Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Just Another eBay Scam

Does anyone even use eBay these days? My love affair with eBay ended on the day that someone in the U.K. managed to hack into eBay's database long enough to hijack my account and password. That thief then proceeded to make offers (above the amounts being asked by sellers) on more than a dozen computers with the request that they be sent immediately to an address in England. I was very lucky to notice what was happening early on that Labor Day morning and I quickly locked my PayPal account before funds could be stolen to pay for the computers. I contacted the sellers, some of whom had already posted their suspicions to my "feedback" account, and explained the problem. It was a long process - and I have been soured on the eBay/PayPal experience since then, refusing to participate in either ever again.

I was naive enough to believe that a site as popular and prominent as eBay could not possibly let something like this happen. I was wrong. I was naive enough to believe that eBay had some liability when something like this happens. I was wrong. I was naive enough to believe that eBay cared about its members and their personal security. I was most definitely wrong.

Now, Philly.com has news about another huge problem on the site, dishonest sellers getting away with murder (not that this is unusual at all other than maybe in the amount of money stolen):
For more than six years, Forrest R. Smith III forged the signatures of many famous authors in books and then sold those books at inflated prices on eBay.

Smith's scam victimized hundreds of book collectors who thought that they were buying works signed by such literary luminaries as Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut and Toni Morrison.

In reality, the books had only been stamped with forged signatures created by Smith.

Smith, 48, of Reading, was sentenced yesterday to 33 months behind bars and ordered to make restitution of $120,000 to his victims.
Authorities said that Smith carried out his scheme from March 2002 until at least September 2008.

The feds said that Smith used two accounts on eBay - one registered in his name with the screen name "bigdaddy_books" and one registered in his wife's name.

Smith used the "bigdaddy_books" account to purchase unsigned books, then forged authors' signatures in them and resold them as "signed" from his wife's account.

Authorities said that by representing that the books with the forged signatures had been signed by their authors, Smith could sell them at a much higher price than he would have been able to sell unsigned copies.

Smith and the government stipulated that there had been more than 250 victims and that he had netted $120,000 to $200,000 in the scam.
I do hope that eBay is more cooperative in helping this group of victims than it was with me when I needed someone to help me out of a fix. Good luck, folks. I hope you get your money back.


  1. I stopped using Ebay when I too was victimized by a scammer as a seller.

    This story doesn't surprise me at all. I used to work at a library with a public fax machine, and we received numerous faxes for one of our patrons from people he had done business with on Ebay all requesting their money back. What was he selling? Autographed sports memorabilia. I'm sure that all those autographs were forged.

    Seriously, though, if you want to buy a collectible book do NOT buy it on Ebay. No reputable seller is going to sell a valuable signed book on Ebay.

  2. We use e-Bay and PayPal ALL the time and have for many years.

    Our PayPal account is linked to a credit card which has fraud protection, so I am not overly concerned about being ripped off.

    We had our credit card number stolen last fall and the company/issuer could not have been more helpful and reliable.(This theft has nothing to do with e-Bay, however).

    My son-in-law, an IT specialist who deals in fraud, also uses eBay all the time

    I am sorry for your troubles.

  3. eBay (aka “the eBafia”) is a criminal organization!

    How could that be, you ask? Well, with much effort and some multi-auction analysis, it can be very clearly demonstrated (see the following link) that shill bidding fraud by unscrupulous professional sellers on nominal-start auctions, is rampant on eBay auctions, and the executives “in the know” at eBay, unless they are actually even more naive than they apparently think all we simple consumers are, cannot but be aware of that criminal activity.

    And, if they claim to be not so aware, then I am making them aware of it here and now. And, of course they will say they are not aware, because they do not want to be aware, because if they admit that they are aware of such criminal activity (which they cannot but be, and from which they are profiting), and they do nothing effective about it (which they don’t), then they are guilty of the crime of “criminal facilitation”. It’s as simple as that!

    And, it can be demonstrated that, contrary to their claims, they do not do anything proactive nor truly effective to prevent such criminal activity. Indeed, they have done the very opposite, during the second half of 2008 eBay introduced anonymous non-unique masking of bidding IDs, which serves no logical purpose other than to deliberately further obscure such criminal activity and aid and abet said criminal shill-bidding sellers to maximize their sale prices, thus maximizing eBay’s final valuation fee (FVF).

    It’s even worse in the UK, where the form of bidder masking makes it simply impossible for buyers to detect the unscrupulous, sophisticated shill-bidding professional sellers that undoubtedly now infest eBay UK auctions. Needless to say sales by auction on the UK site have collapsed to a fraction of what they used to be.

    Is it any wonder then that, relatively speaking, buyers are staying away, and eBay’s marketplace business is still going down the toilet, the world over?

    Then there are eBay’s various statements to the media. After you get rid of all the smoke and mirrors, if you want to understand what they actually mean by anything they say, you take the exact opposite of what they say!

    From a buyer’s point of view, the full ugly story of eBay, and the proof of their criminality, at

    It is about time that some competent authority shone a bright light under this slimy rock.

  4. Philip, that is an interesting link and story. I can't say that it much surprises me, based on my own experience and on some of the eBay auctions I participated in over the years.

    Frankly, I have lost all confidence in eBay and PayPal and would only use either as a last resort these days.

  5. Alissa, what you describe, and what I experienced, is all too common on eBay. I realize that the "buyer beware" rule is still in place, but when something bad happens to a buyer, eBay seem reluctant to do anything about it - maybe they fear admitting any responsibility but that stinks, IMO.

  6. JoAnn, I'm glad to hear that it is still working for you. I'm out of there only because they basically refused to help me out of the mess, instead placing the burden on me to assess the damage done and to contact everyone that might have been conned by the thief. Burned once...never again, is my motto.

  7. Sam, when you had problems with eBay and PayPal, where was your money coming from, a credit card or bank account?

    And if it was coming from a credit card, did you contact card services?

    If so, what was their response?

  8. JoAnn, the money was being deducted by PayPal from a checking account I tied to PayPal.

  9. Sam, the reason we use a credit card for our PAY PAL purchases is because of the fraud protection it offers us.

    Once that money is gone from a checking account, it is sayonara, I suppose.

  10. Exactly right, JoAnn. I think a debit card has the same problem that a checking account linked to PayPal has.

  11. That's right. A bank account (or debit card) and a credit card are chalk and cheese. Once funds are gone from your bank account, they are effectively gone, period (unless you want to entertain legal action). If you use your credit card, and you can convince the credit card company that the transaction was not kosher, they then will reverse the transaction!

  12. Perhaps I can add to this that the best way to guard against being ripped off by online sales or auctions is to use a bona fide online escrow company. Although it does add some cost, that will take uncertainty out of the transaction.

    For my money, the best bona fide online escrow (and there seems to be ten fraudulent escrow sites for every bona fide one) is probably Escrow.com (http://escrow.com). In fact, it’s the only one that eBay recommends.

    Take care,

    Ulf Wolf

  13. That's what I was afraid of Philip. I've never used a debit card for any kind of transaction adn I cut them up on those rare occassions my bank decides to send me one. Thanks.

  14. Thanks for the tip, Ulf. I've never used one of those services but I know others who swear by them. Good information and good link...appreciated.