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Ebay Feedback Scam

Friday, August 4th, 2006 by | Filed Under: Security Help

Ebay Feedback Scam

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that reports for July by certain security experts claim that e-mail viruses are actually down. The bad news, on the other hand, is that the rise of a whole new genre of scams is coming quickly over the horizon, with the newest meaning to separate Ebay customers from their hard earned money.

The Feedback Scam, as it has been named by the Sunnyvale, CA company, Fortinet, has been discovered. Fortinet says that the scam is really a new twist on an old scam. The scam, being a fake auction, where as soon as all the proceedings are finished the individuals running the phony auction disappear with their ill-gotten cash with no exchange of goods for the bidding party.

The concept of this new variation of the scam goes somewhat the same way with one major difference. If you have ever bought anything from Ebay, I’m sure you are familiar with customer feedback. Feedback being of course, how a particular customer rates the service of another Ebay user after a completed transaction. This feedback can earn a seller a good or bad reputation based on the whole of these comments and it can conversely affect their Ebay sales.

For instance, as a general rule, you should always look at a user’s comments when bidding on something on Ebay. You want to be sure that you know what to expect when the transaction is complete. This rule especially comes into play when the dollar amount on the items being bid on is high. This is where reputation will stop a sale and this is where the scam shines.

These Ebay scam artists know they need a good reputation on Ebay in order to sell the non-existing high dollar items. In order to create this “good” reputation, the attacker creates bot users to not only trade amongst themselves, but also leave good feedback comments to themselves. This technique can quickly and cheaply boost the reputation of several accounts at once, creating a small army of scam Ebay accounts. Once the bots are all set up with a spotless track record, they can go for the kill, which is posting big high dollar items for auction. The seemingly clean reputation will fool all but the veteran users who may be interested in the product, but will also pique the interest of individuals who cannot so easily spot the scam. This puts them in extremely bad positions. Of course, winning the item on bid wins nothing. The attacker takes the money and the user ends up much more wary of Ebay activities.

Once the deed is done, there is little to no chance of getting your money back and since the user that sold the item isn’t real anyway, Ebay’s only recourse so far is to delete the account.

I’m sure Ebay will come up with some fix for these feedback scams in the very near future, but until then, I found some helpful guidelines from an Ebay user that everyone should read.

Things to consider when bidding for an item on Ebay:

Do not purchase an expensive item (especially in electronics) if it contains several of the following:

  • Price is “too good to be true” and/or great price offered PLUS free shipping.
  • Auction description appears to be cut and pasted from a Web site, is excessively long (so as to be confusing) and the photo of the item is not of an actual item; rather it is a stock/catalog photo.
  • Seller’s feedback is primarily as a buyer or those items s/he normally sells are not of that type/price range.
  • Seller’s feedback is primarily as a buyer or seller of inexpensive items (recipes, coupons, eBooks, digital photos, etc.) and is now selling expensive merchandise.
  • Seller requires Western Union as only method of payment. Red Flag! (Always pay for expensive items through PayPal using a credit card for optimal buyer protection).
  • Seller is not located in U.S. or their ID/listing states U.S., but the seller requires payment be wired elsewhere.
  • One or three day auction for expensive items is another red flag! Most legitimate sellers want exposure (more bang for their buck) and will list their auctions for five, seven or 10 days.

Note: The above information was posted by username *silly_sniper* on this Web site.

All of these are extremely good practices and as long as you remember to use them, they should work wonderfully to keep you safe while doing your Ebay shopping.

Until next week, stay safe out there!

~ Chad Stelnicki

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