Seller beware! A new eBay scam using its own return label | Money

My wife and others have recently fallen victim to an eBay scam. In December she sold my iPhone 7 Plus for £345. The buyer paid via PayPal and requested the item be delivered to their local Argos, as eBay facilitates that. A week later, the buyer said he wanted to return the phone as he couldn’t activate it. We knew this couldn’t be the case, but felt we had no choice but to start the return and refund process.

On New Year’s Eve we got a notification that the phone had been returned, but there was no sign of it.

That’s when we found some blog/forum posts about a scam where a fake buyer requests a refund, then returns an empty package to a different address by adulterating the return label, crucially to an address that’s in the same postal area as the seller.

As eBay sees that the package has been delivered to the postal area, it assumes it was received and issues a refund. The problem is, Royal Mail’s tracking does not include the full address, just the postal town. We believe this loophole is being exploited by scammers.

Royal Mail cannot divulge to us exactly where the empty package was delivered, citing confidentiality. I find it unbelievable that a company as big as eBay can’t put changes in place to stop these practices.

We opened a dispute, but it was immediately shut down stating we had “received the item”. We have no money and no iPhone.

NB, Middlesbrough

eBay has not disputed your claims, suggesting that it is as you say – scammers are exploiting this problem. Since we took up your case we have been contacted by several other victims. As we have previously reported, and our colleague Anna Tims highlighted recently in the Observer, eBay invariably sides with the buyer, something scammers are exploiting.

Happily, eBay has decided to refund you your £345. It says: “We are constantly improving our systems …our team is on the lookout 24/7 for bad buyer behaviour backed by large-scale, automated detection systems that examine millions of transactions every day.”

We wouldn’t sell high-value items on eBay unless we were prepared to meet the buyer and demand cash. Be aware of the risks you take.

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