EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 89 - February 16, 2003 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 8

Small-Time eBay Scams & Annoyances

By Michael A. Banks

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When I received an email message headed "Account Verification with eBay" last week, I couldn't wait to see what was cooking. My eBay account had been working okay, and it was about as likely that I needed to do something to confirm the account as it was that my dog would drive my car to pick up a pizza.

I figured it must be a scam - and it was. The kids behind this one weren't particularly clever, but it was fun to see them try. They faked the "" com address, and the body of the message was eBay's sign in page, done up in html so that people whose E-mail was set up for html, including AOL users, would see the page just as they do through their browser.

Of course, if you tried to "sign in" (and I hope none of you did), your eBay ID and password were forwarded on to someone all set to use it to steal or wreak havoc on eBay - at your expense.

You do recognize the scam; I mean, you know that no commercial online operation is going to ask you to send your password via email, right? Right!

This reminded me of a few other scams I see people trying to pull from time to time on eBay. I'll share them with you here.

Spammers Subverting eBay's Mail System

Spammers are getting more and more desperate, particularly in looking for new, "fresh" addresses to harass. (They're usually kind of stupid, too, and don't realize that anyone with a new address probably has it because their previous address was rendered useless by spammers.)

The latest twist on "harvesting" addresses is to write to an eBay user with eBay's "Ask Seller a Question" form, which forwards mail to the user without providing the sender their email address. The spammer's message usually says something like, "What else you got for sale?" or, "Would you like to buy one of these for a dollar?"

Once you receive the message, you don't have to answer, but if you do, the other person will have your email address. The first time I got hit by one of these clowns, I reported him; it appears the budding spammer was curtailed, at least where addresses of eBay users are concerned. The fool sold on eBay, as well, and stood to lose his account for spamming.

But this wasn't the only time for this trick, and you'll probably get this sort of mail, too, if you bid or sell on eBay. The problem is easy to avoid, though. If a message forwarded through eBay doesn't make any sense, ignore it.

Auction Page Pop-Ups

Although auction sites generally ban pop-up pages in auction listings, there are always those who ignore the rules and set up these ambushes. Which means you have to spend time closing windows that jump up in your face when you're trying to read something important to you.

If you're tired of messing with this problem, Symantec's Norton Internet Security can help. It allows you to control advertising, and avoid many pop-ups, while limiting most of the rest to displaying blank windows.

You can expand on this protection by using the software's "Internet Zone Control" feature. This allows you restrict access to page URLs that you don't want to see. All you have to do is enter the URL of the pop-up.

Most pop-ups won't display their URL, but that's okay. All you need to do to get the address is right-click in the window. This displays the window's Properties, and you can copy the URL from that. (No matter how you get the URL, you need enter only the portion, or if there's something other than "www" at the beginning of the address, enter that, too.)

Sudden Outbidding

If you find that you have been outbid more than once on a particular seller's items - or that two or three bidders show up and outbid you the last few hours of the auction - it's worth checking up on the bidders.

Why? Some sellers create buyer accounts on eBay to run up their prices. If you suspect this is happening, have a look at what your opponents are bidding on. (Go to the eBay search page, click on "Bidders" and enter the name of the other bidder or bidders.)

If the bidder(s) in question are bidding only on items from the seller in question, forget the auction; you'll never get a good price. (You might complain to eBay, as well, but I don't know that this is actually a provable offense.)

So make sure you don't fall for these Small-Time eBay Scams & Annoyances!

About the author:

Michael A. Banks is the author of The eBay Survival Guide: How to Make Money and Avoid Losing Your Shirt (No Starch Press, 2005. ISBN: 1-59327-063-1). He has written 39 books and more than 3,000 magazine articles and short stories. A full-time freelance writer and editor since 1983, Banks has written for most major computer magazines, and has served as a Contributing Editor for such publications as Windows Magazine, Computer Shopper, Connect Magazine, and others. He began writing about computing for Popular Computing in 1981. In addition to writing for the computer press, Banks has contributed to a diverse range of magazines, including Writer's Digest, Science Digest, Analog Science Fiction, Cavalier, Grit, Visual Merchandising, Starlog, Modern People, Good Housekeeping, and many other special- and general-interest publications. His work has been reprinted in Japan and South America, and he has written features and columns for magazines in Japan and England. His latest book is How to Become a Full-Time Freelance Writer, published by The Writer Books.

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