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Safety Tips for Sellers & Buyers: Suspicious Auctions, Checking Feedback, Scams

Oct 21, 2005

    1. This is a post of advice about how to deal with doll scammers, mainly on ebay, though some of this will be applicable to other places. The BJD community is an attractive growing target, as these dolls are not cheap and we are willing to shell out crazy amounts for them--and since ours is still a relatively new community, newcomers are more often prone to pouncing on auctions that are, in the end, too good to be true.

      (Mind you, this guide has been constructed with an eye for doll-related deals specifically, but most of this can apply to other auctions too. Also, it's specifically aimed at scam auctions rather than scalping auctions--there is a difference, though again much of this is cross-applicable.)

      Please feel free to post further tips and suggestions!

      Some Basic Safety Tips Before Bidding

      1) Auctions that have startlingly low or "good deal" Buy-It-Now prices should be considered with a great deal of care, even suspicion. Even though you might feel the need to click that BIN right now to ensure you win the auction, you need to be certain that the seller has actually got the item. Better to be safe than scammed! Thoroughly research the person's feedback (more on that below, #4), and if you'd like more feedback from other people, you can search DoA or make a post in DoA asking if anybody has bought from this seller.

      2) Ask innocuous questions, if you're not certain the seller is legit. You can ask for something like different angles of the face, or closeups of the hands and feet. If you want to be really certain the person has the doll, you could ask for a picture of the doll by a current newspaper, or you could ask for a picture of the doll by some weird items, like a sock and a book (though this will give away the fact that you suspect the person doesn't have the doll at all).

      If you suspect a scam and you think the seller doesn't know what s/he is selling, you could ask a question you know is false: "Is this the version of the Sweet Dreams Mimi with the white cat ears or the pink cat ears?" when Sweet Dreams Mimi doesn't come with cat ears at all (credit to Pirate Wench for that one!). If the seller answers incorrectly ("this is the white ears version") or responds that s/he doesn't have a camera/camera is broken/used a friend's camera, it's almost certainly a scam. If the seller doesn't answer at all--to you or other people who ask questions--well, that's pretty shady and you probably don’t want to buy from a person who refuses to answer a simple question, right?

      As for sellers who post in their auction, "I'm going to be away for a week and won't be able to answer questions during this time," that can be suspicious too. Why post an important, expensive auction if you won't be able to answer questions and monitor it in a timely manner? Sometimes there's a perfectly legitimate reason, and sometimes there isn't. Use your discretion.

      3) Beware of auctions that ask for Western Union money transfer or money orders only. Paypal is usually the safest and securest route to go. You can always contact the seller and say something like, "I live in the area, how about we meet in person and I give you the money order and you give me the doll." If the seller says s/he's out of town or can't meet, that's an extra warning not to bid.

      4) Check feedback thoroughly! Don't just glance at the number beside the username, click it and see what people have said! A thorough check of a person's feedback is very important.
      a) Click on the feedback number, and then click "from buyers" to see how much feedback is from actual buyers. Some people will have most of their feedback from sellers, and haven't actually sold anything themselves, thus they have no record of mailing out items themselves.
      b) Next, still on the "feedback from buyers" section (if they've sold anything), check the completed auctions beside each feedback to see what the seller has been selling. Many scammers build up a "safety level" of 10 to 50 feedback, all buying cheap items or selling cheap things, in order to make bidders feel safe with them.
      c) Beware of shill bidding! If the person has sold before, be sure to check the bid list for completed auctions to see if the same people are repeatedly bidding on his items, to bump up the price. Remember, it's bad enough to be scammed, you don't want to be scalped at the same time!
      d) Check the feedback of the people who left feedback! If the seller has 100% positive feedback from 20 unique people, but all 20 of those people have nothing but negative feedback, be very careful, the scammer is probably working with somebody else or has a bunch of different usernames for shill bidding.

      5) Check other sources to see if there's been similar auctions or scams, maybe a return scammer--check places such as the DoA Feedback Forum, Bad Dolly Deals, and BJD Feedback. Ask around, do some research, hit up Google and other forums. Also try contacting some of the people who bought from the seller before, ask them how the transaction went.

      6) Also, for auctions that post only "official" images of the dolls, be certain to ask the seller for a picture of the actual doll (and accessories, if there are supposed to be any). It's not hard to open up a box and take a picture, perhaps with a current newspaper as mentioned above--and once again, be wary if the seller replies that s/he doesn't have a camera and that's why s/he's using official images.

      If the Person Turns Out to Be a Scammer...

      1) If a thread is started on DoA or elsewhere and it becomes fairly evident that this person is a scammer, do not send the scammer the link to the thread. Do not let the scammer know you're on to him! Keep your emails and messages civil and innocent. If the scammer is unaware that he's been outed, it means he will continue to use the same username, and it will (hopefully) be easier to get him shut down. (Also, be careful since nothing's to stop the scammer from getting a new username with false information and starting anew. Beware of auctions that look suspiciously familiar to old scams, and similar email responses.)

      2) If the scammer violates Ebay policies, for example by using stolen pictures from other auctions or deliberately lying about what the item is, send multiple emails to Ebay about the scammer, with your point in large boldprint in the first line of the email. If the person is scamming with multiple dolls from a single company, such as a dozen of the same Volks doll, contact the company and send them the links and tell them you've been contacting ebay, and they should too. This will hopefully get ebay's attention. If you have any proof--either the seller said he "borrowed" the pictures in an email you can forward or you have a link to the old auction the pictures were stolen from--include that information when you contact ebay as well.

      3) (A potentially controversial point here, and one that is solely my opinion) If you win an auction that turns out to be a scam--whether or not you've actually sent the money or just refused to pay--it's probably the best bet wait and see if the scammer gets shut down before leaving negative feedback. But if he doesn't get shut down for that period where you can still leave feedback, you should leave it. It seems that too many people are afraid to leave negative feedback for fear of getting a negative in return and no longer having that shiny-bright 100% positive by their names, but let me tell you--what goes around comes around, and it's up to you to let other people know this person is a scammer. One negative might sting, but it's only one, and if the rest of your feedback is good, you haven't got anything to worry about…and the chances are that the scammer will eventually be caught and have his account canceled, and people checking your feedback will see that the negative comes from a user no longer registered, and discount it right there.

      But if it's a long-running scammer with lots of feedback--not all scammers are blatant about their scams, some are subtler and harder to catch--well, you might just have to bite the bullet, face the music, and all those other clichés, and leave that negative.

      Last but Not Least--Don't Jump the Gun to Condemn People!

      1) It's always better to be polite when you come across an auction that looks a tad strange. There are people who happen to come across BJDs and honestly don't know what they've got and don't do any research, and end up posting auctions that look weird or have bizarrely low or bizarrely high prices. A polite email telling the person what s/he's got is a lot better than sending a frothing-at-the-mouth email with "SCAMMER!" written in boldface type as the opening greeting. Depending on the response, you may or may not want to make a post about it.

      2) People do make mistakes and typos and sometimes just type something without thinking, maybe accidentally listing an old F-28 head as pureskin or saying that this doll was only available at one Dolpa when in fact it was released several times. Or maybe the seller was told something and just didn't know it wasn't true. Email the person first and see if the seller responds or changes the auction before making a public post about it. Most sellers who make such mistakes jump at the chance to correct the auction information.

      Please post more suggestions and tips. Let's all be careful and make sure to do our research!
    2. EXCELLENT post! This should be stickied~! *clapclap* ^_^
    3. Great idea! I think we should also add for people who come new to this board to give them a chance to settle in and that we all make mistakes..and to not judge them soley by it. I've seen alot of people make a mistake and get slammed for it.Everyone deserves a second chance :grin: As for ebay scams..I do believe you are right to post what you did..often people tend to jump the gun. Of course there are always blantant cases of scamming.
    4. I just want to second the point about Money Order/Cashier Check/Western Union only auctions...don't bid. You have no recourse if the auction is a scam. Ebay only covers a portion of the loss, and if a seller is unable to offer Paypal payments it is a good indication they have had problems in the past or are about to make off like a bandit. There are times when a seller builds up good feedback and then pulls this. I know because it happened to me. If you check the Ebay community boards, you will see many warnings about MO only auctions. You are taking a risk with these.

      Also, if you ever know that a seller is using stolen photos, please report the links of the photos to Ebay. That is the one thing that will shut-down a bad auction. Just stating to Ebay that this seller is a fraud is not enough to get a bad seller suspended. I know that Ebay will close auctions or suspend a seller over stolen photos, it has happened to two of the bad auctions mentioned on this board.

      I also want to mention that making up fake Ebay ids and bidding is not a good way to stop a bad auction, in fact may actually help the seller inflate the end price of the item. It is best to try and find where they got their photos from and provide that info to Ebay.

      It is good we have a place to discuss these auctions and people are willing to point them out, thanks to all of the good people here!
    5. I think since this information was posted eBay has changed their rules about accepted forms of payment.

      ...Western Union is not a recommended form of payment and there is no recourse through eBay should you use this form of payment and end up the victim of a scam. [link]

      ...Bidpay is no longer in business. If anyone asks you to pay via Bidpay and provides a link DO NOT FOLLOW IT! This is very likely a scammer/phisher. [link]

      ...It is against eBay/PayPal policy to accept 'only bank account balance' payments via PayPal. If you accept PayPal as a form of payment you must accept all types of PP payments. [link]

      Scams work both ways. BUYERS can scam just as easily as sellers. If you are selling a high ticket item such as a doll some precautions to take are...

      ...Always, always, ALWAYS get some sort of delivery confirmation on anything you send out! If you don't then buyer can file a complaint against you and, if they paid via PayPal, will receive their money back immediately (see below). This goes for mailed payments as well! USPS delivery confirmation is only around 14 cents (electronic rate) and while it's not totally fool-proof it still is a VERY good way to confirm delivery. For high-ticket items make insurance MANDATORY even if the buyer claims that it should be safe uninsured.
      [PayPal Protection]
      [USPS Delivery Confirmation]

      ...If you accept PayPal NEVER send to anything other than a confirmed address. To do so forfeits any protection PayPal/eBay offers.

      ...Link your PayPal account with a credit card or with a secondary bank account. PayPal almost ALWAYS sides with the buyer in a Significantly Not As Described (SNAD) or goods Not Received case and will refund their money. If you have your PayPal account linked to a CC you can followup via your credit card company. If you have your PayPal account linked to an empty bank account then it provides a safety net to keep a scam buyer from getting their money back.

      ...Keep in mind that PayPal does not confirm non-US addresses and therefore DOES NOT offer any protection for international sales. If a US-based seller accepts PayPal payment from an international buyer that seller has forfeited any protection eBay/PayPal offers. In the case of International sales it is best to accept International Money Orders only. And even that isn't very safe, really.

      [PayPal Protection Tips for Sellers]

      You're probably reading this and thinking "Wow, eBay is a terribly unsafe place to buy and sell!" Correct, it is very unsafe! The only thing you can really trust is your gut instinct about any given situation.

      ...Don't be afraid of potentially getting a negative feedback if you are really concerned over a transaction on eBay! One negative won't hurt, especially if you are usually just a buyer--losing hundreds of dollars does!

      ...Use the eBay Forums! There are people there with loads of experience spotting scammers, both buying and selling. My tip here would be that if you are a BUYER and have a question about a certain seller's procedures ask on one of the SELLER forums. Sellers can spot a potential scam pretty quickly while buyers generally aren't familiar enough with selling to give accurate information.

      ...VERY IMPORTANT! Use the eBay 'My Messages' feature for ALL correspondence between you and your buyer or seller. Don't let the other person take any conversation off eBay. Scammers will almost always try to take a conversation to regular email so the transaction is not documented on eBay. You, as a buyer or seller, will have MUCH more recourse in case of a scam if you have all correspondence saved in eBay Messages.

      ...In fact, while I have eBay Messages as a topic I'll point out that it is also the BEST way to avoid phishing emails. All messages from eBay which require action on your part (ie...Question from eBay Member) will show up in My Messages. The best way to confirm a message originated from eBay and not a phisher is by going to eBay.com directly (not following a link) and checking My Messages.

      Why would anyone trust me to know this stuff? Well, I dunno. But I can tell you that I've been a 40-hour-per-week Powerseller on eBay for the past three months and I've REALLY had my eyes open to what goes on out there. I don't know all the different angles scammers can come up with but I've put a ton of effort into finding out where to get more information and how to cover my own butt.

      Seriously, there are many many nice honest folks buying and selling on eBay but to be truly savvy one has to go into any transaction aware of anything that could go wrong and to monitor the auction and later closing details very carefully.

      Anyway...I hope this helps!
    6. Thank you so much fr the info. >_< i'm still a noob at this.
    7. I was scamed out of $80 dollars on ebay and it really upset me. And now I do all the things mentioned above and it hasn't happened to me since. Thank you for this, it should help a lot of people.
    8. I have other suggestions also: I never sell to, or buy from anyone with 0 feedback, or from someone with more than 1% negative feedback, and this way, I've never been scammed. Also, someone made a "blanket" statement about not buying from someone who does not accept paypal. I had a customer who paid by CC, and I had'nt known that I MUST accept CC payments on Ebay when using PayPal, the person chnged her mind, I had to pay back what she paid, plus the paypal fees, which were almost the price of the item! PayPal charges RIDICULOUS CC acceptance fees, and I'm permanatly disabled and unable to work, so I just can't afford this! I can only afford to accept payments which don't cost me 20-30% of the sale price.I've had only good, kind customers ever since, and they're happy to do business with me. Please check out all my feedback on Ebay, under tambradoll_creations. :daisy
    9. Just so you know, when someone wants a refund, the way to give them back their money without having to pay back the fees is to go into Transaction Details (which will send you to the page that shows the buyer's payment information) and at the very, very bottom of the page it says, 'To give a partial or full refund, click here.'

      Then Paypal will send back the payment and will not charge you anything (it even refunds the fee for you, you just type in the amount that the person paid or wants refunded). ^_^

      The best way I've found to keep from getting scammed is to make sure you read and understand the entire auction. Don't buy ones that say that they'll send the item in 2 weeks or when it arrives.

      For Y!J, it sometimes is okay to buy from low-feedback sellers. Just go into their feedback and see what else they've sold. Generally, if they've sold other high priced items, I feel more comfortable buying from them (this goes for low and high feedback sellers - and sometimes not just from Y!J).

      Hope this wasn't said already. ^^;
    10. There's a lot of information out there about being a safe buyer, how to look for scams, etc.

      This thread is to cover the other side -- how to sell things on DoA and have a positive experience.

      Some Basic Safety Tips for Sellers

      1-- When you post an item for sale, post the best photos you can of the item in its current condition. It is a buyer's job to research an item before purchasing, but it is the seller's to make sure that it has been represented fairly. Document well with photos.

      2-- If any modifications have been made to dolls/parts/etc., it is the seller's responsibility to specifically disclose them to the buyer in writing, rather than assume that a viewer can detect modifications from photos. This helps to protect the seller by ensuring that both parties both understand and agree to the condition of the item.

      3-- When selling a doll that originally arrived from the manufacturer with clothing, eyes, wig, etc., if those items have been used, do state the condition. And if not all original items will be included, be very specific about what will and will not come with the doll.

      4-- If you offer layaway, consider requiring a non-refundable deposit to encourage buyers to only make an offer when they're serious about the purchase. That said, please be aware that Paypal does not support layaways and that if you are using Paypal it would be in your best interest to only deal with someone in whom you have absolute confidence understands the layaway terms.

      5-- When mailing, consider taking photos of the item within the package as well as an overall image of the package. In the US, if an item is damaged in transit, it is the seller/shipper who needs to be prepared to provide evidence and file paperwork with the USPS.

      6-- NEVER throw away postal receipts until you have confirmed that your buyer has received their item and is happy with the transaction.

      7-- Think twice before offering to under-declare an item's value on a customs form. Though customs charges are an unfortunate reality, being in a situation where a package goes missing and a buyer needs refunded is also a situation where the seller will never regain their item's full value if they've under-declared it.

      8-- Be sure to store buyer's names and contact information in a safe place off-forum...DoA is not responsible for transactions that have problems in the event that the forum or PM system is unavailable.

      9-- Take screencaps of sales threads on DoA so that when your thread has been removed after the sale is completed, you can still have a record of anything that your buyer might have posted on the board.

      10-- In the event that you are trading an item with a user, be sure to spell out in absolute detail what is being exchanged as well as shipping method and timeframe.