The Ebay Buy & Switch Scam

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.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


  1. You cant quit scam, this is a great site

  2. thanks 🙂

  3. Your site rocks! I am not the only one to say that you know you have many admirers

    • I think I will put my efforts into one of my other sites now and see how that goes. If I can’t get that to work then I will give up altogether and get another day job I think.

      • Glad you are able to focus and think what is best for you.

        • Well this is only a hobby but I can’t afford to be losing any money with it, especially as I am putting 20-30 hours a week into it.

        • Is it possible to cut back on the time you spend on this public service hobby while still keeping the site running?

          There are many options for free hosting available (I can’t imagine the amount of work involved with migrating all your content, not to mention that being a step backwards) I don’t know how much you are spending (nor am I asking) but it seems possible that you could subsidize some of it in any number of ways.

          -Government grants… you have been around long enough (I think) and have offered so much content assisting the general public (nationally and internationally) that it seems there should be a grant that you could apply for that would entirely cover your cost.. esp. if it is a fairly small amount.

          -Donations… we all know that slapping a donate to this cause button on your site will probably not net huge results, but if you appeal to the non-scam businesses that you feature here, you may be able to procure a small monthly commitment from each of them. Not affiliate style, purely a goodwill offering in exchange for the service that you provide to their potential consumers.

          If you put a number to it… I.E. I need $20 a month to pay the fees involved in hosting this site, it is possible that you could get $1 a month from a handful of the visitors here. If you are experiencing bandwidth problems, you are probably getting more visitors, and thus you may be able to raise more money (no guarantee)

          If your recent bandwidth problem is resulting from myself, Aruna and a few others that seem to be addicted to this site, than perhaps we are not as beneficial (at this stage) as we all thought. I would gladly limit my involvement on this site to help lower your cost. no reason for this to be used as a public (private) message board… emails are just as easily exchanged, and keeps your comments more on topic.

          The entertainment of seeing the conversations that you and Aruna are having is hardly worth losing this resource over! I know the feeling of burning the midnight oil over and over again, seeing minimal results. But I am not paying for any of it (except the investment in a computer, internet, etc.

          Anyway, just my thoughts…


        • The amount of time I put into this site is what I hope seperates me from other people, even if a large number of visitors disagree with my views!

          Free hosting sucks and transferring the site would be a real pain as you guessed.

          I don’t think the British government gives grants to private websites and, even if they did, 400 posts and 2,000 visitors a day is nothing to get excited about.

          Donations – some may ask for them but I will certainly not. When I first seperated from my ex I used to go without food for several days at a time as I don’t believe in asking other people for money.

          As for bandwith, I think some of the problem may have been the previous theme I was using. Hopefully this new one will use less and may stave off the upgrade for another month or so.

        • Sorry, I wasn’t implying that you should beg for food! I am sure that your “real job”, like mine, pays the bills and keeps food on the table and all that… didn’t mean any disrespect there.

          The idea of donations from the people that are benefiting from this site to cover the cost of the project hardly seems the same as bumming cash off people for a burger and a coke!

          As for the government, I know nothing about your system (don’t think I really understand mine either) but it seems that if you ask the right people, there are all kinds of non-profit funds available as long as you are doing something to better society (I think this project qualifies!)

          Like I said, I don’t know what it is costing you monthly. If it is something that your budget can handle, no worries… I am sure you will make it (as we discussed before)

          The only reason I say all this is that the tone of your comments sounded like you were thinking about scrapping the whole thing and that would be disapointing 🙁

          I was ready to give up on my picture blog, getting angrier every day at the Pink Truth mob, and ready to throw in the towel on publishing online when I found your site. You really inspired me to get back into it, so I hope I can in some way encourage you out of (or at least through) your own “dark” time!


        • Well I feel a bit happier today and have decided to surface one of my other projects, to work on both at the same time.

          Hopefully the other will make a bit of money in order to subsidise this one.

          Thanks for your support Jon.

        • Let me guess…is it the Egypt site?

        • Actually, I am thinking about spending time on my site about forensic science.

        • You can always count on me for whatever support I can offer. (Whether or not it is beneficial is another question!)

          I am excited to see what develops at your other location. I think I may show my wife your site, as she really enjoy’s the forensic style tv shows (like csi and others)

          She is not as big a fan of the internet as I am though, so I don’t expect too much enthusiasm!!

          Good luck.


        • Thanks for the support Jon, it is beneficial. Even the banter we enjoy on some posts helps to motivate me, even if it is off-topic!

          I will probably put off writing for about a week whilst I choose a new theme and get all the plugins I now use installed.

      • ❗ Surprise ❗ Nice new look 😀

  4. oh why would u do that?

  5. Ebay reminds me of a song!!!!Here’s the link if you are wondering

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