eBay scam update

If you visit this blog regularly, you’re probably already aware of my run-in with a Nigerian eBay scammer calling himself Mike Nike. Short story: I was auctioning off some very rare posters with a relatively high Buy It Now price. Mike Nike used the Buy it Now button and then sent me an email in which he explained that he would send me a money order but the money order had already accidentally been made out for a sum higher than the amount he owed me. I was to cash the money order and then send him the difference via Western Union, preferrably the same day.

The scam, obviously, is that the money order is counterfeit, but passable, so that the bank is fooled for a short period of time — if all goes according to our Nigerian friend’s plan, long enough for you to wire him the money. Soon thereafter, the bank and/or the police pay you a little visit. (This is a standard part of the generic Nigerian “I-have-to-transfer-ten-million-dollars-out-of-the-country” email scam — about which much more can be read here.)

The reason I’m bringing this up again is that I just got an email from a woman who is not a regular visitor to this site, but who almost got sucked in by our old friend Mike Nike. She got taken a little further down the path than I did, going so far as to provide her home address, but sensing that something wasn’t quite right, she googled the name and ended up here. And thanks to that post, she learned what she was dealing with.

So here’s the real point: Any eBay seller using their “Buy It Now” button is vulnerable to this scam. Not everyone is as cynical and suspicious of humanity in general as your host. I have no doubt that people are getting taken in by this. So why doesn’t eBay do everything in their power to let people know about this specific scam? I have a few guesses: because they don’t want the bad press, don’t want to scare away sellers, don’t want to discourage people from using Buy it Now.

Well, I’m calling bullshit on that. Ebay can’t be blamed for the scam, but they sure bear the blame for not trying harder to warn people. And I don’t mean the generic “be careful when you use eBay” messages they send out occasionally — I mean a specific warning about this specific scam.

And the thing is, there’s a really easy fix, which sellers can already set up as an option: anyone using “Buy It Now” has to pay immediately by Paypal. Make this mandatory for everyone, and the problem is solved. (I know that not everyone likes to use Paypal, but I imagine most people also don’t like to be taken in by Nigerian scammers).

At any rate, the last post helped at least one person, maybe this one will help somebody else.