"Safeguarding Members IDs is not a licence to shill"

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Sean_Coolness has been an eBay member since 2001, and describes himself as “addicted”. Specialising in motorcycles, he feels strongly that eBay should do everything they can to protect his customers from the fake ‘second chance offers’ which have left too many people with no goods and no money. Here are his thoughts.

Let me first say that I totally agree with eBay’s new Safeguarding Members’ IDs policy, because it stops fake second chance offers dead!

Sellers of high value items, like myself, suffer greatly from scammers sending out fake second chance offers to underbidders. The scammers had the underbidders’ IDs from the items bid history, and could see just how much that person had bid. So it was pretty easy for them to send out a fake email which looked identical to eBay’s own. Too many people have fallen foul of this, and enough of them, sellers and bidders alike, have complained about it that eBay have finally taken action.

This is a controversial decision which many think gives the seller greater scope for shill bidding. This simply isn’t true.

bid history screenshot
click for full screenshot

In the new style bid history, there is a link to each bidders’ bid history, showing their activity not just with the current seller, but with any seller. So if a seller is using a second account to push up the price, which is what shill bidding is all about, it will show. You can see how many times the bidder has bid on this seller’s items, how many other sellers’ items they have bid on, and other such information which was previously hard work to compile from the various searches available in advanced search.

bid history screenshot
click for full screenshot

In fact, a glance you can see the whole bidding activity of the bidder, and in far more detail than previously readily available. Coupled with eBay stopping private feedback, this actually reduces the scope for dodgy sellers to push prices up by shill bidding.

It has also been said by others that shill bidding is a “lesser” crime than fake second chance offers, as people who enter their maximum bid, and stick to it, can’t be pushed higher by shill bidding. Where as with fake second chance offers, people have been ripped off for hundreds and even thousand of pounds. I’m not so sure I agree with this, but I do understand the sentiments.

So, with the bidder’s identity hidden from general view, is it still possible to see if a seller is shill bidding, or getting a mate to regularly bid up their auctions? The answer is basically yes:

1) Using the link provided by eBay you can see how many different items and the number of sellers the bidder has bid on. If the bidder has only ever bid on one seller’s auctions, but has bid on many different items, you can draw your own conclusion.

2) If a high value item is re-listed a good number of times, I would suspect the dodgy seller has “won” their own item in their efforts to push the price higher than genuine bidders are willing to pay. Remember there are a number of legitimate reasons why a seller has to re-list an item once or twice, so this isn’t a hard and fast rule.

3) Common sense. Never underestimate your gut feeling.

Finally, not all sellers of 99p no reserve auctions are dodgy sellers; some of us use it as a sales pitch to generate more interest in our items ๐Ÿ™‚

Sean_Coolness

12 Responses

  1. I’m amazed that you think this is a good idea.

    Hidden bidder ID’s make it almost impossible to spot and report shills, and the 30 day anonymous bidder’s history is useless for detecting fraudulent activity. The active eBay community are appalled by the new sytem: Safeguarding Member IDs eBay Forum thread

    And if it stops fake second chance offers dead, how come we’re still getting them?

    That eBay decided to allow second chance offers was ill-judged at best, greedy at worst. Had they not done so, buyers could have continued to protect themselves by the simple expedient of never buying through emails (whether or not they appear to come from eBay). As it is, the scams will continue to thrive – particulary if people believe the new system “stops fake second chance offers dead”.

    Brushing away shill bidding as a “lesser crime” won’t do, as I think you realize. It is fraudulent. It costs the buyers by forcing them to pay more than they would in a legitimate auction. Sure the bidders’ maximum bid indicates what they’re prepared to pay if other genuine bidders force them to, but the purpose of an auction is not to realize that price regardless (much as that may suit eBay’s coffers).

  2. It is amazing how a small amount of “core” ebay users believe they actually detect and help stop shill bidding. Ebay has more technology in place to detect shill bidding than people give them credit for. Ebay is tracking IP addresses, registration names and dates and many other factors that a bidder/seller can never see…and ebay will be giving the site more visiblitity on data that was previously not available to bidders. Pennymachines really does not get it, stopping fraud is more important that helping him save $3 on a item. Ebay rolled out this policy in motors in Nov. and they are rolling it out in core this week. So you will still recieve second chance offers until this is fully roled out on the site.

  3. Ummm why would I trust a mega seller’s opinion on shilling when his motivation is to make as much money as he can from his own auctions? Shilling comes in many forms and does nothing but help the seller and Ebay. Why should we trust either to do anything that isn’t in their best interest? It’s no wonder why Ebay has invoked this new practice of concealing ID’s. It does nothing but protect their own interests.

    The bit about sellers activities being better revealed now is BS. It hasn’t changed anything. Ebay is rampant with shill bidders who do so in the open and they rarely do anything when informed about it. There are numerous examples of high profile sellers who have admitted to shilling and rarely if ever has anything ever happened to the them.

    The same goes for sellers peddling bootlegged or illegal goods. Thousands of complaints are logged on a daily basis and rarely if ever is an offending item removed, especially if the seller does a lot of business with Ebay. It’s only the small sellers whose items get removed or whose accounts get suspended. Ebay doesn’t mess with it’s breadwinners so don’t be stupid enough to suggest otherwise.

  4. This is a fairly typical eBay response: 2nd chance offers lead to fraudulent offers, customers complain, eBay thinks about it a while, decides 2nd chance offers are not the problem, and solves the problem by hiding bidder names. If that weren’t so dumb it would be funny.

    Shilling is the MAJOR problem that breaks down trust in an auction system. Tangential frauds do not affect the integrity of the auction itself. People who do not trust the BIDDING system will bid less and less often. Sellers lose and lose big. eBay will also lose and will lose as long as they remove transparency from their auction system.

    Frauds caused by their 2nd chance idea are a black eye, fewer bids are bottom line. Someone at eBay will eventually crunch the numbers with that super system alluded to above and maybe common sense will return (along with transparency – and an end to the second chance nonsense).

  5. It’s a complete joke on all concerned. Ebay will NEVER do anything about shill bidding on Power Sellers and rarely in any other case. Anyone who has any experience buying / selling on ebay spots those auctions with “kinky” bidding going on. Sometimes it is so blatant it is pathetic and other times a bit more sophisticated as if it is being done by a “conglomerate” of some sort. It is time for someone to come forth with an HONEST online auction. Ebay does NOTHING to police violators especially when they are Power Sellers. Any search online involving the words ” shill, bidding, ebay, FBI, investigation, fraud, etc” will return null or minimal or OLD results. I refuse to believe that there are NO active investigations against EBAY “itself” for its apparent active participation OR at least their apparent knowledge of, without CEASING the practice. It is almost as if they now support it with these “bidder protected” auctions. I have a rule, any auction with “protected bidders” or with any LOW or NO feedback user running up the auction in an almost ridiculous pattern, or any seller who re-sells the same item over and over again ( barring any legitimate Dealers), any one with HIDDEN or Astronomical Shipping / Handling charges, a seller who continually stops an auction that does not reach a certain price, or suspected shill bidding … I refuse to bid on those auctions or even waste my time watching them. I had written Ebay many times with complaints, all of them were SOLID and PROVABLE, the evidence was a NO-BRAINER … a child could have seen it. Those complaints come back with “sucker” responses. I have also written them to ADD a function within each user account … where he or she could BLOCK any auctions …. that are offered by a seller that he or she is suspicious of.
    Again, no response. Figure this all out for yourself. Ebay has become a world-wide necessary evil but I would support anyone with enough guts and money to start a HONEST Web Auction site that would become a REAL THREAT to Ebay. The last FRAUD Ebay article I found online in the major search engines was 2000. THAT is impossible, so I started searching the lesser known search engines lime Mama, etc. See what you get then !! The Stakes are big, the PAY off is bigger and the Big Corporations are getting fat on ILLEGAL practices. If you doubt me … report a legitimate complaint on Suspected shill bidding or POWERSELLER inappropriate actions and SEE what happens. You will get MORONIC responses. Try to CALL Ebay for a complaint … that is even a bigger waste of time and effort.

  6. You seem to have a problem with PowerSellers and an assumption that they get special treatment. Whilst you’re perfectly entitled to your opinion I have to disagree. PowerSellers are subject to the same rules as any other seller on eBay and people that intimate they get special treatment are quite simply wrong. If you log onto the PowerSeller chat boards you’ll find plenty of threads to back this up.

  7. …. And if you really are a “real auction house owner”, then you really do have a vested interest in spreading your dirt about eBay sellers, don’t you!!

  8. I’m amazed by this discussion about something which many experts are divided over.

    Some “know-it-alls” claim it is rampant. Others say that eBay can detect all and stop it dead. eBay may well have the technology, but to me it look likes they rarely employ it. But is it really as bad as some would have you believe?

    The plain fact is, both the small seller and the large sell want the same thing, the most amount of money for their item as they can get. Ergo, some, not all, will get a mate to push the price up. Or use a second ID.

    Its a fact of life. I think those that moan the most have either an ulterior motive or do it themselves!

  9. I have to confess that I am guilty of shill bidding. In all honesty I didn’t realise it was illegal and I hadn’t even heard of the term before Ebay suspended my account. I knew it was unethical, of course, but illegal? Ultimately nobody forces people to bid if the price is too high but I accept I shouldn’t have done it. The items were in the price range of 30-50 pounds. What is the likelihood of prosecution? Ebay will allow me to sell again after 14 days.

  10. Hi Ronin, thanks so much for posting, many people don’t believe eBay are active in detecting shill bidding so it’s great news to know that they are. I don’t think eBay are likely to prosecute you so you can rest easy there. The good news is that if you’ve received a 14 day suspension and it was your first one it’s likely they’ll allow you back onto the site but I can’t promise as I don’t know the circumstances.

  11. Thanks for replying Chris. You’ve certainly put my mind at rest. The annoying thing is I’m quite new to Ebay and it was a very experienced seller who first suggested we bid on each others items. Ebay suspended my account but not his. Presumably, because he’s been selling for years, he has other contacts with whom he shills. Anyway, I’ve certainly learnt my lesson.

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