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Friday, March 17, 2006

Fraud: eBay's number one best-seller

The Bargain Queen has been defrauded on eBay twice. The first time, she bought a Tiffany necklace (before everyone knew that all Tiffany on eBay is fake), which turned out to be a good quality fake in the dodgiest packaging you'll ever see. She still wears the necklace, mostly because it's pretty, but partly because it was $200 which is a lot to spend on something and then never use it.

The second time, she bought a CD and the seller sent her a burnt CD copy of it, instead of the pictured item. By then, The Bargain Queen had enough positive feedback that one negative wouldn't kill her, so she reported the seller and got her money back.

These aren't isolated incidents by any stretch. If you're looking at Tiffany jewellery, designer handbags, Diesel or Seven For All Mankind jeans, even some car parts (!) on eBay, there's a high chance you'll get a fake. According to the Chicago Times, one woman even got ripped off on a wedding dress. And apparently New Zealand's equivalent, trademe.co.nz is no better.

So how do you make sure you don't get ripped off on eBay and other auction sites? Keep these tips in mind, and eBay's a relatively safe place:
  1. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. This season's hottest super-expensive bags do not show up on eBay for $100 - cheap copies of them do.
  2. Treat all 'high risk' items (like accessories by well-known designers) as possible fakes, and do your research. Ask the seller about the authenticity of the item before you bid, read guides to spotting fakes and check the seller's feedback really carefully.
  3. Be suspicious if the item is being shipped from China or Hong Kong; a lot of fake goods are manufactured there.
  4. Don't take return policies at face value. A common ploy is to offer a full refund, "if you can prove the bag is fake", because they know it's very difficult to get any documentation to prove it. (My Poupette are one of the few places to authenticate bags, although they only do Louis Vuitton.)
  5. Be aware of the other types of eBay fraud, including buying things you never receive. Just because the item in the pictures is genuine, doesn't mean that's what you'll get. Wikipedia has a pretty complete list of ways you can be defrauded on eBay.
  6. If you do buy a 'risky' item on eBay, pay for it using either Visa or PayPal and you'll have an easier time getting your money back. Both have fraud protection programs you can sometimes use, whereas bank deposit and wire transfer offer no protection at all.
As a footnote, kudos to eBay's PR people. Every Australian magazine The Bargain Queen has purchased recently has an article about how brilliant eBay is, even though many people seem to be getting sick of the scams and logging off. Plus eBay's spokespeople seem to be there to say how safe online shopping is, every single time there's an article about any kind of online fraud. Now that's seriously good PR!

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