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Watching Out for eBay Trading Violations

Both buyers and sellers can commit trading violations by attempting to manipulate the outcome of an auction or sale. Many of the violations aren't necessarily buyer- or seller-exclusive but apply to both. Regardless of the nature of a violation, such behavior violates everyone who's part of the eBay community.

As a valued member of the community, it's partially your responsibility to look out for such violations — so that eBay continues to be a safe community in which to do business. Should you see a violation, report it immediately to the eBay Security Center.

We need to be watchdogs because we need to protect the other users in our community. Don't feel like a squealer if you make a report. Remember that it takes just one rotten apple to spoil the basket, so if you see a violation, do your duty and report it.

Unfortunately, you may sometimes encounter non-community-minded sellers who interfere with your auctions or sales. This interference can take on several forms, such as sellers who illegally drive up bids or "steal" bidders.

Again, should you fall victim to bad deeds, be sure to report the bad-deed-doer's actions immediately. eBay will take some sort of disciplinary action. Penalties range from formal warnings and temporary suspension to indefinite suspension. eBay reviews each incident on a case-by-case basis before passing judgment.

Shill bidding

Shill bidding is the practice of placing a bid on an item to artificially inflate the final value. It's the bane of every eBay user (whether buyer or seller) and undermines community trust. Shill bidding is a violation of the Federal wirefraud statute, which encompasses the practice of entering into interstate commerce to defraud — it's a felony and not something to be toyed with!

The practice of shill bidding has been a part of auctions from their beginnings. To prevent the suspicion of shill bidding, people in the same family, those who share the same computer, and folks who work or live together should not bid on each other's items.

Should you ever even dream of participating in any sort of auction manipulation, think twice. You might consider yourself clever by using another e-mail address and username, but that doesn't work. Every time you log onto your ISP, your connection carries an IP address. So no matter what name or computer you use, your connection will identify you. eBay can use this number to track you through its site.

Shill bidders are fairly easy to recognize, even for the eBay user who isn't privy to things such as IP addresses. By checking a bidder's auction history, you can easily determine a user's bidding pattern. A bidder who constantly bids up items and never wins is suspicious.

Spurious sellers often employ shill bidding to increase the number of bids on an item to more quickly make it a hot item. This doesn't mean that all hot auctions are products of shill bidding, it means that hot auctions are desirable and pull in lots of extra bids (due to the herd mentality). Rogues would like all their auctions to be hot and may take any road to ensure that they are.

Transaction interference

Have you ever received an e-mail from an eBay seller offering you an item that you're currently bidding on for a lower price? This is called transaction interference, and it can prevent sellers from gaining the highest bid possible.

Transaction interference occurs also when a troublemaker who has it "in" for a particular seller e-mails bidders participating in the seller's current auctions to warn them away from completing the auction. Tales of woe and much bitterness usually accompany such e-mails. If a bidder has a problem with a seller, that bidder can — and should — file a report with eBay and leave negative feedback for that seller. This sort of e-mail barrage can potentially fall under the category of libel and isn't a safe thing to practice. If you receive an e-mail like this, ignore its message but report it to eBay.

Transaction interception

They say the criminal mind is complex; when it comes to transaction interception, it certainly is! Transaction interception occurs when an eBay scalawag keeps track of closing auctions and then, when the auction is finished, e-mails the winner as if the scalawag were the seller. The e-mail often looks official and is congratulatory, politely asking for payment. Interceptors usually use a post office box for such mischief. This behavior goes beyond being a trading violation — it's stealing.

The best way to protect yourself from such miscreants is to accept payments through a payment service, such as PayPal, by using a Pay Now link.

Fee avoidance

Basically, fee avoidance is the practice of evading paying eBay fees by going around the eBay system. There are many ways to commit fee avoidance — sometimes without even realizing it. Read this section carefully so that you don't fall into this violation by mistake.

You're guilty of fee avoidance if you

  • Use information that you've received from an eBay member's contact information in an attempt to sell a listed item off the system.
  • Close your auction early because a user e-mailed you to offer to buy an item you were auctioning, and you accepted the offer.
  • End your auction before it legally closes by canceling bids, to sell the item to someone who has e-mailed you with an offer of a higher price.
  • Use an eBay member's contact information to sell an item from one of your closed auctions off the eBay site in which the reserve wasn't met.
  • Offer duplicates of your item to the unsuccessful bidders in your auction, unless you use the Second Chance option.

Non-selling seller

Refusing to accept payment from the winning bidder and refusing to complete the transaction is simply wrong. Very, very bad form! You are legally and morally bound to complete any transaction in which you enter.

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