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eBay sellers scammed – where’s the protection, PayPal?

Man in computer holding buy and sell signs

We talk a lot about your consumer rights when you buy goods online, but what if you sell online? We’ve heard reports from eBay sellers who’ve been ripped off by dodgy buyers – have you been a victim?

If you buy items on eBay regularly, it’s likely that you’ve ended up with the occasional dud. I’ve fallen for items like foul-smelling perfume and a ‘new’ dress that was clearly a shoddy factory second.

Regrettably, I kept the perfume, but I returned the tatty dress and was given a full refund. But what happens when you have a bad experience as a seller? Lately, we’ve been hearing more and more tales of dodgy buyers, with eBay sellers reporting some real horror stories.

How you can fall through the net

If a buyer files a claim or chargeback against an eBay seller, unless they said the item was not as described, it’s PayPal’s Seller Protection that kicks in to resolve the issue. However, some fraudulent buyers appear to explain clauses in the small print, meaning the seller receives payment for the items they’ve sold.

Take the Which? member Colin, who auctioned his laptop on eBay. The buyer paid up, and our seller posted the item using recorded delivery, keeping the proof of postage. The buyer then decided to reverse the transaction, using chargeback to reclaim the money from Colin’s PayPal account.

Despite Colin having evidence that the item had been signed for, PayPal accepted the chargeback because the buyer claimed that the credit card associated with their account had been stolen or compromised.

A chargeback claim can be made via a credit or debit card provider, generally to claw back the cash if goods haven’t arrived, aren’t as described, or when the merchant has ceased trading. It’s not enshrined in law, but many banks subscribe to it.

Both PayPal and eBay have comprehensive measures in place to protect buyers and sellers, but it seems Colin fell foul of the terms and conditions. PayPal explained that his listing had not been ‘marked as eligible’ for protection. The buyer was able to keep the money, and Colin was left out of pocket – and minus a laptop.

Stay alert to sneaky loopholes

He was not alone. Another seller, Jane, lost out when she sold an item of jewellery for almost £1,000.

The buyer disputed the transaction through PayPal, claiming that their account had been hacked. Unwittingly, Jane’s sale was not protected because the buyer provided an address for postage that didn’t match one of the PayPal ‘transaction details’ page.

Jane eventually managed to claw back her money. Still, she felt that the terms and conditions of PayPal’s policies were unclear, and found the process of trying to reclaim the money complicated and confusing.

Are you covered when selling with PayPal?

Sellers need to satisfy seven different criteria in order to be protected by PayPal Seller Protection. While some of these are fairly obvious – such as keeping proof of postage – others are a bit more surprising. For example, did you know that if you allow a buyer to pick up an item in person, you won’t be protected if they decide to raise a false claim?

These sellers felt they’d taken sufficient care to protect their sale, so they were surprised to find themselves outside of PayPal’s Seller Protection criteria. While buyers clearly need decent protection when they’re parting with their cash, sellers have just as much at stake.

Our examples show that if you’re selling items on eBay it’s vital to be aware of these criteria. But there should also be clearer instructions for sellers so they know whether or not they’re protected.

Have you lost money to a dodgy eBay buyer and were you surprised to find yourself unprotected by PayPal’s Seller Protection?


i have 100% feedback and pride myself in good selling and decent goods offered. I now have a buyer claiming a top i sent was iron damaged and wants a refund.
i contacted ebay as i know for certain this isnt the case. the top has never been ironed !!!
the buyer is opening a case against me and it seems highly likely when it is the buyers word against mine.
this is so unfair as there are many scammers out there… beginning to think sellin on ebay is soon going to be come a thing of the past for me out of pure principle that the buyer isnt always right…..maddened and sad 🙁 ;-(

Will ebay tell you if the buyer or anyone else at that address has a record of claiming against sellers?

It is wrong that ebay seem to be always on the side of buyer scammers.

Join the club…It is not safe to sell on e.bay and paypal is on the buyers side in any dispute..I know this as I have been on the receiving end..I no longer sell on e.bay because of this..

David says:
8 March 2016

Ebay are so big they are way past caring about small or indeed any sellers, i have been taken to the cleaners by corrupt buyers worldwide, the seller protection is WORTHLESS unless YOU paid the delivery company to insure to full value and can claim, its a dodgy world out there.

Gav says:
23 March 2016

I have been ripped off so many times from dodgy buyers on ebay and lost lots of money and items,mainly its the paypal chargeback scam.The buyer buys item waits 3 months then opens a chargeback claiming unauthorized payment they get their money back,get to keep the goods and then paypal charge me £14 to cover the chargeback case.

I have been scammed this way even if i sent items by recorded delivery,it is a disgrace how the seller has to prove the buyer bought the item and received it ,but the buyer has to provide no evidence what so ever they didn’t received it.

The buyer gets free stuff and their money back and the seller has to pay a fee for being ripped off.I mean its like if your house gets robbed and you call the police they turn up say they can not help then charge you a fee for investigating the robbery.

I have run a part time ebay business for the last 5 years but have now closed my business down due to this scam and i will never again accept a payment through paypal as sellers are wide open to this scam which has been doing the round for a few years now with paypal doing nothing to stop it.

Paypals so called seller protection is a joke as there is none.

rachel Neil says:
27 April 2016

Had the same happen to me today and i am furious!! Ebay buyer bought the item in January and now claims unauthorised card use. He has lots of feedback but none left for others which i now know why! I contacted him, no response, surprise!
The item was only 5.25 GBP so not sent tracked. As i couldn’t prove this was sent, he gets a refund and quite unbelievably i have been slapped with a 14.00 GBP reversal fee from Paypal?! So my fee is nearly 3 times the value of the item?? I have emailed them my disgust not that i’ll get a response but have asked if them i should start giving my items away for free as it will be easier for me.
I think they should have some kind of exemption on items under a certain amount as where do my earnings fit in sending a five pound item fully tracked??

*As a note for others to bear in mind. I have added a comment on my feedback left for this buyer stating that a Chargeback was filed. So this will be displayed on his feedback. I will now be doing this for all my buyers who claim non receipt of reversals.
Just a simple comment to advise others how the transaction turned out. May deter these scammers from doing it if everybody made an additional comment for others to see.
I’m not doing anything wrong. If an item was refunded due to non receipt for example, i want to reflect that in my feedback which is what i will be telling Ebay if they have an issue!

E.bay and paypal will not care less I am afraid…I have decided it is unsafe to sell on e.bay,especially when thieving,lying buyers pay with paypal..

I sold a Brand New DAB radio on ebay. Buyer paid up promptly and I posted radio promptly
5 weeks later buyer sends email to say radio arrived that week and didn’t work so wanted refund. I questioned why buyer waited so long for refund but asked for return of item in new condition for full refund. A week later a different DAB radio arrived. I informed the buyer I would only repay when I got my radio back and asked how the bogus one was to be returned to him. No radio returned. Seller began a claim. I explained to ebay that according to their own rulesI would not pay any money until item returned in the condition it was sent out. Immediately Ebay refund the buyer. He now has my radio and my money and I suspected I had a broken radio . Many emails later to ebay I only got condescending replies about how they must protect the buyer and the seller, but also they started sending me advice as if I was a buyer. Not sure how I was protected. On ebays own advice I then threatened the buyer with the Small Claims Court and eventually he paid up. I have told ebay how disappointed and saddened I was at their poor Customer Care but I do not expect anything worthwhile or an apology back. Been selling for a Charity on ebay for 5 years and not sure if I want to continue after this experience

Interesting conversation everyone! Can I just ask, when selling something has anyone asked buyers to use Paypal gift (aka send money to friends and family)? With ebay you are somewhat forced to use their systems but I recently sold a couple of things through buy/sell forums on specialist photography/hifi websites and asked the buyer to pay me by paypal friends and family. I assumed that this would offer me protection as it seems to remove whole layers of protection for the buyer. However, when I received some money, the paypal transaction included these words:

Please be aware that your payment can still be reversed, (e.g. if it is subject to a chargeback), even after you have sent the item to your buyer. Complying with PayPal’s Seller Protection and following the trading guidelines on our Security page helps to protect you from things like chargebacks.”

This doesn’t look good for me! Has anyone got experience of this?

I’ve had similar problem with a brand new phone she’s used it for 4 weeks now is saying she wants refund and eBay have given it to her it’s really messed up I can’t resell a phone for brand new price now and haven’t received it back either

Stuart Britton says:
7 January 2017

It is time to stop EBay and PayPal from trading in the UK. I speak as a seller, well Ex-Seller as of today. Today I kept one of there Customer Services Staff on the phone for 4 Hours, allegeably a manager, it took me one hour and 5 transfers to get to the alleged escalation manager, they were based in the Philippines, apparently they have no facility to Transfer you to a UK Call Center, (Please correct me if I am wrong, it is UK Law that you can request any company who operates in the UK to be put through to an UK Call Center). I will call again tomorrow, this will continue for years if it has too.

EBay and PayPal announced in 2014 that they would split and finally split in 2015, how truthful is this, given that EBay seem to have access to PayPal accounts, and I would Imaging vica versa. EBay’s UK postcode is TW9 1EJ, and PayPal’s UK Postcode is TW9 1EH, again this would seem to question the alleged split between the businesses.

There is also the fact that, EBahttps://conversation.which.co.uk/wp-admin/edit-comments.phpy and PayPal, pay a fraction of the tax that they should, compared to revenue earned. That means the average UK Resident has to pay more in Taxes, to support the Infrastructure they take advantage of while they continue to operate.

[Sorry Stuart, your comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines. We’d be interested to know more about your experience, but we cannot permit the posting of this petition. Thanks, mods]

jess says:
19 January 2017

im speaking as a buyer mainly and yes there are plenty of honest buyers and sellers out there but ebay are going to end up loosing more and more of them. used ebay for over 10 years i have now closed my account with both ebay and paypal – as i only really used paypal to pay for ebay purchases anyway and clearly they are the same company. my issue was with a “top rated” seller in the uk this person blatently admitted to giving me a fake tracking number for an item i did not receive and the tracking showed this ebay were not interested. also left “approprate” feedback that was not rude or offensive i simply stated i did not get it and seller offered no help as to where it had got to. this was quickly removed by ebay. i can totally understand that there are a lot of buyers that scam sellers but it is also a fact that if a scammer happens to be a “top sellers” ebay will do nothing about it and will just side with them even if they are wrong.

Paypal do seem to accept any old tracking number they are presented with.

They tried to close a dispute with me for non delivery when a dishonest seller gave a tracking number of asdf12345. I did get a refund in the end though.

I am having exactly the same problem. Sent designer goods in excellent hardly worn condition, the buyer claims that they are damaged (with no evidence of damage to the packaging) but eBay found in her favour within 2 minutes of her opening a case. So clearly no review of the communication between us, no reference to me and no consideration that the buyer could have damaged the item herself as a means of getting all the costs back including return postage. So I get left with an expensive item that can’t be resold and hit for two lots of postage . No seller protection at all from dishonest buyers. Pretty disgusted.

I have found that when buyers want to return something, they are not honest about it, they create faults that were not there or they say the item is a fake to ensure they are protected and on top of that the seller will lose out on the postage in both directions. Given it is the sellers who pay commission, provide the “stock” and take on risks while many of the buyers are cheap scroungers waiting for the price of something to go down or make ridiculously low offers that cannot be taken realistically, surely ebay should show more respect to the sellers when a case comes up. Are there any laws we as sellers can enforce upon ebay to protect ourselves? I’m willing to take this on but I dont even know where to start! Any advice or support appreciated!

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Philippe Ballesio makes you invest money in a fake business. This scam is Ponzi style and is an investment fraud by Philippe Ballesio that captures unsuspecting people who are given the “opportunity” to invest in a program that sells as a revolutionary, even going so far as to say that Apple tried buy, but did not want to sell it, because he wants to organize his own company. But what happens is that money is used to pay large investments. That is, the money you contribute serves to pay other people and you will not see the fruits of your investment.

This is a message sent to eBay in response to a fake batteries claim. +(Seller currently has at least 5?fake 18650.bayteries for sale.

Common dog, (AKA, COMMON SENSE).
HOWEVER, the lady is quoting eBay POLICY when she asks ME to provide proof that the items are fake! That is incorrect! If I say the items are fake, or Counterfeit. The ONUS, Is on the SELLER to prove me wrong!! NOT me, but the seller. This is why eBay allow the Seller 8 days to Prove the items are not fake etc., and are indeed are genuine items!
So yet again eBay advice is incorrect!! And the clear and concise information from Trading Standards is THE advice I will be taking!! But for a moment, let’s look at the facts?? I have just ordered several FAKE batteries from the same seller! I also REPORTED these batteries as fake before I agreed to buy them!! The batteries I have purchased are ALL known to be fake/counterfeit batteries. And yes!! I FULLY INTEND TO REPORT THESE BATTERIES AS FAKE AND CL AIM A REFUND!! And by this order I will also add several MORE fake batteries to the list of batteries already sold to myself on eBay AND that despite being reported are STILL being sold on eBay. And these listings are quite literally in the THOUSANDS OF BATTERIES LISTED and £1000’s of pounds eBay will make on a commision basis.
Ebay are WELCOME to carry on with their charade. I will do what Has to be done also.

The case goes on. But I know I am right, if only because I HAVE asked the questions and am 200% sure about the law and eBays BLUSTER.


Chris Goddard 😊.

It is high time we legislated to penalise sites such as eBay and Amazon when they participate in, and profit from, the distribution in the UK of fake, unsafe and dangerous products behind the seeming protection of the “marketplace”.

Chris – Is there any indication that the fake 18650s are dangerous? These lithium batteries store a lot of energy and even well known companies have had problems with batteries going on fire. I think you will be more likely to succeed if there is a risk to customers.