Staying Safe with Paypal and eBay

Staying Safe with Paypal and eBay
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If you have ever wanted to buy on eBay, but had second thoughts about using Paypal or staying safe making eBay purchases,  you should know that you are NOT ALONE.   It seems like all you hear about in the news and even on eBay discussion boards today is SCAM, SCAM, and more SCAMS.   Even before I signed up for Paypal, I received several emails that looked like they were from Paypal asking me to verify my account information into some obscure web site that was not listed anywhere else in the world.   Last night, I watched a 20/20 TV show that showed entire rooms of people in other countries who make a living by sending fake emails asking people to send money, credit card information, or other personal information, and promising HUGE amounts of money in return.  The name of the game is - BUYER BEWARE!

Here are a few tips on how to stay safe with Paypal and eBay - from the point of view of an IT (Information Technology) professional of many years (myself) who also opened up an eBay store in 2006 and is buying and selling on eBay. 

1.  If you are concerned about whether an email that appears to be from eBay is legitimate or not, you can check the "My Messages" in Ebay to see if the message is displayed there.   If you receive an email that looks like it came from Ebay or Paypal, you can also quickly verify whether Ebay or Paypal sent you the email by forwarding the email as is with no added comments to the email address spoof @ or spoof @   (do not use spaces in the email addresses).   Both eBay and Paypal will verify whether an email originated from them, and they will also use the information you have provided to shut down any illegal websites using their corporate names. 

2.  NEVER, NEVER, NEVER give out any of your credit or bank information to anyone who asks you for this information on an email, even if it looks like it's from eBay.  Legitimate sellers using Paypal will never ask you for your credit card or bank information, nor will they ask you to just transfer your money to a bank account outside of their paypal account.   All of your private, personal financial information is managed by Paypal, and sellers will never need to know any of your personal financial information.   The only information most sellers need to send you your product is your address, and Paypal automatically sends the seller your confirmed address information in their payment received notification to the seller.  Outside of Paypal and eBay, legitimate web sites and pages that ask for credit information should start with the address of "https", which means your information is being securely encrypted and sent with no opportunities for anyone else to intercept it. 

3.  IF it sounds too good to be true, it is probably a SCAM.   This applies to any and all offers that say "if you just send me some money, I'll promise you a fortune in return".   It doesn't matter whether the email says your long lost cousin has just left you a lot of money, or whether the latest famous person who died has relatives who need your help to recover their fortune, or whether they have money that was painted over with chemicals and now need supplies to clean the money and restore it to good condition, or even if someone promises you that by buying their last information product,  you can instantly make a million dollars by next week by selling on eBay.   eBay is a great opportunity for sellers, and I enjoy having a store open and being able to sell on ebay, but it does involve hard work, working with suppliers to find products that sell well, time spent setting up your auctions and store,  managing your sales, packaging your products, and getting to know your postal carrier and shipping companies very well.  I repeat, IF it sounds too good to be true, it is probably a SCAM.

4.  If you do accidentally fall for a scam, do not be embarrassed, just stop immediately, change any and all passwords to any and all web sites that could have been compromised, and report it to the proper authorities within eBay or Paypal, or even your local police station if you have lost money.  Both eBay and Paypal are very concerned about ensuring that all sellers are legitimately delivering the goods they have promised. 

5.  What about eBay sellers who do not deliver?   If you purchase anything on eBay, you should expect to receive your item fairly quickly.  Especially around holiday times, sellers might take a couple of business days to process and ship your order, and shippers can take anywhere from a couple of days up to a couple weeks to deliver your product, depending on your location and what method the seller used to ship your purchase.   eBay sellers can also send you notifications of payment received and a shipping notice when your item is shipped, and you can ask any seller to send these notices to you if you do not automatically receive any acknowledgement of your order.   If a seller is unable to ship an item to you quickly for any reason, they should always promptly notify you and offer to return your full purchase price immediately.  Paypal allows sellers to refund any purchase directly back to the buyer by just clicking a button within their account records, and the money is instantly returned to your Paypal account.       

6.  Paypal Safety - When you sign up for Paypal, please do the following: 

  • Confirm your address
  • Enter only the minimal financial information needed to make your payments (i.e. do not list every credit card and bank account you own - just the one or two you want to use to make Paypal payments)
  • Do not give out your Paypal password to anyone else at any time for any reason
  • If you ever find any unauthorized activity on your Paypal account, change the password and notify Paypal immediately    

For more information on eBay and Paypal safety, here's a list of very useful links and information from eBay's Help pages:

How do I know that an email is really from eBay?

Reporting Spoof (Fake) Emails

Seller Non-Performance

About Buyer Protection Programs

Please mark whether you found this guide useful or not below.   Thanks.

Dana Fox, MBA, Information Systems


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