The “brick in a box” scam

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It’s not often that you get a buyer who is an out and out fraudster, but that’s just what’s happened to a friend Alistair who runs one of the biggest car accessory outfits trading on eBay – . His warehouse is just a couple of units down from me so he walked the evidence across to show me.

Having shipped a car battery charger the buyer said they’d changed their mind and returned it. The box looked fine and it was sent with tracking but when opened the contents looked nothing like the original product. Basically the buyer switched the product for a broken dirty useless DVD player just to make up the weight and returned it claiming his money back from PayPal.

Alistair is going to pursue this vigorously and has already reported the matter to the police and obtained a crime reference number. His next step is to speak to his account manager at eBay to report the buyer and start a claim against the buyer. We’ll let you know how he gets on as soon as we have more news.

This isn’t something that happens very often to eBay traders, and the buyer is leaving themselves wide open to prosecution. If it does ever happen to you make sure that it’s reported to both eBay and the police, if nothing else it’ll flag the buyer and might prevent them carrying out the same scam on another seller.

22 Responses

  1. Good luck Alistair. This is an outrageous situation. If I were the buyer in Spain, I would be quaking in my boots…because once its reported to the Police he will be flagged…also I bet he has done it to others.

    I hope ebay help you out here and as a minimum block the buyers account

  2. its deplorable and we hope alistair gets the result he should

    though whats the betting nowt happens and alistair wastes time money and effort chasing his own tail,
    the buyer only needs to say it must have been swapped between him and delivery and there is nowt anyone can do

  3. police are not going to do anything much most of them they are running around here looking for Rambo Moat

  4. If the police follow it up, the only way the buyer can be blamed is if his prints are on the dvd player.

    Maybe it was swapped in transit…;-)

  5. If this happens in the USA the seller will get nothing, it is your word against the scamming buyer and buyers can do no wrong.

  6. This is, as Chris says, very rare.

    There is a more subtle variant of this scam – the broken iPod scam – where the buyer sends back his broken version of the product he buys, claiming yours doesn’t work, thus wangling himself a free repair.

    You’re more likely not to spot it than the “brick” and he might get away with it.

  7. this is similar to the broken in the post Doulton figurine return scam.
    and when we received the package it was empty scam,
    we treat it as just the price of doing business on Ebay we gave up reporting these things as not being time effective years ago, fortunatly it only happens very rarely
    so its bearable

  8. Wow, I’ve never heard this happening to a seller before. Unless a fake address was used (and in fairness, if the PayPal account was fake, they would have not bothered to return the “item”), this fraudster is in for some big time trouble.

    I hope your friend makes an example out of this crook.

  9. I’ve just remembered of a time when I bought a Playstation 2 (some years ago) from a Blockbuster store (brand new).

    When I got it home there was a used console inside. I knew exactly what they were going to think, and I felt really guilty.

    It was a real battle to get them to change it but eventually they did, I could tell they thought I had swapped it…must have been one of they little oiks working in the shop.

    I learnt from this that no matter how guilty someone may at first appear, you just never know.

  10. maybe the UK is different. But this is nothing new in the states. Also how do you proof the buyer didn’t ship the battery charger…

  11. When it gets really interesting is when they resell your item on the same venue. Make sure to watch his sold items to see if he does.

  12. Good luck with the police. They told us a few years ago that most police forces won’t look into ANY fraud on eBay, as there’s just so much of it.

  13. The trick to nailing this type of scammer is to get the weights of the different packages – they should be the same if the item was just returned and they almost never are.

    As well s notifying ebay and the police, file a report with the Post Office – they have inspectors that investigate mail fraud cases and they can often succeed.

  14. Don’t take this wrong Chris but your introduction contains statements that because of the crass way Ebay is now run you can’t possibly know to be true

    “It’s not often that you get a buyer who is an out and out fraudster”

    “This isn’t something that happens very often to eBay traders”

    “The buyer is leaving themselves wide open to prosecution”

    Your story demonstrates perfectly just how rubbish Ebay has become and as you mention in another story perceived to be no fun by a great deal of people.

    There is absolutely no doubt that the story is true. Your friend as a reputable trader has absolutely no interest in making up such a story he knows that, you know that and everybody reading this knows that to be true. But will Ebay believe him? As the established long term trader with a solid reputation or a buyer they know nothing about and who is far more likely to be trying it on than your friend. I think we all know that there is just as much chance or an even better chance they will side with the latter than the former.

    Previously your friend could have alerted others by posting the appropriate feedback which he can no longer do. If he posts the persons user name in a forum that Ebay reads he may will get his own account restricted. Anyone circulating a list of such buyers would also face similar sanctions. He is at least lucky that he can report it to an account manager. Of course if it happened on an individuals account that option wouldn’t be open to him at all.

    That’s the scandal of Ebay, that such scams have become EASIER on Ebay not more difficult. This fraudster is an amateur the real professionals just scam individuals who have no way of reporting this to Ebay. High value low post cost items are a particular favourite.

    Of course the scams can work both ways. There was one story of someone who signed for a packet of nuts instead of jewellery. In which case as it stands now they would then have to get a professional jeweller to fax a letter to Ebay to say they were not jewellery but nuts and the buyer would have to sign an affidavit to say they received nuts not jewellery and swear on oath that they had destroyed the nuts and then you MIGHT get your money back. It’s a farce and yes its no fun.

    It would be practically impossible for the fraudster who tricked your friend to be convicted in court. Unless there were several people claiming the same thing happened to them the buyer isn’t likely to be prosecuted. However Ebay does not require any such burden of proof and should look at the facts and take action to stop this fraudster of course scandalously they almost certainly will not.



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