Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Wed May 19 2021 20:27:20

eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too

By: Ina Steiner

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The "Fake Tracking Number" scam perpetrated by bad sellers isn't new, but I happened to have been contacted by several eBay buyers in the past 2 weeks complaining about it. Unfortunately it may have consequences for sellers in a way you might not have considered.

Here's how the scam works, as described by a reader:

"You buy an item (usually a low cost ink cartridge) and the seller marks it as shipped, but does not upload tracking. 

"After the expected date has passed, you file an INR (Item Not Received claim). The seller uploads USPS tracking, which shows delivery to YOUR zip. so, you lose your INR case as the item shows delivered.

"Now, if you file a lost mail claim with USPS, you get back an email stating that the tracking number is associated with an item to someone else's address - and it was correctly delivered."

The reader said eBay filed in favor of the seller.

Another buyer I spoke to was so disgusted when it happened to him *twice* that he said he's rethinking buying things on eBay - that's one obvious way the scam harms good sellers.

But the reader who sent the above explanation went on to say:

"My suggestion is to NOT claim INR, but actually claim SNAD (Significantly Not as Described), which will force the seller to issue a shipping label or you get your refund. They can't very well say you are lying because they never shipped anything in the first place!!!"

While it's understandable why the reader is tempted to file a false claim, it means sellers who legitimately fulfill orders that are subsequently lost or stolen could suffer, not only for that order, but they'll get black marks on their record.

In 2015, a reader emailed us about the problem of fake tracking numbers. At the time, the reader advised buyers to get proof from the USPS that the fake tracking number is going to a different address - "You can then provide this information to PayPal or eBay, and the case or appeal will be granted to the buyer." 

The reader had also written, "So what is PayPal and eBay doing about this? Not much yet, but the technology is there now from USPS and hopefully they will cooperate together to make this information more easily obtainable to combat seller fraud."

So why six years later are we still hearing from buyers who were defrauded in this manner and reporting that eBay ruled in the sellers' favor?

The clincher, though, is this story from 2019 about a pair of sellers accused by the Department of Justice of perpetrating fraud using the fake tracking number scam. And it wasn't eBay that uncovered the fraud, despite the government alleging $64,000 in losses involving 506 victims. 

"The scheme was uncovered when postal customers all over the United States received priority mail packages containing random items of no value and contacted their local police departments and post offices," according to the DOJ.

Will online marketplaces and shipping carriers ever solve this problem?



Comments (12) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too   eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Thu May 20 02:41:35 2021

Sellers are NOT protected by the Seller Protections on INRs if they do not upload the tracking number BEFORE the estimated delivery date on the purchase.

Perminate Link for eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too   eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too

by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 20 05:32:49 2021

Or the buyer can ask that the seller send it with signature confirmation.  Most if any buyers will do that.
I rarely if ever buy from Ebay anymore.  I used to get my supplies on Ebay, and now I get it from Mercari or Amazon.  
But the INAD excuse is a good one.  I'll have to put that in my back pocket.

Perminate Link for eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too   eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too

by: HardWorkingSeller This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 20 06:21:01 2021

Usually the scammer will send the fake package using First Class Mail (4oz rate I assume).  The class of mail is visible on the standard on line tracking results.  If the item is clearly more than 1lb in weight then the supplied tracking info must be bogus - so a trip to the Post Office to get the report of where the package was actually scanned as delivered may not be necessary.

I get phantom packages arriving all the time via Amazon and USPS which I assume are either tracking number scam items or where someone is creating a false track record of good transactions so that they can then switch to a scam offer, or sell their store ID to someone who needs a replacement clean identity.

Perminate Link for eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too   eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too

by: TomH This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 20 09:13:43 2021

I've not been bothered by such idiots and crooks. I do think that is because of the very few areas I purchase in -- such as real military odds and ends,  tech and field manuals and a few, actual collectible cigarette lighters (although the lighter areas are now almost devoid of the old real collectibles).

Perminate Link for eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too   eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too

by: amg This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 20 09:20:03 2021

In our area, I learned a couple of years ago that our carrier scans were attached to a GPS coordinate. Not sure how widely, or if it is still being used.  

Perminate Link for eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too   eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too

by: rfm This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 20 09:36:03 2021

This scam has gotten even more prevalent, and ebay is fully aware of it, but puts the entire burden of proof on the buyer.  

Obviously the simple solution is to have tracking return not just the Zip Code, but the actual street address.  Don't know whether USPS just doesn't provide this data or ebay just doesn't bother to retrieve and compare it.  

Perminate Link for eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too   eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too

by: careerseller This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 20 09:41:12 2021

  I am a career seller on eBay but have been the victim of the fake tracking scam as a buyer now 2 times in the past couple months. This scam is running RAMPANT on eBay now and they can't figure out how to stop it and frankly I don't think ebay cares as long as it's someone else taking the loss and not ebay.  
  First one I encountered was a ''drop shipper'' seller who did legitimately sell and ship some items but then would randomly pull the scam just enough to stay under ebays radar and pocket extra money. The scam seller somehow got a real fedex tracking number of an order that was shipped to me but had nothing to do with the seller. It just so happened it was a 16 piece shipment from one of my suppliers I buy from and once I alerted eBay and they saw the tracking said 16 boxes they refunded me.
  The second time was just recently and I had to fight eBay tooth and nail to  get a refund. It was a $250 computer part. The seller was a new ebay seller so I watched for him to upload tracking like a hawk. He put a really long handling time and slow shipping method to give him time to find a tracking number with dates that fit the purchase and to stall so that eBay would release the funds to him. When he finally did upload tracking it was tracking for a UPS package that was shipped to someone else in my town not me and already showed delivered before he ever uploaded it. I immediately alerted ebay to the scammer and what he was doing and the stupid eBay rep opens and item not received case. WRONG THING TO DO! Ebays bots closed it out and then you are in the fight with ebay. This new seller account did it to 4 other buyers and they let his account stay open. I called into eBay concierge 6 times and they basically acted like me, a 20 year veteran seller with thousands of transactions, was the liar.They gave me the run around and kept siding with the scam seller even though I explained each time in detail what he was doing. Ebay told me they couldn't do anything unless I obtained a police report. My police department just laughed at that and said they didn't write reports for an issue like that and to  contact my credit card company. I don't blame them, what the hell would they do to investigate an anonymous seller hiding behind a fake name and eBay user id selling on ebay claiming to be in Alaska and uploading fake tracking? I finally got eBay to call UPS after pleading with them and ask UPS to confirm if my name and address appeared on the label for the tracking. Only after UPS confirmed it was not did eBay finally cave and grant the appeal and refund me. I feel sorry for buyers new to ebay that get taken and don't have a concierge number to call in on. Unfortunately until eBay stops this scam I agree you are better off saying not as described so the scammer is forced to give a return label and then the scam is up. The scam seller will be forced to refund you. They won't provide a return label because they know it forces a refund. It doesn't pay to play by the rules with these scammers because they are gaming the ebay system.  

Perminate Link for eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too   eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too

This user has validated their user name. by: Bidonmine

Thu May 20 09:52:10 2021

This happened to me as well, but with a better ending. The scam-seller uploaded tracking that showed delivery to my zip code ONE day before I ordered the item! Ebay sided with me on a $189 purchase.

Perminate Link for eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too   eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too

This user has validated their user name. by: thehosst

Thu May 20 11:51:03 2021

READ THIS IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHO IS BEEN SCAMMING YOU FOR YEARS:

It is a small group of eBay employees outside the USA, the same bunch who needs to verify your contact details or suspends your account all the time.

If you have ANY experience as a seller, you should already know that you cannot list 100 items with a total value or 10,000 or more without feedback or less than 20 feedbacks. It just does not happen. So just think for a second, how is that able to happen? Who authorizes the listing of so many items and so much money with no feedback, and with item delivery dates ranging from 3 weeks to a month. The scam is simple, sell as much as you can for 3 weeks (items are supposed to still be on the way) and then take off with as much money as possible.
If you find any of these eBay Scam Staff Accounts and try to report the item, you won't be able to do it because the report seller/item link is broken.

I have been tracking 35 accounts with a few million dollars worth of listings, all new, between October 2020 and February 2021, 3 to 8 feedbacks.

However, if you check the feedbacks, you can see that the feedbacks are fake, they sell same item at almost regular price and the next one at half or even 80% off the normal price, usually Amazon brands stuff. The feedbacks with low value are refunds, so the scam investment to pay commission is low.

I'm very sad to say that the same group has taken over many (if not most) tech support and customer support departments all over the world. They are a group mainly in South Asia or at least that is where some are from.

Do you remember the 500 guys who the FBI said got arrested for the IRS calls asking to to pay some money you owe? Same people.

Just think, how can this happen for SO LONG?? Is eBay hacked everyday and they change the settings? Of course not. And just to end this, the bad news:

That is how much chance you have to succeed selling on eBay: 0

Good luck fellows, if you can, report to the FBI or if you have a lot of time to waste, try to report it to eBay : )  

Perminate Link for eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too   eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 20 13:51:45 2021

The above accounts (of various scams on eBay) is why eBay truly is the San Jose Mafia.

Obsessed with tracking info coupled with the 24/7/365 war on sellers = eBay doing the least amount of work to resolve these issues with the minimum amount of loss.

eBay was warned (when they thought they could be Paypal and play online cc processor) of the HUGE risks that Paypal "ate" in order to make the apple cart stable.

eBay ignored the warnings and took the usual route - screw the seller. AND if a buyer gets hurt - dont worry - it happens (WILL HAPPEN) we will make good on the little loss there is and write it off on our taxes.

After speaking to a young lady in Paypal whom I was friendly with - she started out as a front line CS agent and made it all the way up to senior CS agent (main supervisor) - she told me about the risk/actuarial tables that Paypal relied on when taking these losses. She explained how/why Paypal would gladly refund a $100 item as a pposed to eating a $250 chargeback + time/money spent working on the problem.

If you recall - eBay losses on these types or issues (is an item REALLY SNAD or is the buyer lieing) were pushed onto Paypals books - and Wall Street (who thinks that eBay can not/will not/would never lie) looked clean as a whistle.

eBay can solve these issues - if they want to - they dont. They have close ties to the PO - they even got USPS to create that new category of shipping for cards - something Amazon never bothered to do! (ok it doesnt work correctly 1/2 the time - but its eBay - where nothing really ever works).

MP made issues WORSE for eBay. Being responsible means taking care of issues - not just pushing it all on Paypal.

Theres no way eBay is eating ANY loss - not ever if they can help it - after all - whos going to pay for the free healthcare/child sitting/lunches/gym/travel etc that the employees get. Certainly, eBay employees lives are more important then sellers .... right? NOT! (eBay Seller Lives Matter)!

So eBay does what eBay does - uses front line CS agents (lord they must go through them like water - they must get such abuse from angry buyers/sellers) to mollify callers and assigns the blame on whom ever they can.

If a buyer opens a case, then 1) its usually a low cost item and they can either eat it OR if the buyer bolts - no big loss - it wasnt a $5000 rolex and 2) they have proper USPS/UPS paperwork (proof of some kind of delivery) to show V/M/D that they did their "due diligence" and the CC company eats the loss without "dinging" eBay as a bad merchant of record.

What is best in life? Conan : To crush your enemies. See them driven before you. And to hear the lamentations of their women.

What is best in life? eBay : To crush your sellers. See them driven before you. And to hear the lamentations of them on social media.

Its what you should expect from eBay ... aka the San Jose Mafia.

Perminate Link for eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too   eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too

by: zeek6228 This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 20 15:33:24 2021

I recently had a customer claim to receive a package that was torn open and empty.  The package had handwriting on it "opened 3/15". It was a small rural town so I tried calling the post office and the woman who answered the phone said she wrote that note and it was indeed torn open.I immediately refunded without the customer even having to open a case. Sometimes these things happen. I immediately assumed they were trying to rip me off and I was wrong.  

Perminate Link for eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too   eBay Fake Tracking Scams Hurt Sellers Too

by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Fri May 21 20:30:11 2021

For anyone who might find this helpful....

The USPS may only ‘post’ the delivery zip code, but they do indeed know the delivery address intended as well as can tell exactly where (within 10 feet) the item was scanned when delivered - almost always - as scanners do have GPS. There may be an occasion where a non-transmitting scanner is used, but those instances are becoming less frequent.

So as a buyer when faced with this issue, here are a few things you can try.

Contact your local delivery PO (your zip), explain your concern and provide track number. You may choose to open a ‘case’ if you can’t make contact, and it will be addressed by your local PO (anyway), but it can be a day or two faster if you just call or visit.

That track number will reveal the (intended) Destination address, and provide GPS coordinates (if scanner is so equipped and as noted 95%-ish are). Those coordinates can be mapped (Google Maps) to compare the scan location to that destination/delivery address.

It should be apparent right away that there is a ‘problem’ if the intended destination, thus delivery, isn’t your address. And if it IS your address, and it was delivered elsewhere, the location data can resolve the mis-delivery (aka INR). Which may still have same Zip, but it’s still an INR for your purposes.

Now all that’s left to be done is to provide eBay with all that - somehow.

Now, one might reasonably think eBay can get it from the PO, but they aren’t exactly proactive that way. And if you can get the PO to provide you with paper acknowledgement (ask nicely) of the ‘Destination’ address and delivery scan location (the coordinates are via separate link you can’t access directly commercially but they can -get those too), you can provide that evidence to eBay.

Point of this is there IS a way to adequately ‘investigate’ this to identify it as a scam (unless it’s just a seller track number error - they do happen). So it might be worth contacting the seller to ...discuss...why they gave you an ‘incorrect’ number and what you know of the delivery so you can bypass eBay ‘help’. Of course, a scam seller won’t likely respond, so time for the case.

But eBay should have a mechanism to check and resolve this BEFORE you have to do it yourself in any appeal, especially in the case of a ‘late’ track number upload. And eBay should be shutting that seller down promptly.

That’s the REAL problem here. Besides the scam itself of course. eBay. Does. Not. Care.



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