• 03-20-2004
    Drewdane
    Interesting Article RE: Ebay Fraud
  • 03-20-2004
    JmZ
    Requires Registration to view
    Quote:
    Can you sumarize, for those who don't want to register with the NY Times?

    JmZ
  • 03-20-2004
    Drewdane
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by JmZ
    Can you sumarize, for those who don't want to register with the NY Times?

    JmZ

    Long, and pasted sloppily, but here it is:

    With Internet Fraud Up Sharply, eBay Attracts Vigilantes
    By KATIE HAFNER

    Published: March 20, 2004

    AN FRANCISCO, March 19 Five months ago, Klaus Priebe, a soft-spoken building contractor who said he was sick and tired of fraud on eBay, decided it was time to catch the cheaters at their game. In one recent auction, he bid as much as $2.5 million on a telescope worth no more than $2,000. He knew he would not have to pay for the telescope because he was sure that it did not exist. The listing was a fake, he decided, because the seller offered free shipping and was registered in Andorra, a small country in the Pyrenees that is often listed by swindlers. Mr. Priebe said his wild bid was an attempt to protect innocent bidders from falling into the trap he had spotted.

    Mr. Priebe, 42, is an eBay vigilante, one of a number of eBay members who are stepping in to fight online auction fraud a problem they say is getting worse by the week because they believe that the company does not do enough policing of its own. But in eBay's view Mr. Priebe and his vigilante brethren are pariahs. Rather than embrace these virtual posses, eBay discourages them, occasionally going so far as to suspend the vigilantes' accounts. "We love it that people want to help, but there's a right way to do it and a way that isn't constructive or in the interest of a good community marketplace," said Rob Chesnut, eBay's vice president for rules, trust and safety, who added that eBay was doing everything it could to make it safe to buy and sell on its Web site.

    EBay, based in San Jose, Calif., has 800 people deployed around the world to fight fraud, he said, and does not need amateur help. "Just like in the offline world," he said, "you can't have people running around taking the law into their hands." Critics, however, say the company is not only slow to stop fraud, but is loath to reveal how much of it goes on.
    "EBay's denial of the extent of the problem is out of control," said Mark Seiden, a computer security consultant in Manhattan who stumbled upon a fake deal for a high-end espresso maker on eBay several months ago and has since uncovered hundreds of fraudulent listings. "They probably think their brand will be stronger if they hide the fraud."
    Mr. Priebe, who lives in Pueblo, Colo., is not waiting for someone else to solve the problem. Like other eBay vigilantes, he routinely alerts eBay to listings he believes are fraudulent and sends e-mail messages to people who have bid on a fake item to alert them to the fraud. "That's a part of safe trading," Mr. Priebe said. "I believe that wholeheartedly. Watch my back and I'll watch yours."

    Deception is no stranger to eBay, which has 93 million registered users. Within its warm and fuzzy culture, based on trust and honesty, there have always lurked renegades.
    There was the spectacular case in 2000 when a fake Richard Diebenkorn painting was nearly sold for $135,000 on eBay. Travel voucher fraud on eBay became such a problem that the company now requires frequent sellers to register with an independent verification company. The sale of fake rare stamps has spawned watchdog groups both on and off the auction site.

    Yet far more rampant than art forgeries and fake collectibles these days are fraudulent listings for expensive consumer goods. Plasma televisions and laptop computers, mountain bikes, fancy espresso machines, treadmills, telescopes, even vehicles are prime candidates to be phantom objects on eBay, sometimes promoted with photos and descriptions lifted straight off the manufacturer's Web site. Often, the seller uses auction software to post dozens of items at once, flooding a category with fake listings.
    Last year, some $200 million lost to online fraud was reported to the Federal Trade Commission. And nearly half the 166,000 complaints the agency received last year were about online auctions, a 130 percent increase from 2001. While the F.T.C. does not break out figures by companies, the vast majority of online auctions are conducted on eBay.
    "It's gone nuts just since November of last year," said Greg Schiller, a computer and network technician in Aztec, N.M., who says he reports hundreds of fraudulent listings every day to eBay.

    Against this tide, online vigilantes have had an impact. Last year, they were instrumental in cornering a pair of swindlers from Arizona who bilked eBay users out of nearly $110,000. Often, they are the ones who doggedly trace the source of the fraud to places like Romania, which appears to be a popular redoubt, although many Romanian swindlers claim to be based in Andorra. Indeed, by late last year, Mr. Chesnut said, more than 100 arrests had been made in Romania alone.
    "It's very difficult to find people who are hiding in foreign countries where there's a language barrier and it requires cooperation with foreign agencies," said Deborah Matties, a lawyer in the marketing practices division at the F.T.C. and leader of the commission's task force on Internet auction fraud. But she said the agency did not work with vigilantes to ferret out online auction fraud.

    Mr. Schiller and others say they engage in self-help activities in part because they yearn for the days when eBay was a much safer place. "EBay is a wonderful thing," Mr. Schiller said. "But a lot of people are getting ripped off for a lot of money."
    The company says vigilantism, like Mr. Priebe's bidding tactics, is not a solution and will not be tolerated. The company also does not allow its members to send e-mail messages to bidders to warn them that they are bidding on something that does not exist, or to post details and item numbers on eBay discussion groups.
    "If you allow that sort of activity, even the bad guys start posting about the good guys and you end up with a big free-for-all and a lot of finger pointing," Mr. Chesnut said. "That's not the right way to go about doing things."
    EBay estimates that of the 20 million or so items that are for sale on its Web site at any given time, only about 2,000 items, or one-hundredth of 1 percent, are fraudulent. But that figure reflects only those cases that are settled through the eBay buyer protection claim process.

    Mr. Seiden, the computer security consultant, says the actual number of fraudulent auctions is considerably higher. "EBay's protections don't apply to many kinds of transactions like Western Union scams, so they go uncounted," he said.
    Mr. Chesnut said the company was aware of most of the fraudulent listings that the vigilantes report. But he contends the vigilantes can be mistaken. "There's a lot of information that they might not have at their disposal," he said. Hani Durzy, a spokesman for eBay, said it was "not a rare occurrence where eBay has noticed that vigilantes have disrupted legitimate auctions."
    The vigilantes argue that the signs of fraud are quite obvious. A fraudulent seller almost always asks for payment via Western Union. Often there is no feedback from other users. And the seller usually offers to sell the item at a much lower price if the buyer agrees to leave eBay and close the purchase privately.

    One common ploy is to set up an auction under the identity of a legitimate eBay user who has received positive responses from buyers in the past. Brad Celmainis, an eBay member in Calgary, Alberta, said that warning signals go up as soon as he sees a seller's history and spots incongruities.
    "You'll get some lady who was selling teapots and baby clothes and all of a sudden she's an electronics kingpin," said Mr. Celmainis, who alerts bidders and eBay users whose accounts have been hijacked.

    Stirling Smidt, a 28-year-old financial analyst in Wellington, New Zealand, could have used such a tip. He thought he had found a great deal on a digital camera on eBay, and promptly sent off 850 New Zealand dollars ($557) via Western Union to the seller who said she was in London.
    "There was a lot of e-mail back and forth between the seller and me," Mr. Smidt said. "Her English was really bad and she kept saying, `I'm just a 57-year-old woman with a sick son and a camera to sell.' Things like that." The camera never arrived.
    Ina Steiner, editor and publisher of AuctionBytes.com, an online newsletter about Internet auctions, said she was not a vigilante but she sympathized with their cause.
    "If I get ripped off by somebody on eBay and I see they're still selling on eBay and ripping other people off, I want to reach out and warn people," she said. "EBay doesn't look kindly on that."

    Mr. Chesnut said the company frequently warned its members to be wary of traps set to steal their account information. Further, he said, the site is now peppered with various warnings about unsafe practices, like sending money via Western Union and going off eBay to complete a transaction.
    The company also routinely alerts winning bidders of fraudulent auctions, telling them not to complete the transaction, Mr. Chesnut said. Such was the case with the fake Diebenkorn painting.

    Still, it was another eBay user's warning that saved Marianne Houkom. Ms. Houkom, 55, who lives in Newton, Kan., received an e-mail message from Mr. Seiden warning her that the espresso machine she was bidding on did not exist. She said she was horrified, and then relieved when someone outbid her.

    Mr. Seiden said he felt obligated to inform bidders in fraudulent auctions because he did not trust eBay to catch all of those schemes. That may be because "the people in eBay seem to vary widely in their competence and understanding of claims of fraud and willingness to investigate," he said.

    For his part, Mr. Priebe has tried to reason with some of the hucksters. He said he recently had an interesting if fruitless exchange with someone posting fraudulent auctions who said he was a 16-year-old living in Romania.
    "He told me his parents wanted him to make money and that everyone in the U.S. is rich," Mr. Priebe recalled. "I said it isn't really that way and that karma was going to catch up with him one of these days."
  • 03-20-2004
    633
    Hmm, summary
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by JmZ
    Can you sumarize, for those who don't want to register with the NY Times?

    JmZ

    Lots of fraud going on these days on eBay. Summary of a few of the more common schemes, but probably not enough detail to really help people recognize them.

    Quotes from "vigilantes" who bid up fraudulent auctions, or e-mail other users with fraud warnings: We want to help other users, and eBay isn't doing enough about the problem. Generally good points, but they interview a couple of guys who seem to spend their whole days doing nothing but surfing eBay looking for fraud. One guy who says he reports thousands of fraudulent auctions a day. I'm guessing the social life is pretty limited.

    Quotes from 3 different eBay reps: "What problem? Well, okay, maybe there's a little bit of a problem, but not really much of anything. As far as warning other people about fraud, leave that to the professionals. And gosh, some of those dumb users sending e-mails to other people warning them of potential fraud don't have all the facts. Wouldn't want anyone taking the law into their own hands. Where would we all be then? Besides, we're really much smarter than you guys anyway. We're from the government, er, eBay, and we're here to help."

    Overall impact: Hey, you probably wanna stay away from auctions based in Andorra, or ones that want Western Union payment.
  • 03-20-2004
    Ottoreni
    Doesn't EBAY gets money?
    Doesn't EBAY get money from every listing? Why would they want to bite the hand the feeds them. Once the percentage of fraud gets too great then EBAY will act. It is a simple business decision. As long as their bottom line is growing they will not do anything to stop the fraud. When you hear about fraud on a quarterly conference call imapcting revenue; then they will act for their best interest and not any earlier.
  • 03-20-2004
    WA-Ride-ah
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Ottoreni
    Doesn't EBAY get money from every listing? Why would they want to bite the hand the feeds them. Once the percentage of fraud gets too great then EBAY will act. It is a simple business decision. As long as their bottom line is growing they will not do anything to stop the fraud. When you hear about fraud on a quarterly conference call imapcting revenue; then they will act for their best interest and not any earlier.

    Amen brother,

    I sell frequently on Ebay. I can't say that it's not worth my time, but I get lots of people asking if they can send credit card payments through email so I can charge them and send them their product to Indonesia, Romania, etc. I've built up my handle to over 60 good feedbacks now, not much, but I do this to support hobbies only. Anyhow, just the other day I had a guy give me a negative mark because I gave him a negative mark for not following through with payment. I contacted ebay, explained the situation, and they send me a generic reply with links to their rules of feedback removal. They came back and told me that feedback is a natural thing, whether bad or good and they can't remove it unless it falls under certain guidlines. I read the guidlines and basically the only way it gets removed is if it was given to someone who's account has been hacked. Now this was a feedback I left for a guy who didn't pay and told me too bad, I even gave him several weeks to pay for his winnning bid. So Ieft a negative response: "member didn't pay for winning bid." and this friggin' clown is allowed to then in return leave me a feedback score, what the heck is that about. So now the only blemish I have on my record is from 2 non paying bidders, which shows up and makes me look bad. WHat does this have to do with the scamming, IMO Ebay's in it for the money, so don't think they're going to do much about scams, keeping it legit, or helping out the honest. Just another sad story of American greed.
  • 03-20-2004
    Ottoreni
    EBAY is all about the money!
    Ebay is all about the money, the money they make for themselves. They will not address the fraud issue until it becomes detrimental to their profits.

    They should be thankful that people try to help, but like I say its all about the greenbacks!

    Look at the money machine EBAY is as a company. Five years ago it was around a $2 stock (split adjusted). Now it is sixty-eight and change. They're a money making machine for their shareholders. They make money for themselves. Follow the link for the nice chart.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?s=EBAY...l=on&z=m&q=b&c=
  • 03-20-2004
    DaFireMedic
    This is a serious problem
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by WA-Ride-ah
    Amen brother,

    I sell frequently on Ebay. I can't say that it's not worth my time, but I get lots of people asking if they can send credit card payments through email so I can charge them and send them their product to Indonesia, Romania, etc. I've built up my handle to over 60 good feedbacks now, not much, but I do this to support hobbies only. Anyhow, just the other day I had a guy give me a negative mark because I gave him a negative mark for not following through with payment. I contacted ebay, explained the situation, and they send me a generic reply with links to their rules of feedback removal. They came back and told me that feedback is a natural thing, whether bad or good and they can't remove it unless it falls under certain guidlines. I read the guidlines and basically the only way it gets removed is if it was given to someone who's account has been hacked. Now this was a feedback I left for a guy who didn't pay and told me too bad, I even gave him several weeks to pay for his winnning bid. So Ieft a negative response: "member didn't pay for winning bid." and this friggin' clown is allowed to then in return leave me a feedback score, what the heck is that about. So now the only blemish I have on my record is from 2 non paying bidders, which shows up and makes me look bad. WHat does this have to do with the scamming, IMO Ebay's in it for the money, so don't think they're going to do much about scams, keeping it legit, or helping out the honest. Just another sad story of American greed.


    This is a problem that Ebay MUST address, but instead they take their feedback system very lightly, with basically a "too bad" response. It can work the other way around as well. You win the bid, PayPal the money over immediately and the seller never sends the item. You leave negative feedback, then he leaves negative feedback for you. So you did nothing except follow through on your obligation immediately, yet receive negative feedback for your trouble, and Ebay refuses to help, even if you can have the proof that you paid immediately. Plus you are out whatever money the clown stole from you, cuz Ebay does virtually nothing about that either. I still deal there occasionally, but I'm very careful and may not continue if Ebay continues to neglect their customers.