ebay scams going international

Every once in a while I hear someone raving about a new gadget and my first instinct is to check amazon first for a price, then check ebay to see what kinds of discounts are available. I’ve been doing this for the past couple years.

What I’ve noticed lately though is my search results are filled with results from sellers in China, often selling something for 80% off or more. But if you dig into profiles of the sellers, they’ve either never sold anything (just bought 4 or 5 small things) or their only feedback is from unregistered users. It’s like an ebay scam from 1998 being repeated, only this time the scammers are based in China instead of the US or EU.

Here are some examples: a search for “garmin nuvi”, a ~$900 in-car GPS unit. If you look down the listings, the prices range from $650-900 but my results show a bunch of Chinese sellers offering it for about $150. Here is one. The feedback profile on the seller shows +12, with no negatives, but notice that none are from buyers. This account has never sold anything. The username looks like a random text string, and many of the names of people leaving comments have similar names. If you look at someone that left feedback, you’ll notice another account with around 10-12 positive feedback points, left by others with about 10-12 feedback points and similar bot-like names.

I didn’t know ebay was selling from China, but it seems like someone is creating vast quantities of zombie users that give each other good feedback on small items only to use the resulting users to sell big ticket items at 20% of the retail price, which I assume is when the scam is over and they just keep the money, ditch that user account, and move on.

What baffles me is why the past ten years of ebay’s fraud detection hasn’t prevented something like this from happening.