to Win at eBay:
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Frauds are easy to spot.
If you pay by PayPal, you're probably covered even if you get taken, which is why the biggest red flag for a fraudulent listing is that they don't take PayPal.
There was a ring operating for at least a year unchecked. Their listings were obvious:
1.) Payment options didn't include PayPal.
2.) Multi-thousand-dollar lenses offered with Buy It Now for only about $1,200.
3.) Seller claimed to be in Canada and had 100% feedback with a rating of between 15 ~ 75 feedbacks.
4.) Seller's only other items or history was selling women's clothes.
5.) Same photos and descriptions were used for multiple listings at the same time. Obviously, the seller didn't have any of these items, much less three copies of the same item at once.
6.) Description and photos looked perfectly believable, because they were copied from good listings.
I even bid on one of these (a 200mm f/2 VR for $1,000), and only realized it was a scam a second after I hurriedly clicked Buy-it-Now, knowing it would be gone in a second. Luckily, eBay caught it in a few minutes and notified me that it was a scam, and that I had no obligation to send the purported seller a money order.
Of course the seller continued to email me directly, telling me his sister worked at Western Union so I could pay that way and avoid the fees. No way.
For all I know, these guys are still operating. I saw their fraudulent listings appear regularly for over a year.
Most likely they are hijacking accounts of good sellers via phishing, and even though the accounts are based in Canada, the perpetrators could be operating out of any Internet café anywhere on earth.
"eBay is the center of a new universe of counterfeit products." The New York TImes, 27 November 2007.
Counterfeits have always been items where the manufacturers charge too much. In photography, Nikon and Canon charge too much for lens caps, battery chargers and little accessories.
Therefore you'll find lots of counterfeit Nikon and Canon accessories for sale on eBay.
You'll not seen fake cameras, since those are both very difficult to impossible to fake as far as you or I are concerned, but simple stuff that is sold for a huge markup, like memory cards and caps, are often fakes when found on eBay.
Readers have mailed me counterfeit caps to check out. The reason these are criminally counterfeit, as opposed to just caps, is that they use the Nikon trademark. They are complete rip-offs of Nikon caps, trying as closely as possible to pass for the real thing.
They even look like the real thing, until you compare with a very close eye.
The fake caps have very slightly different finishes. The fakes are always marked MADE IN JAPAN, while the real ones are usually made in China or Thailand. Remember, these are fakes, and even though they are made in China, just as they illegally use the Nikon trademark, they also aren't really made in Japan.
Fake caps are easy to spot. I see the same guy selling them all the time. Look for a guy selling "new" caps in multiple quantities, but oddly without the original packaging.
The weirdly sad part of this is that the fake caps don't fit very well. It almost makes it reasonable to pay $20 for a real Nikon cap, just because the real Nikon front and rear caps really do fit better.
I asked a friend or two in law enforcement if I ought to have them run the serial numbers of the gear I get to check for stolen property.
Good news: they told me that it's not likely worth it. It's pretty much unheard of to find common burglars selling stolen property on eBay, because the guys so dumb that they become burglars can't figure out how to sell efficiently on eBay.
If common burglars had these skills, they wouldn't be criminals. They could make more money selling things picked up legitimately at police auctions of stolen goods, another popular source of items sold legitimately by Dumpster divers over eBay.
Before you think you're safe, let's cover some other random pitfalls about which you should be aware.
Next: More eBay Pitfalls
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