How to Avoid Getting Cheated on eBay

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by Reid Goldsborough, Sep 27, 2002.

  1. Reid Goldsborough

    Reid Goldsborough New Member

    Per request, I'm posting this along with two other article-type messages.

    Online auctions can be a great way to buy coins. You can shop from the convenience of your home or office any time day or night. There's a huge selection, and though the selection is skewed toward the bargain priced and aimed at bargain hunters, many big-ticket coins are auctioned as well.

    The big three online auction houses are eBay (, Yahoo Auctions (, and Auctions (, with eBay being far larger than Yahoo Auctions and Auctions combined.

    Unlike most in-person auctions, online auctions typically stretch out over days and end at a specific time. The highest bidder when the clock strikes, wins. There are tricks to placing winning bids, and other tricks in maximizing the bids placed on items you're selling. The strategizing, ticking clock, and winning and losing impart a game quality to online auctions. Online auctions, in short, are fun.

    Online auctions can also be risky. Fraud is common. eBay contends that the rate of auction fraud on its service is very low. It says that only one "confirmed" fraud occurs per 40,000 eBay listings. That is indeed a low rate -- 0.0025 percent.

    The FBI, on the other hand, contends that the figure is much higher. As a part of its "Operation Cyber Loss" project, it determined that the rate of online auction fraud is about one in a hundred, or 1 percent. This is a very high rate of fraud, a whopping 400 times higher than what eBay contends.

    The FBI's figure is the one to believe. eBay, whose earnings continue to soar, is very reluctant to intervene in individual auctions, describing its service as merely a venue that brings buyers and sellers together. Its policy is that it won't interfere, for instance, with the auction of a blatantly counterfeit coin that's auctioned as an authentic coin unless it's contacted first by law enforcement authorities. eBay is very much skewed toward promoting the interests of sellers -- they're the ones who pay fees and earn eBay its profits -- and not bidders.

    Common problems with online coin auctions range from overgrading (sometimes with the help fringe grading services), inaccurate or misleading descriptions, and deceptive photography to counterfeits being sold as authentic coins (with or without the seller's knowledge) and outright nondelivery of coins purchased.

    All the online auction services provide buyers and sellers with some protection against fraud. eBay provides fraud insurance, but it's limited. It offers only up to $200 of insurance per item, with a $25 deductible.

    One protection against fraud is "feedback" -- a way for participants in a transaction to rate one another and for others to see those ratings. A large percentage of negative feedbacks is a clear signal to stay away from a particular buyer or seller.

    But feedback is far from foolproof. The ratings are always skewed positively, since leaving someone with negative feedback opens you up to receiving retaliatory negative feedback in return, and many people are reluctant to risk tarnishing their feedback record this way. One trick to avoid getting retaliatory feedback is to wait to leave feedback until the seller has done so first, after receiving your payment.

    You should also avoid buying a big-ticket item from a seller with few feedbacks. But buying a more expensive item from a seller with many feedbacks can also be risky, depending. One trick that scammers use is to sell a number of low-cost coins or other items to build up positive feedback, then auction off a big-ticket coin and skip town, virtually or otherwise, without sending it. It's always best when buying an expensive coin to make sure that the seller has sold similarly priced coins in the past.

    If you have any suspicions about a coin being auctioned, send a message through eBay to the seller asking for clarification. If he or she doesn't respond or if you have doubts after getting a response, refuse to bid. You can also ask in rec.collecting.coins if anyone has had dealings with a particular seller or sees anything suspicious about a particular auction.

    It's usually good policy to refuse to buy any higher end coins through online auctions in which the seller doesn't offer return privileges. Even if the online image of the coin hasn't been deliberately manipulated, you can see far more of any coin in person than you can from a photo. Sellers who claim they're liquidating estates and that therefore all sales are final may be hiding something unpleasant behind their no-returns policy.

    Online images of coins that are too dark or too small or too fuzzy may indicate the seller lacks imaging skills or is deliberately trying to hide something. Sharp, bright photos of coins in which the fields seem overly smooth may have been manipulated in an image editing program. One way you can sometimes spot this is by saving the image to your hard disk, loading it into an image editing program, and looking at individual pixels to see if they've been blended together.

    It's also usually good policy to refuse to participate in private auctions, where the seller keeps the bidders' eBay user ID private. Being contacted by other eBay users is one way to avoid getting cheated. Cheaters know this. Another common tactic among cheaters is running three-day auctions, long enough to snag someone but, in the minds of sellers, not too long so as to attract undue attention.

    An auction with unusually low bidding for an authentic or undamaged coin of its type, date, mint mark, and grade may indicate that bidders are staying away from it for good reason. The old saw, "If it's too good to be true, it probably is," very much applies to online auctions. Deals can be had, but you need to be careful.

    On the other hand, of course, not all low-feedback or no-returns or bad-photo or private or three-day or low-bid auctions are scams. But these are all possible warning signs.

    Ultimately, with online auctions, knowledge is power. Arm yourself with information like this, and you'll greatly lessen your chances of getting duped. You can find more at the following Web sites:

    Auction Watch's Tips and Tactics

    Internet Fraud Complaint Center's Fraud Tips

    The Federal Trade Commission's "Internet Auctions: A Guide for Buyers and Sellers."
    Omegaraptor and Paul_62 like this.
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  3. Neptune

    Neptune & Amphitrite

    Here are some examples:

    I emailed the Seller and asked if he knew if coins had been cleaned. He replied back that yes, "a couple" of them had been cleaned or "fixed".
    I emailed him back that he should have stated that in his auction and that I was retracting my bid. Here's the auction.

    There is another link below where this guy really got ripped hard because the Seller "fixed" the pictures, and sent a coin totally different from the one in the pic that he had bid on.

    Totally unbelievable what these folks do! I am learning to be more careful. I have been on eBay for about 5 years now - buying and selling, and have seen all kinds of things.

    Some of the things that I do first: Check Sellers feedback. Don't be lazy - scroll to the bottom of page and click the 200 per page, and actually go there and read the Negs if you want the item that bad. I generally do not bid on any items where the Seller has Neg. However, I do realize that sometimes Negs can be unwarranted - or eventually corrected. The negs only reflect PAST 6 months - so do your research on this!

    Another thing that I do, is check the current bidders. That will also give you a clue. If the other bidders have higher feedback themselves, then they will "generally" know a little bit more than if they only have lower feedback and/or they may have purchased from this Seller previously. You can actually learn a lot also if you actually READ the feedback/click on the item numbers and put 2 and 2 together.

    I generally try to research some items from all angles. Just because a Seller has a real high feedback rating and is a Power Seller - does NOT mean that all is as it appears. You must always double check these folks too, as they do a lot of business, and a lot of turnaround.

    Another research tactic that I do is that I copy/paste the Seller (and sometimes other Bidders) into the Search By Seller (or Bidder) - this will give you even more clues as to what is going on in the real world. Be sure to click the box to view completed auctions. (This is also a good way to learn a little about your competition). :wink:

    Hope all my links work!
  4. Dog

    Dog New Member

    Neptune that was pretty sneaky of that seller to try to get rid of his problem coins that way! Do you make a habit of asking sellers that or did you see something that made you suspicious? After all the seller said "This is a extremely nice, original group of dollars. The coins should all grade from MS63 and up" and had decent pictures.
    The no return and $9 for registered mailing for $100 worth of coins would have made me suspicious.
    Jwt708 and gbroke like this.
  5. Neptune

    Neptune & Amphitrite

    I didn't notice the no returns, but thought the $9 was a little steep for shipping. I am somewhat new to collecting coins on the internet, and have been reading alot about eBay scams with coins - and folks selling cleaned coins, and guess I just didn't want to get scammed. Layed in bed thinking about it, and as an afterthought, thought I would email him and ask. Thought it was a good deal, so of course, wondered "what was wrong" -- and didn't want to bid or overbid on cleaned coins. Guess I was just being cautious. Will continue to be cautious too! Hope I don't offend anyone, but I feel it is better to ask than to find out after the fact! Also figured if he said "a couple" - that may have meant at least 3 or 4 out of the 10.

    Also, I just got some Kennedy's that were supposedly from an estate. After receiving them, I noticed that most of them look pretty good (I don't know how to grade coins except using Photograde). Now I am wondering why aren't the 2 x 2 holders "yellowed" with age. Did they put the coins in the 2 x 2's just recently to sell them on eBay? Or were they just stored in a way that the 2 x 2's did not yellow since 1964. (that I doubt).

    I don't mind if they were properly dipped, but would like to know if they were -- or not -- and I have NO clue how to tell. I will post a pic later, and maybe somebody can tell me what they think, when I get a chance. The Seller, is on vacation, but I am going to email them soon with a question about that, so he will have it when he gets back. I already sent him an email earlier about his inflated shipping charges (one of my pet peeves).

    Also, maybe somebody can give me an idea of approx. what this coin might grade as well.
    Jwt708 and gbroke like this.
  6. Jess

    Jess Senior Member

    Ebay scams

    Ebay itself scams no one, however, they are on the sellers side as thats who pays the bills. I have over 340 transactions and have been scammed twice. Both times my fault for not following thru and being lazy about checking everything out. If you have a photo editor you can pretty much tell if a photo has beeen altered. You must read the entire description as sellers list different aspects in different areas. Do not be afraid to ask sellers a question. If they are hesitant or don't answer, my only suggestion is don't bid. Remember something thats sounds to good to be true usually is.
    Jwt708 likes this.
  7. deep river

    deep river New Member

    That seems to be a big problem on eBay. I was thinking about selling a few items, but if I say mirrow like Morgan will anyone belive me? Then will I get the price it deserves. My Dad was a collector and left me these coins. I probably won't sell.
  8. Collectingusa

    Collectingusa Junior Member

    Great information! I would like to add that I have contacted Ebay and sellers about altered coins. The most common is the 1914 D cent. Each time the coin has been pulled by the seller or blocked by Ebay. I have received some nasty emails from sellers that were angry because they could not sell the coin.

    I have also been ripped off by fussy photos, bent coins, and cleaned coins. One of my buyers gave me negative feedback because he did not receive the coin. It was insured and signed for. The post office or someone else signed for the coin. Because it was signed for the post office would not pay the insurance. I send items insured with NO added signature confirmation.
  9. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    and this continues to be important too all cointalk users on ebay
  10. kanga

    kanga 65 Year Collector

    This is something that is becoming quite prominent across eBay as a whole.
    With higher eBay fees plus PayPal's takeout, some people are trying to cover that with higher S&H.
    But eBay gets on those people; eBay doesn't get a piece of the S&H action.
    They want that missing income, so the push free S&H and punish people with "excessive" S&H.
    Only thing sellers can do is make their starting bids higher.
  11. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD [Insert Clever Title] Supporter

    It does. This is a great example of why I thought there should be a sticky at the top of this board to link to especially useful threads and FAQs a while back. I even offered to be responsible for it...but it wasn't a popular idea.
  12. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    ebay is a zoo
  13. clembo

    clembo A closed mind is no mind

    Doing a bit of old thread digging Ruben?


    I just nominated one of yours! ;)
  14. Arizona Jack

    Arizona Jack The Lincoln-ator

    Eek Gads, I woke up for this?
  15. the_man12

    the_man12 Amateur Photographer

    I just nominated this and then I saw the date it was posted lol
  16. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    Metal Detecting. Its a good thread and deserves exposure :)
  17. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    its actually thread number 1
  18. HandsomeToad

    HandsomeToad Urinist

    In my opinion, the best way to avoid being taken on Ebay is to educate yourself on the series that interest you. Here's a perfect example:

    For anyone wishing to purchase a raw Trade Dollar on Ebay, the first thing you should know is 420 grains is equal to 27.2 grams so since that one only weighs 21.7 grams, it's obvious it's a counterfeit without even looking at the coin. ;) But the Chinese are now counterfeiting ones with the correct weight and silver alloy, so there's more to learn if you don't want to end up with an expensive counterfeit. :whistle:

    Ribbit :)

    Ps: If you look at that TD, be sure to check out the Q&A and please explain to me how I was rude? :rolleyes:
  19. byrd740

    byrd740 Numismatist

    I don't think you were rude at all you were just making a statement that is was not at the correct weight so it was a potmetal counterfeit.
  20. HandsomeToad

    HandsomeToad Urinist

    I am constantly messaging sellers with similar info, especially counterfeits being sold as authentic, and I've never had one say I was rude. However, my reply to their reply was a little more "robust" than my original message. :D

    Ribbit :)
  21. tommyc03

    tommyc03 Senior Member

    ya did what ya had to do... Bravo!
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