How the popular eBay scam works

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Most of the scams we see today are old hat, like the bank manager in Nigeria who has the spare 1 million lying around and suggests your bank is the safest place. As soon as we see these scams the BS meter in our head goes full deflection however there is one popular eBay / e-commerce scam that is still getting a lot of people who should and do know better.

Recently I was talking to one of my consulting clients who for the sake of embarrassment I will call ‘Bob’ and this eBay scam had worked on his eBay business.  Bob is smart and with over 30,000 eBay feedbacks and selling over 100 items a day through eBay and his website, he is no newbie.

This is how it works.

You sell an item on either eBay or your website and usually quickly after it sells you receive an email from the buyer saying they need it quickly for a birthday, anniversary, going to war or whatever other reason and ask you to send it fast. Often the buyer may request it to be also sent to a different address too. eBay mobile apps can also help you to sell items fast and to know the status of the product till delivery.

In the case of Bob’s business it was 3:30pm in the afternoon just before the post truck was due to pickup his parcels.

You email back saying yes you will send it immediately after they pay.

They then come back and ask for your PayPal address. (the trick)

Moments later you receive an email that looks like it came from PayPal  saying this exact item has been paid so you ship the item.

In Bob’s case, they held the post truck up just to get the parcel out the door!


If Bob had checked his PayPal account he would have seen no payment was made.

On close scrutiny the email did not come from PayPal at all.

These scams are quite easy to pick if you look closely at the email address the supposed PayPal email came from however in today’s busy rushed life sometimes we can miss some obvious clues, especially with the complacency of most PayPal transactions being good.

In Bob’s case, if the item had been shipped normally this would not have happened as there was no payment recorded in his Paypal account and his automation software would not allow a picking slip to be produced however Bod over rode the system and produced a manual invoice… oops

If you do get one of these scam emails, please email it immediately to

PayPal  take scams VERY seriously and will immediately follow it up with the correct authorities.

Have you had any of these scams?

Best regards
Neil Waterhouse

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10 Responses to How the popular eBay scam works

  1. Chaminda says:

    Thanks Neil,
    I might tell you about something that has happened to me twice.
    1. A buyer pays via PayPal for an item shipped by standard post without
    a tracking number
    2. PayPal provides me the address
    3. I post it
    4. Buyer complains that he didn’t receive it
    5. I ask for address
    6. It is different from PayPal one
    7. Buyer complains to PayPal and get a refund
    8. I never see the item again

    • admin says:

      Ouch, that hurts!

      The only way to stop this is to use tracking and PayPal looks after you however tracking of course eats into the profits.

      We have a rule of all items which sell for more than $20 get tracking.

  2. Derek says:

    That exact scam used to happen to me all the time when I was 15 trying to first start an eBay business (sometimes it happened 5 times a week). I think this happens to people more with lower feedback just trying to get going because these scamers see a total beginner that doesn’t know any better. That is why I physically go into my paypal account to verify the actual payment was made regardless of the email “sent by paypal”.

  3. Abbas Ali says:

    A similar incident occurred to me a couple of days ago just as with Chaminda.

    A buyer paid via PayPal for an item. I shipped by standard post with tracking no. PayPal provided me the address and I mailed the item. Buyer inquired after a month whether everything was o.k. since he never received the item. I checked the email that I received from Ebay to ship the item. That email showed different address than the one in buyer’s email. I emailed buyer with the Ebay provided address and the tracking no. showing that the item was successfully delivered to that address. Buyer emailed back and said ‘wrong shipping address’.
    Since then no correspondence with me from the buyer, Ebay or Paypal.

  4. Adley says:

    Wow in the time I have been selling on eBay, I have yet to fall for this scam. I would suspect it was a scam because they wouldn’t need my PayPal address because they would pay via eBay website.

    It’s crazy to think that people actually do this. Why are there so many scammers out there..It’s a shame.

    Great write up. Thanks for the information.

  5. Chaminda says:

    At least you didn’t have to send a refund because you had a tracking number and you could prove that it was posted to the address provided by PayPal
    Most people are good but there are rotten apples



  6. sandra wilson says:

    One thing to take note of apart from the email address is that all emails from Paypal will always be addressed to you by name, never Dear Sir, or Account Holder etc.

    • Demi says:

      Sandra Wilson, I received email confirmed payment from PayPal addressed my name but still fake so, my recommend check your PayPal account to make sure you received money before post the item.

  7. Dave says:

    Similar to my experience, however, once they asked for my paypal details,I refused to give them the details and told them to pay by normal ebay system, I got the same I’m a good catholic etc. I wouldn’t budge on there pleas.
    they would try anything, Reported it to eBay, no result

  8. Tova says:

    Thank you Neil and all of you for sharing this valuable information.

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