Wednesday, February 25, 2004

eBay scam . . . sort of

Ok, let me set this up:

I have a vehicle for sale on If you click through, you will see that I have paid for the best listing that a consumer can get -- I have multiple pictures of my vehicle, a full description, etc.

Yesterday I received a call from a potential buyer, who asked me if I also had my vehicle listed on EBay. I told the buyer I did not and asked him why he had asked. The buyer responded that he had seen the same VIN and exact same pictures of my vehicle on an EBay listing. According to the gentleman that called me, the EBay seller had copied all of my pictures, my description, and my VIN number from the AutoTrader site and was requesting a $3,500.00 deposit via Western Union. Searching EBay, I found out that it was no lie, there was someone attempting to sell my vehicle on EBay.

I immediately contacted EBay through their SafeHarbor fraud investigation service, which was a very unfulfilled experience. I had to go through several pre-populated fields to generate an e-mail that asked that I only enter the EBay item number that was fraudulent. After sending the e-mail to EBay, I was informed that EBay had received my e-mail, but there would be no further contact from EBay because of their fraud investigation process. Doesn't that seem a little odd? Why wouldn't EBay want to know why I thought the item was a fraud? By using my pictures, the seller was committing copyright infringement, and by requesting a Western Union transfer, the seller was attempting to commit wire fraud. I, of course, being the owner of this vehicle new all of this, but EBay didn't let me tell them in my fraud report e-mail, and didn't want to talk to me.

After my lack of satisfaction with EBay's fraud reporting, I immediately sent an e-mail to (still haven't received a response), asking them to contact EBay and stating that I would be more than willing to participate with them, EBay, law enforcement, etc. to bring charges against this seller.

Still unfulfilled, I searched the Internet for phone numbers for EBay and found them almost immediately (note that I could not find any phone numbers on the EBay site). Although there was no direct line or menu choice for SafeHarbor, I did get in touch with a customer service person. The customer service person told me that I had to report the fraud through SafeHarbor and that she couldn't help me, but she did at least walk me through the fraud report process so that I received a free-form e-mail entry window that allowed me to input the full story (I can't wait to see if I hear back from EBay -- they have another 22 hours to process the claim).

Feeling frustrated with the whole process, I tried to see if my vehicle was still for sale by searching the item number, and EBay could not find the auction. I then searched EBay for my vehicle VIN and again EBay could not find the auction. Finally I searched for information on the seller and EBay displayed a message that the seller had been suspended.

Suspended? I had to assume that the seller had been suspended because of my fraud complaint, which made me happy. However, after I had a minute to think about it, I realized that there wasn't really any way that EBay could have substantiated my fraud complaint because they didn't specifically know why I was reporting the item as fraudulent. EBay never contacted me to find out why I thought the item was fraudulent, although I guess AutoTrader may have contacted them to let them know what was going on.

So here's the big question: If you take the time to report an item as fraudulent on EBay, does EBay immediately suspend your status as a seller?

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