eBay Seller Scam – watch out as a Buyer

New eBay SCAM to watch out for as Buyer

Everyone is worried about getting those perfect 2021 Holiday Gifts or maybe getting ANY Holiday gifts with all the news about Supply Chain Issues. Many people are looking to eBay to get those gifts for this strange Holiday season. But in your exuberance please be careful. There are two terribly effective scam being perpetrated on eBay currently and they are very effective. In this post I’ve covered a scam buyers need to watch out for. In another post I’ll cover the scam sellers need to worry about.

[ I was worried about publishing this article for fear that I might be “teaching” the bad guys how to do this leading to more scammer, but I
suspect that this information is already on the DarkWeb and being shared… So letting everyone know what to watch out for and what to do
seems critical to help everyone.]

The “Incorrect Delivery Address” scam – BUYERS BEWARE

This is a seller scam that every buyer needs to look out for. In this scam the seller lists an item — generally the price seems to be too good, but it may actually be a generally normal price, but the item is hardly available. You see this “Buy It Now” with quick shipping and you go for it:


  • you pay
  • very quickly the seller sends a message that the item will get shipped out immediately
  • subsequently you get a tracking number both from the seller and eBay
  • you settle back relaxed that you got that gift you wanted and it is on its way.
  • just to be sure you check the tracking number and USPS (or UPS) show that the item is on its way to you

Now you wait… everyday you check the tracking information and USPS shows the item is traveling to you. Expected delivery 2 days… Expected delivery 1 day… Will be delivered TODAY

Next you get a message from USPS that your item has been delivered. You quickly go the door or mailbox and nothing is there. How can this be? The US Postal Service (or UPS) said that it was delivered. But nothing arrived. So:


  • you write to the seller
  • they quickly apologize and say that in the confusion of shipping lots of things they had sent you the wrong tracking information
  • they send you a new tracking number with a new delivery date about 1 week later
  • you again check the tracking number and it will be delivered in a few days
  • you think – still plenty of time before the holidays
  • you relax, maybe a little less this time, and wait
  • keep checking the tracking and it looks good

Once again USPS says the item was delivered but NOTHING – AGAIN. So you do STEP 2 again – I mean you really want this item!
All the same steps happen again and still nothing has arrived. How can this be. Maybe you are overly trusting or very patient and you try STEP 2 yet again or you finally give up and you open a claim with eBay reporting you never received the item.

eBay will “investigate” and they WILL rule against you. It doesn’t matter that you’ve been on eBay for over 19 years and that the seller created their account just last month. The seller will claim and eBay will see that USPS (or UPS) shows that the item was delivered to your ZIPCODE. So you have lost, lost and lost:

  1. you are out the money
  2. you didn’t get the item
  3. it’s too late to get it from anywhere else or the price is now through the roof


How did the seller fake all of that tracking information. How did they get USPS (or UPS) to take part in their scam. How did they convince eBay that they did send the item and that you (the buyer) is wrong and that they get to keep your money…

The critically important missing piece of the puzzle – the clue on how this is done is the ZIPCODE. You will say, “but it is my ZIPCODE” and yes it is, but what you can’t see is that it was NOT your actual address. The hole in the system is that USPS (and UPS) do not show the actual destination address of the package in their tracking information only the ZIPCODE! and these scammers have figured this out. It is partially eBay’s fault and partially the fault of the USPS (or UPS).

eBay’s fault: It appears that eBay relies on the fact that if something was delivered to your same ZIPCODE listed in your account then the item was delivered to you and therefore they side with the seller and let them keep your money.
USPS (or UPS) fault: Neither of these two companies show the actual delivery address – JUST THE ZIPCODE! They also do not show the actual weight or size of the shipped item!

So to make use of this flaw, the disreputable seller sends an envelope or small package to a random address in your ZIPCODE. The address is real, but just not your address. This is how they get the tracking number and tracking information. They may even purchase insurance. Then USPS delivers the item to that “random” address. USPS will report that it was delivered, just not to you. But eBay assumes that since there is tracking information showing it was “delivered” and the ZIPCODE matches — the transaction is complete.

By the way: The reason the scammy seller replied and sent multiple items is that they are hoping to delay you, as the buyer,
in filing a complaint with eBay. If they can get you to wait over 30 days then they have succeeded. Don’t wait!

WHAT DO YOU DO – if this happened or happens to you

NOTE: Always communicate with the seller through the eBay message system! NEVER ever send email messages directly to the seller outside of the eBay message system. eBay does not have access to any external communications. It will strengthen and smooth out the entire process if and only if eBay customer service can view your messages to the seller!

FIRST – send a message (using the eBay message system – see above) to the seller telling them that you never received the item and that you want a full refund. They will in all likelihood tell you that they sent the wrong tracking information – but as you read above, this is all part of the scam…
SECOND – open a case with eBay for an Item Not Received as soon as possible.
THIRD – print out the tracking number and tracking information (if your seller sent you multiple tracking numbers print them all out) and go to your local post office. Ask them to give you a copy of the detailed tracking information for each and every tracking number. This detailed tracking information should include the “actual” delivery address (which will NOT be your address, but it will be in your ZIPCODE). As you read through the tracking information you will also likely see that the item actually mailed was only a few ounces and probably NOT the expected weight of the item you bought.
FOURTH – scan all the detailed tracking reports and upload them as part of your Item Not Received case.
FIFTH – follow up with eBay over the phone (use their website and request eBay give you a call) and work with them proactively on your case. Important: Do not wait for eBay to get back to you. If eBay incorrectly decides in favor of the seller it is much more difficult to get them to change their mind. If they do decide in favor of the seller – DO NOT GIVE UP – FILE AN APPEAL and in the appeal resend the detailed tracking information and point out in your appeal message that the address that the seller used was NOT your address and NOT any address associated with you.
SIXTHbe persistent but do not be rude. As my grandmother said – “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.

How to avoid eBay scams – As Buyer

  • Check out the Seller. Make sure the seller has a good history. Question if they created their account shortly before the listing and or have very few feedback listings. Be skeptical if they have a couple good feedback on small items and are now selling something very different or expensive or all of their feedback is as a buyer. Every seller (even the most reputable) had to start with no sales and just because someone doesn’t have a long history on eBay does not mean that they a scammer or dishonest. If they seller doesn’t have lengthy history – just be more circumspect and careful.
  • Always complete transactions through eBay’s official channels. Communicate using the eBay message service. eBay cannot verify communications made using your email. Give yourself every chance of protection by showing eBay you’ve acted in good faith.
  • Document everything. The more documentation that you have (see above about communicating via eBay messaging) the better your chances of prevailing in a dispute. Got documentation from the shipping company. When communicating with eBay be respectful and go the extra step in providing information – remember your money or the return of your money is in their hands.
  • Pay with credit card. While not always, sometimes your credit card company or back can step in and institute a charge back.
  • Never rush to purchase an item on eBay. Check twice or thrice and purchase once.