Why I will never sell a product again on eBay, and why you shouldn’t neither.

Sam Hickmann
5 min readNov 4, 2017

I decided to sell my camera. I tried on CraigsList but nobody was interested. I decided to sell it on eBay. Until Yesterday, I only used eBay as a buyer, not a seller.
So here we go, it’s painful (because the UI/UX of the eBay website is awful, welcome back to 1994!) but I manage to list my item. The start price is $2,690 and the “Buy It Now” price is set to $3,499. Then I go to bed.

7 hours of good sleep later, I check my email to discover that my camera has been sold, at $3,499 😍. Awesome! Somebody hit the “Buy It Now” button during the night. It’s a good Friday morning start.

First clue that something is wrong: the buyer sends me an email (using the internal eBay messaging system) asking me pictures of the item from all angles + my Paypal email address.

Why the heck is he asking me to send pictures from different angles to his personal email address when these pictures are already on eBay?

Anyways, I send him the pictures and my Paypal email address, and I start my due diligence on the guy to discover that he created his account in September 2010, he has 63 stars (but no feedback ratings 🤔). He is from Georgia and his name is Jim Rubio.

And then, I receive this on my phone…

Fortunately, I’m interrupted, and I resume on my laptop

Yes, you read right, the name is service@paypal.com but the email address is shipment-invoice@post.com (thing you don’t see if you read the message from your smartphone), there is the eBay logo, and they ask me to ship the product. They supposedly received the payment and they’ve placed a temporary hold on it, until they can verify that the product has shipped.

The amount is wrong ($3,699 instead of $3,499), the guy’s name is now Temmy Paul (instead of Jim Rubio) and the address is in Nevada (instead of Georgia). Actually, the address is an electronics store/warehouse:

To sum up, it’s a big big scam, but it’s bigger than it seems. There are multiple technics used here, from phishing, to identity theft and recel. Let me explain.

Jim Rubio exists, and seems to be a pretty respectable person. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia, owns a music store where he sells bass guitars. His name and his address correspond to the one of the eBay buyer. Even the pseudo seems right: “atlantabassgallery” when his retail store is named “Atlanta Bass Gallery”.

So why did he ask me to send the product to a different person? Why did he ask me to enter the tracking number in eBay before I get the payment? (By the way yes, in eBay, you can enter the tracking number anytime! See below:)

After few hours of thinking, now the machanism is clear, and it’s really frightening because it’s so easy to put together, and it’s vitually impossible to catch the mastermind behind it (let’s call him “the bad guy”).

  1. The bad guy uses a “fake real identity” to open an eBay account. Everything is correct but the email. He uses one that only he has access to.
  2. He seeks the eBay listing for high-end electronics products.
  3. He hits the “Buy It Now” button to immediately stop the bidding war and create a sense of urgency and excitement in the seller.
  4. He contacts the seller, ask him to send him his Paypal email address via email (by-passing the eBay messaging system)
  5. He sends a fake email (“phishing”), pretending being Paypal/eBay with information that only Paypal/eBay are supposed to have: the name of the buyer, the email of the seller, etc. (He received them via eBay because HE IS the buyer, and via the seller because he simply asked, and the seller sent them because it makes sense, to get paid).

And this is how it is supposed to work from there:

6. The seller sends the product (in Express Overnight Shipment, like specified in the fake email message), goes to eBay to enter the tracking number, and waits for the money to arrive on his Paypal account.

7. The bad guy receives the product, never sends the money.

8. 2 or 3 days after, the seller informs eBay that he has sent the product but never received the money. eBay asks the buyer to send the money to the seller but the buyer — the bad guy — just answers that he never received the product. And that’s true, because remember, the tracking number proves that the product has been sent and deliver… not to the address of the buyer!
The buyer — the bad guy — becomes the victim here… eBay has no reason to blame him.

9. The seller cries 😭. He can do absolutely nothing.

10. The bad guy can now sell 🤑 the product he got for free, and can repeat the scam forever.

Don’t sell on eBay, you’ll never win! Q.E.D.

PS: I’m so shocked by the UI/UX of eBay. How can people trust this system? I just noticed that even the language is sometimes mixed. “Verkaufen”! What does it mean? Is it german?

[Edit Nov 8]: just received 2 emails from eBay saying that the purshase was made without owner’s permission!