Often you are looking for a quality deal and worry about the honesty of a seller. This guide aims to help you assess the risk of a fake private seller vs. the value you hope to gain in the deal. Large volume sellers and Storefronts are very safe so we are focusing on private sellers.
Let's start with an obvious risk factor - Political Risk. We don't mean Republicans vs. Democrats - what we mean is the risk of buying from a foreign seller. Be sure you know your rights if the seller is not in your country. Fake sellers know no boundaries, but it is harder to get legal satisfaction in a foreign court. To mitigate this risk, consider buying from sellers in your own country.
Next let's look at Financial Risk. Be sure you know how the seller wants to be paid. Always look for a PayPal payment option. eBay and PayPal will work to help you if you get swindled - but if the seller only accepts Money Orders or checks, be cautious. In a large value deal like an automobile, it may be worth your time to try using an escrow service. Or travel to the seller's site to complete the deal. Just be careful to meet in a public place first - and consider taking a friend to thwart any chance of a serious criminal trying to rip you off.
Finally let's consider Validity Risk. How do we know the seller is valid? Do not just look at their feedback number and percent of positive feedbacks. Do your homework by reading their last 100 or so feedbacks. Clearly if there are several negative comments, then beware. But what if they are all positive?Then look at the items the buyer gave positive feedback about. If the items were of small value compared to what you are thinking of bidding on, treat that as a potential risk factor. Next, investigate the seller's customers - by that we mean looking into their legitimacy. Many fake sellers set-up positive feedback by using other fake sellers to leave positive feedback. Or by using sellers who offer free items or nominal items just to build feedback. By looking at the seller's transaction connections you can further mitigate this risk.
We hope this helps - by and large the eBay community is a good place to transact deals. eBay does manage to keep fraudulent activity under a tighter leash than any auction site on the web. But always remember to keep a healthy curiosity about the seller - and if it looks too good to be true, it just might not be a true deal.