On any given day there are thousands of gift cards for sale on eBay. Most are legitimate but there are always going to be scams out there and if you are not careful, you may fall victim. In the past few years the folks at eBay have strengthened their guidelines for the listing of cards. These new measures have helped to stave off many of the common scams, but with the thousands of listings everyday, it is impossible to catch them all. It is up to you, the consumer, to be aware of the "Red Flags" around you and make careful educated decisions when buying a gift card or for that matter anything on eBay. As they say" Caveat Emptor" or in other words" Buyer Beware". In this guide I will try to give you some helpful advice that should aid you in your purchasing. I began selling part time on eBay in 1997 and full time since 2003. Everything I know about eBay, I learned the hard way through trial and error. Who ever said that you learn from your mistakes was right on the mark. Ok so here we go.....
RULE #1: Do not bid on gift cards over $500.00. Why? Ebay does not allow the sale of cards that exceed this amount. The card may be perfectly fine and the seller may just be unaware of this rule. Nonetheless, you still take a risk and if you ask me, $500.00 is a pretty big one. If a buyer who is aware of this rule decides to report this listing to eBay, they will end the listing and it will be as if it never existed. If the bidding has not ended or if it has, but you have not paid for it, no harm done. But.... if you have already paid, the seller will have no record of the auction nor will you because the item will no longer appear anywhere on eBay. What many users do not know is that eBay can yank a listing that has already ended. Once they do that it is gone forever. If this situation occurs, you can usually recover your money through Paypal, which I will explain later, but it is a time consuming process. Personally, I just would not want to risk it. If a seller does have a legitimate card in a high value, most stores will allow them to break it up in smaller denominations that will not violate the rules. Why does eBay have this rule? Years ago, gift cards were the fastest, easiest way to scam buyers out of their money. Sellers would list thousands of dollars of gift cards in a single day from popular stores like Walmart, Home Depot etc... When the auctions ended, they would collect the money but never mail the cards. While some would only accept money orders, many would accept Paypal or the old version of bidpay. They would also set up shell accounts and bid on their own listings so that they could leave good feedback about receiving the cards to provide confidence to the buyers. Once enough money had come in, they would withdraw all of it from Paypal, close the bank account attached to the Paypal account and disappear. Hundreds of eBay users lost thousands of dollars in these types of scams. I too was almost one of them, but I got wise and didn't send my payment immediately. The $500.00 cap is not the only rule installed to combat this scheme and I will explain the others later in this guide.
RULE #2: Never bid on a card that is a Pre-Sale item. That means that the seller will "order" your card after payment is made and you will receive it sometime after 30 days or some jargon like that. Ebay does not allow this type of sale. The seller must have the card in hand and ready to ship. This was also a popular scam related to the one I mention above. Sellers would state that the buyers would receive the card in exactly 30 days from the date of payment. Well guess what, 30 days used to be the time limit set by Paypal to file an un-received item complaint. If you see a listing like this, PLEASE report it to eBay.
RULE #3: Ebay allows sellers to sell no more than ONE card per week. This rule is also to combat the above mentioned scam. While most sellers who have listed multiple cards are simply unaware of this rule, be wary of any seller with too many cards. Now there are honest sellers who do list a card each week. I myself am one of these. I accept cards on consignment from people who either are not comfortable with selling it themselves, or who feel that my strong reputation will bring them a better price. I will explain this topic in more depth later on. Another rule related to this refers to multiple cards in the same listing. Some sellers may have 2 small dollar amount cards from the same store and they list them together. For example they have one card for $20.00 and another for $30.00 so they list them in the same listing with a total $50.00 value. Personally I do not have a problem with this so long as the amounts total less than the $500.00 cap. They probably made this rule to get more listing fees. It is much cheaper for a seller to sell 2 cards together than alone with a week apart for each one. But, I don't make the rules. My advice to these sellers is to do the same thing I recommend to the sellers of large cards. Go to the store and see if they will add them on to one card and then sell that one.
RULE #4 The old rule here was "NEVER high dollar item from a seller who does not accept Paypal". Paypal is required as a payment type on all gift cards and will soon be the only option for everything. Now don't get me wrong, I am not a cheerleader for paypal, but we have little alternative. Some sellers have their own merchant accounts to accept your credit card. Many business or store owners have these accounts and may simply prefer to use them for credit card processing rather than Paypal. Please run VERY FAST from any seller who demands a money order only for a gift card, or even worse, demands cash or western union. Please report those listings to eBay and DO NOT PAY! That's one of those "Red Flags" I was talking about.
RULE #5 Do not buy a gift card from a listing that displays the card number on it. Never buy from a seller who offers to give the number out in advance to prospective buyers who want to check the balance. The seller probably has very good intentions here but is unaware of the consequences. Many cards can be used online and all the buyer needs is the number. The seller has just broadcast that number to thousands of eBay users. Chances are one or more crooks will see it and the money from the card will be gone in a flash. Even if the card can not be used online, there are still ways to steal the funds. Criminals these days can duplicate the cards and manipulate the data on the magnetic strip. They can simply program a new card with the information from the card that is for sale, just like the merchant does to program the card in the first place. Either way, you will end up with a card that is not worth anything. Attention sellers who may be reading this: it is very common for gift card sellers to receive emails from what appear to be honest eBay buyers. They will tell you a sob story about how they recently got burned by a gift card seller and they really need this card as a gift but can't get to the store. But before they bid they just want to make sure they will not lose more money. Would you please e-mail them the card number so they can verify it before bidding and or paying? These requests come from REAL eBay accounts with good feedback. But look a little closer, they are probably accounts that have been taken over in phishing schemes. You can check the bidding history of any account by using advanced search. I can guarantee that user id has not bid on any cards lately nor anything else for that matter. Don't even respond to those because they may try to hijack your account at a later time. Sellers should never give out card numbers unless payment has been made and then only if the buyer has a solid and current reputation.
TIPS TO HELP YOU SPOT A GOOD AUCTION:
1. Look at the sellers reputation and check the feedback. Just because a seller has 100% positive does not automatically mean you should trust them. If a seller has some negative feedback, this does not mean that they will rip you off. Here is where you need to use some common sense. I personally at the time of this writing have 99.9% feedback but have received several negatives this year. So are you wondering why I would admit that? Well it really doesn't matter that much. Let me say that my total score is almost 30,000 positive comments. Multiple comments from the same user make it look worse than it is. I am pretty pleased with that number. Now I will admit that perhaps some of those comments were directly related to something I did or said and I could have prevented it, but not that many. Most of them were from users who never paid, were trying to rip me off or who were just going to be unhappy no matter how many unborn children I promised them. Some sellers are just so afraid of even one negative that they will bend over backwards just to please crooks and other disgruntled folks who take advantage. These sellers usually get ripped off more because the crooks know they do whatever necessary to protect their score. I am one who will not cave. I do it to protect my other buyers. This does not mean I do not try to work out problems with buyers. I does mean I do not waste my time if I know the buyer is a crook. Now back to the topic at hand. Read the sellers feedback. Is it mostly from buyers or sellers? Buyers can only receive positive feedback. A 100% buying only feedback rating does not always ensure they are a good seller.
2. Look at what else they are selling or have sold. How long have they been selling. You can find this out from the member profile. If a seller has never sold anything before and all of a sudden they have listed several high dollar items, "Red Flag".
3. If you notice that the seller lists a new card each week, ask them how they got them. Many people get gift cards to places they do not shop, or who would simply rather have the cash. Many stores only give store credit or gift cards if you make a return under certain circumstances. Sometimes it is because you waited too long, or did not have the receipt or the correct credit card to refund it to. I am sure we have all experienced this at one time or another. Now some credit cards give gift cards as rewards. These are all very valid reasons for selling the unwanted cards. A lot of these people will sell the cards themselves even though they are not frequent sellers. Others prefer to have a professional sell it for them. I am one of these sellers. I take the cards on consignment. For a small fee I list, sell, collect payment and ship the card for them. I do have a reputation to protect, therefore I am very careful about the process. I personally verify all cards when I list them AND when I ship them. We keep a log of all card numbers with the original owner and the buyer as well as the tracking numbers of the shipment. I do not immediately release the funds to the original owner until I am assured that the new buyer has received the card and is happy with the purchase. I do everything I can to protect both the original owner and the new buyer. I have sold many cards this way for several years now and I have never had a buyer unhappy with any of the cards.
This brings up a perfect little tale about how NOT to solve a problem with a seller. I sent out a card a few months ago to one of my buyers. They buyer contacted me with angry threatening emails about 8 weeks after the card was shipped and delivered. She claimed that her card did not work and that I was a scam mer and I better refund her money immediately or else..blah blah blah. I went to my log, called the 800 number I had kept from the back of the card and checked to see when the last transaction was on the card and to see if the card was indeed empty. The card was fine and still contained the original balance. I sent this information to the buyer and told that she could verify it herself just as I did with the number on the back of the card. She wrote back the next day saying that she went back to the store and was told that since she kept the card in her wallet with other cards, the magnetic stripe was not working but that they could manually type in the number instead. More than likely the employee who told her it was no good, was unaware of this type of occurrence. She used her card and was now pleased. Unfortunately she had already left negative feedback for me calling me a crook. I asked her to please post a follow up comment about the store error on my feedback. She did not and therefore I look like the bad guy. She had not even waited for me to respond before leaving her comment.
4. If possible, ALWAYS pay with a credit card on paypal. You will in most cases have to manually change the funding for each payment. Paypal will automatically use available funds or a transfer from your back account BEFORE they use your credit card. They do this because it is cheaper for them to process and they have more protection for themselves. If you have funds in your paypal account, withdraw them. Then after you click on pay now and the paypal page comes up you will see an option to change funding. The reason I say to do this is because you do not have to rely on paypal if the transaction is a bust. Your credit card company will offer more protection. Make sure it is a real credit card and not one of those fake Visa/MC that we know as debit cards and take money from your account. They do not offer the same protection as a REAL credit card and therefore that Visa/MC logo on it means nothing. If you do not have a credit card then still using paypal is more protection than not using it.
5. MOST IMPORTANT, use your instinct. If you do not feel right about an auction or a seller, DO NOT BID!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There are plenty of other cards out there.
WHAT TO DO WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
When you receive the card, always check the balance immediately. If it is a card that can be used online, try to use it as soon as possible. Do Not leave feedback until you have used the card. Make sure to use the card within 60 days of the payment date.
1. If you receive a card that is empty, contact the seller for an explanation. Make sure you have checked with the toll free number on the back. Many card information lines will also tell you the date of the last transaction. Send this information to the seller and give them at least 1 full business day to respond. Don't send threats as it will not make it go any better for you.
2. If you do not receive a card within a reasonable amount of time contact the seller. When contacting sellers use the eBay message system. That way you have a record of it. A reasonable amount of time is 5 to 10 days, but no more and no less. Many sellers do not ship everyday but most ship at least once a week. If they ship less than once a week, look elsewhere to buy your goods.
3. If contacting the seller does not work then contact your credit card company. If you have paid with a credit card it is better to do a charge back rather than a paypal complaint. The credit card company will protect you much more than paypal will, even though paypal will lead you to believe otherwise. You must contact them within 60 days of the transaction. File a claim of non-receipt.
4. If you used paypal but did not use a credit card, then file a paypal non-receipt claim. If they file in your favor you will get your money back but only if they can get it back from the seller. If the seller closed the paypal account and disappeared, you will not get anything. With a REAL credit card, you will get your money back and paypal will be stuck holding the bag.
Well I hope this helps. I welcome any questions or comments on how I can make the guide better. Happy eBaying!