBay, eBay recently touted two Diamond/Titanium PowerSellers as major success stories of selling on eBay. An analysis of bidding patterns on these two sellers’ auctions suggests that they both could be habitual shill bidders. A full comment thereon at:

is “Noise” Donahoe trying to destroy eBay?

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