Going, going, scam.Online auctions through sites such as eBay are vulnerable to scammers tricking users into parting with money or personal information for items that may not even exist. Other auction scams can lead to overpaying for items that include everything from cars to fine art.
4 min read
What are auction scams?
Auction scams refer to fraudulent activities that take place in the context of either online or traditional auctions. These scams aim to deceive bidders or buyers, leading them to make payments for items that either don’t exist or are significantly different from what was advertised.
eBay is probably the best known online auction site and over the years scammers have used the platform to generate a wide variety of frauds. It can be easy to get taken in.
Here are a few common types of auction scams:
- Non-Delivery Scam: In this scam, the seller accepts bids or payments for an item but never delivers it. They may provide false tracking information or excuses for the delay, but in the end leaving the buyer without the purchased item or their money
- Shill Bidding: Shill bidding involves the seller or an accomplice artificially inflating the bidding price by placing fake bids on their own item. Sometimes, teams of scammers will work together on this kind of fraud. This creates a false impression of demand and drives up the final price. Shill bidders may retract their bids before the auction ends, allowing the seller to win the auction at a higher price or relist the item.
- Misrepresentation of Items: Scammers may misrepresent the condition, quality, or authenticity of an item to attract more bidders into their web. They may use deceptive descriptions, altered photos or images simply stolen from another web page, or make false claims about the item's value. The buyer discovers the deception only after they’ve completed the deal
- Phantom Auctions: In a phantom auction scam, a fake auction is created with no intention of selling anything at all. The scammer collects listing fees or uses the process to capture personal information from bidders, which can be used for identity theft or they use it in other scams
- Bid Shielding: Bid shielding occurs when a bidder colludes with another bidder to protect the maximum bid of the primary bidder. The secondary bidder places high bids to discourage others and shields the primary bidder's maximum bid until the end. This tactic can artificially lower the final price, benefiting the primary bidder.
Here are some common examples of these types of auction scams:
- Non-Delivery of Vehicles: Scammers have posed as private sellers or used fake auction listings to advertise vehicles for sale. Buyers paid for the vehicles but never received them, losing their money in the process. The scammers use stolen images and details to convince the victim
- Art Fraud: In some cases, counterfeit or forged artwork has been presented in auctions, deceiving buyers into purchasing fake pieces at inflated prices. The buyers only realised the deception later, resulting in a worthless piece and having been parted from their money
- Online Property Auction Scams: Fraudsters have created fake listings for properties on online auction platforms, enticing bidders to participate. However, once the winning bid is secured and the payment is made, the scammer disappears, leaving the buyer without a property or any means of recourse
It's important to remember that scammers constantly adapt their tactics, so it's crucial to be cautious, research sellers, and use secure payment methods when taking part in auctions to protect yourself from potential scams.
So what can you do?
As usual, we all need to be wary out there and keep our wits about us. If you’re thinking about participating in an auction, there are a few things you can do:
- Research the seller: Check the seller's reputation, ratings, and reviews on the auction platform or other trusted sources. Be cautious of sellers with low ratings or limited transaction history. And see how long their account has been active - if they only recently started trading under this ID, tread carefully
- Verify item details: Ask for additional information or photos of the item if necessary. If the item is high-value or collectible, consider seeking expert opinions
- Secure payment methods: Use secure payment options, such as PayPal or credit cards, which offer buyer protection and allow you to dispute fraudulent charges. For an expensive item, you could consider using an escrow service to independently hold your money until you can verify the item is genuine
- Read auction terms and conditions: Familiarise yourself with the auction platform's policies, including refund and dispute resolution processes. Report any suspicious activity to the platform's support team
- Trust your instincts: If an offer seems too good to be true or you feel uncomfortable with a seller's behaviour, it's better to stay on the side of caution and avoid altogether.
Keep your data safe
Scammers often acquire data about people that they then target with one fraud or another. They sometimes get the data from the dark web where hackers sell it after they’ve stolen it in data leaks from companies, which are increasingly under attack. The best way to prevent your data being stolen from a company in this way is to get your data deleted. The best way to do that is to use our Rightly Protect service, which will figure out who has your data and enable you to get it completely deleted in a single click. It’s quick, simple and free.
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