Hack 28 Tools for Dealing with Fraud


Your last resort to get your money back.

eBay provides two tools to help buyers deal with suspected fraud by sellers, mostly to the end of retrieving any money sent. These should be used only as a last resort, if diplomatic efforts fail and if the buyer didn't use a payment method with built-in protection (see [Hack #29]). These tools can also be used by sellers who suspect fraud by buyers.

The first tool is the Fraud Alert form (crs.ebay.com/aw-cgi/ebayisapi.dll?crsstartpage), which is little more than a moderated discussion between buyer and seller. The two parties air their complaints in a private forum on eBay's site and, in some cases, resolve the dispute themselves; the prying eyes of the typically silent eBay moderator act as a stern parent separating two kids in the back seat.

If you wish to pursue a fraud investigation, you can also file a report with SquareTrade (www.squaretrade.com). SquareTrade is a separate company, but has a partnership with eBay and offers dispute resolution services at no charge. (See [Hack #6] for another service provided by SquareTrade.)

Note that eBay's buyer and seller protection services are available only to participants in officially completed auctions. This means that if you weren't the high bidder in an auction or if the reserve wasn't met, you won't have access to these services.

3.10.1 Sleuthing Tools at Your Disposal

An eBay user who knowingly commits fraud will undoubtedly take steps to hide his or her true identity, but there are a few things you can do to learn more about who you're dealing with:

  • Start with the obvious: check the user's feedback profile and look for a possible pattern of behavior. Next, contact any other buyers and sellers with whom the user has completed a transaction. Use the buyer search and seller search to find relevant auctions for the last 30 days, or use the auction numbers in the user's feedback page to view auctions up to 3 months old.

  • Use the Find Contact Info form (Search Find Members Contact Info) and enter the user's ID and the auction number, and eBay will email you the phone number and mailing address on file for that user. The user will also receive a notice that you've requested the information. But don't be surprised if Mr. John Doe lives at 123 Fake St. in Springfield.

  • If the user has an unusual domain name (as opposed to something common like aol.com or hotmail.com), the domain itself may provide more insight. Use a Whois tool, such as the one at www.netsol.com/cgi-bin/whois/whois, and find out who owns the domain behind the user's email address.

  • If you've received any email from the user, look for any IP addresses in the email headers. For example, you might see something like this:

    Received: from mx22.sjc.ebay.com (mxpool11.ebay.com [])

    where is the IP address of one of the computers responsible for routing the email to you. In this case, the IP address is a machine at eBay, but if the user emailed you directly, his IP address will show up somewhere in the headers. If the machine name (here, mxpool11.ebay.com) doesn't appear next to the IP address, use the NSLookup tool to resolve the address.

NSLookup is a program included on most modern computers, such as those running Windows XP/2000, Unix, or Mac OS X. Just go to Start Run, type nslookup, and click OK. If you don't have NSLookup on your system, you can use an online NSLookup gateway (try www.his.com/cgi-bin/nslookup or www.webreference.com/cgi-bin/nslookup.cgi).

  • The computer name is often useful in determining the user's own domain, or at least his ISP (such as aol.com or notmyrealdomain.com). Use the Whois tool to find out more about the domain in the machine name.

  • Try searching Google for the user's name, email address, postal address, phone number, zip code, or anything else you know.

  • Use eBay's forums to reach out to other eBay users for help. You may even find someone else who has had dealings (negative or otherwise) with the user in question. See [Hack #81] for more information.