In early January, our team received a letter from 82-year-old Marjorie telling us about a mink coat that her grandson Christopher tried to sell for her on eBay. It’s a sad tale that follows, but a great learning lesson for others…
In October 2013, Christopher was asked to help his grandmother sell her mink coat on eBay. He was a new user to eBay and unfortunately became a target for a criminal’s scam.
After registering with eBay and listing the mink coat for sale at $5,300, Christopher received an email to his private email address—not his eBay account—from [email protected].
The email contained eBay’s official looking header and the subject was "Payment Confirmation for item xxxx." The email explained that extra scrutiny is given to large transactions to help protect against fraud. The email went on to say:
"Dear (Christopher’s eBay user name—not his real name),
We have rigorously examined the payment for item 'Revillon Paris Black Diamond Mink' at $5,300. This transaction is in order and legal. You shall receive the said amount as soon as you send the item. We encourage you to ship immediately as your payment has been confirmed."
The email went on to explain that they use proprietary technology to help ensure transactions are safe and help stop fraud. They state the buyer’s name and eBay ID and confirm that the buyer is legally supported by eBay and is insured by their protection against fraud.
Next the email shows the 5 easy steps that need to happen next in order for Christopher to receive his payment. These steps involve Christopher immediately shipping the mink with tracking to the buyer in England. So that's exactly what Christopher did.
The problem? The email was not from eBay but was a clever phishing/spoofing email from a criminal. After the mink was shipped, a series of emails between Christopher and what he thought was eBay and PayPal were exchanged in which Christopher was constantly asking where the payment was as the criminals continued to stall.
Thinking that he has a simple delayed payment or fraud case with PayPal and eBay, Christopher contacts their customer support and eventually works his way up the customer service ladder. That's when he learned that he was taken in a scam.
Marjorie and Christopher received an email from eBay’s office of the president explaining that the emails they received were all fake. None of the emails were from eBay or PayPal, nor did any of the emails ever pass through eBay’s system. It was explained that as far as eBay can see, the mink was listed for sale, never got any bids, and eventually closed unsold.
eBay is apologetic and sympathetic that this fraud happened, but they're very clear that the fraud happened off their website and thus eBay is not responsible, nor is the transaction covered by any of their protection policies. Because eBay only makes money if customers complete their transactions on their site, they have very specific rules in place to protect their company. Here are links to some of those rules:
eBay’s office of the president goes on to explain:
"To avoid running into fake offers in the future, please keep in mind that eBay does not have agents who hold or accept payments on behalf of the seller, sent from a buyer. If you're suspicious about an email that claims to be from eBay, sign in to My eBay and click the Messages tab. By clicking on the 'From eBay' inbox, you can view messages that are strictly from the eBay offices. We will not create emails under a User ID. If you don't see the same message there, the email is fake."
To check My Messages:
1. Click the "My eBay" tab at the top of most eBay pages. You may need to sign in.
2. Click the "My Messages" link on the left-hand side of the page.
Click here for additional information regarding how to recognize fake emails or websites.
So where are Marjorie and Christopher left now? Without the mink and without any payment for it. They have since filed a case with their local police department as well as the FBI, but as of yet, nothing has come of those cases.
It’s a terrible tale but we wanted to share it with our listeners to hopefully have one good thing come out of this situation—That you, our listeners, will never be taken by a fake email scam and will educate yourselves as much as possible prior to selling any items on eBay.
And most importantly, don’t ever answer an email that claims to be from eBay in your private email account. Always go directly to eBay.com and log into your “My Messages” tab and any correspondence from eBay will be in your “From eBay” box.