On any one day there are hundreds of thousands of people on eBay, conducting millions of perfectly legitimate and successful transactions.
A small minority of traders on there, however, are out to scam the unwary with a variety of tricks, one of which is ‘Buy and Switch’.
How does the buy and switch work?
The buy and switch scam is quite clever in that it is virtually undetectable.
The scammer in this instance is a buyer.
They will have found that an item that they already own, which is of at least a fairly high value, that is broken or otherwise inoperable.
They search eBay for an identical item, in a good and working condition, then make a winning bid for it.
When the item is delivered the scammer will tell the seller that it was damaged in transit or they may even accuse the seller of trying to scam them with substandard goods.
They will also threaten to leave negative feedback for the transaction.
As anyone who uses eBay will know, feedback is a valuable commodity, and you wouldn’t want your’s damaged.
For this reason many duped sellers will offer the buyer a full refund, effectively letting them replace their damaged item for free.
The scammer will further insist that the seller leaves feedback first, thereby allowing them to profit and have an unblemished feedback score.
How do you avoid this scam?
In reality this scam is very hard to avoid.
With most items it would be near to impossible to prove that it had been switched and it’s certainly true that some packages are damaged in transit.
With some larger products it may be possible to secretly mark them in some way and, with electricals, there is often a unique and identifying serial number that could be recorded.
Otherwise, for high value items, the only real saviour would be postal insurance to cover damage en route.
If you think you are a victim
If you believe you have been a victim of this scam then check the buyer’s feedback.
If there are comments which may suggest he has done this before then contact the other sellers to gain their views and don’t be afraid to report the buyer to eBay.
Unless you have postal insurance or undeniable proof of what has gone on then you will probably just have to accept the loss.
Remember, though, to block that buyer from bidding on future auctions you may hold.
Whether you choose to leave them negative feedback or not is up to you.