Did you see ITV “The eBay Scammers”?

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Billed as a “Documentary following the work of detectives to stop a criminal gang making millions of pounds from fraudulent transactions targeting customers of online site eBay”, ‘The eBay Scammers’ aired in an unscheduled program change on Thursday evening.

The programme followed the police as they tracked down a Romanian gang who were scamming people on eBay and therein lies my biggest issue with the programme. Without exception all of the scams were inflicted on people tempted to complete a purchase off eBay and the documentary almost totally failed to explain this but chose to portray eBay as a site which if you shop on you’re open to fraud.

It’s worth emphasising that all of the frauds perpetrated by the gang in ‘The eBay Scammers’ involved tempting people off eBay to pay by bank transfer. If you want to stay safe, just don’t send your money to someone you’ve never met for a car you’ve never seen. As shown in the programme, the receiving bank account will be emptied in minutes and you’ll never get your money back.

There were some passing mentions that the fraud wasn’t taking place on eBay in recordings of when crime officers spoke to victims, but the programme failed to explain clearly that the frauds only occurred when people were lured off eBay with scam emails. ITV then committed the cardinal sin of warning that you can be scammed when completing a purchase off eBay but totally omitting any advice on how to shop safely online.

ITV chose to ignore eBay’s assistance

This was no ordinary fraud, this was a gang so organised that they flew in people from Romania, met them at the airport and took them straight to multiple banks to open accounts to be used for fraud before flying them back out of the country. This was a multi-national criminal organisation dedicated to the cause of scamming as many online shoppers as possible. eBay worked closely with the Police and were crucial in bringing about the convictions.

“We were closely involved by the police in securing the conviction of the criminals shown in ITV’s programme. We have received thanks from the police on this case and will always work with law enforcement to stamp out this behaviour. We continue to work with the police and provide a range of tips to help customers to stay safe on site.”
– eBay

As the programme chose to omit all references to eBay’s assistance it was probably a bit embarrassing for the Police who were nowhere near as shy as ITV in acknowledging eBay’s involvement in a series of tweets:

Multi-National Organised Crime

Until you watch the programme you might wonder why it’s so easy for criminals to commit fraud on eBay and why the marketplace can’t simply stop it once and for all. What the documentary did show is that to commit fraud on this scale is not easy and how hard this particular multi-national gang worked. The film showed how well organised they were, operating almost like a business with meticulous records and what lengths they were prepared to go to.

When presented with a full set of supporting and in many cases genuine identification documents with a matching bank account, how do you differentiate between a genuine customer and a scammer? It poses the question as to why it’s so easy for someone to enter the country and the same day open accounts at multiple banks before flying back out never to be seen again.

The one redeeming aspect of the program was to show the devastation wreaked on victims but the jewel in the crown came at the end with the ringleader deserting his girlfriend and shown sobbing on the phone to his wife as he told her he was going to go to jail for many years. He might have been a criminal mastermind but in reality once caught he ended up as a pathetic scumbag snivelling in self pity.

It’s not hard to stay safe on eBay

Most of the scams featured in ‘The eBay Scammers’ involved sales of motor vehicles. Personally I’ve purchased 7 motors (5 cars, 2 vans) on eBay over a decade or so and never once had a problem. In fact as I write motors number 6 and 7 are safely parked on my drive. eBay is one of the safest place to buy a vehicle so long as greed doesn’t drive you to act in a stupid manner.

You wouldn’t see an ad in your local paper and happily transfer thousands of pounds because the seller said that they’d deliver the vehicle for you without ever seeing it, so just don’t do this on eBay. Should you be interested in purchasing a motor go and see it. Take it for a test drive. Ask to see the documentation. Do all the things that you’d do if you were going to buy a car anywhere other than eBay. In today’s world with mobile banking apps you can pay for the vehicle on the spot with a bank transfer when you’re satisfied that the car exists, is as described, the paperwork is in order and you’re about to be given the keys and drive away.

Seven top tips to staying safe when buying motors on eBay

Whilst the program might have failed to tell viewers how to stay safe on eBay, here on Tamebay we’re not so shy. If you search online there are thousands of tips on how to trade safely, not just on eBay but on any online platform. Here are my 7 top tips:

  • Check your sellers feedback and history on eBay
  • When possible complete the transaction on eBay and pay with PayPal (This isn’t always possible with motors)
  • For a large transaction don’t be afraid to call the seller before you pay a penny (This may be harder with eBay’s crack down on contact details in listings and messages, but if you’ve won the auction or clicked Buy It Now you should still be able to exchange contact details before you pay)
  • Don’t ever use money transfer services (e.g. Western Union)
  • Don’t pay for a car until you’ve seen it and are about to be handed the keys
  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash to pay for a car, do a transfer with a banking app or get a bankers draft
  • Don’t be fooled by the request for a deposit or ‘down payment’
  • Don’t be fooled by a request to pay a delivery charge (Also known as “Don’t be conned for even more money!”)
  • Most important of all use common sense – If it sounds too good to be true (e.g. If you’re buying a car worth £20k for £5k) then it probably is a scam

Watch the programme

If you missed the ITV programme and would like to see it for yourself, The eBay Scammers is available to view on the ITV Hub until the 30th of September.

19 Responses

  1. I also was scammed out of £6000 for a motorhome that never got delivered. I thought I was paying through PayPal

  2. Good work City Police and ebay. Seems a slewed documentary to me, as it seemed to mention in passing that it was a fake ebay page that most of the defrauded responded to; surely this can’t be an ebay problem, but more for Goverment and the Police? its easy to fake any page on the internet, probably a lot easier than faking a false ID, which the banks obviously have a issue to address.

  3. Also, we have to look at who can just walk into the UK, ie the “money mules”, who pitch up at any bank without a word of English and the banks let them open accounts.

    The “mules” are just being paid to turn up and pretend to be genuine for the gang leaders.

    But the banks have a role to pay in fraud prevention too. And lets face it, the Banks don’t loose out…….they just jack up mortgage rates or cut savers rates further to fill in any gaps they have in their profits.

    If the banks did not support crime by allowing all these fake accounts it would make it a bit harder for the Romanians to keep doing this type of thing.

  4. With the new Ebay rules concerning contact details I can see this becomming more of a problem as people will find it harder to view in advance of the end of auction. I do know that you can arrange to view before paying but just how many people will think of that I wonder (I have enough trouble trying to get some customers to not use paypal for cash on collection items as as soon as they win an auction many folks just automatically click the paypal button).

    I sell some large items that really need to be viewed beforehand (for fit and condition) and in recent weeks have seen a large drop in interest-thanks again Ebay!!

  5. Just about to deposit money through western union for the car i never see, and a person i do not know…..
    But some was not seem to add up.

  6. There is just one rule to be had here. Don’t pay for something that the buyer won’t let you come and look at before hand no matter if they are genuine sellers or not especially vehicles. It seems obvious to me and I do feel for the people who have lost money from this, that said banks should be refunding these people after all they are at fault for making it so easy for just about anyone to open an account.

  7. seems to me most people scammed dont know the first thing about online security. the biggest one being always log into your bank/ paypal/ ebay direct and never trust any email (link) that reports to be them. basic 101 stuff.

  8. I got scammed last week , thinking I bought a motorbike on Ebay. It was a fishing email with a link on it pretending to be Ebay.’s.They were so clever , they pretended that money are transferred to Ebay, and be protected by Money Back Guaranteed, they had a live chat that we thought is the Ebay customer sevice . Always log on www. ebay with the padlock on!! I lost £3500 . The bank did nothing, Ebay couldn’t do nothing as they have no records on their website. I have all the pictures of conversations between me and seller. I know I lost all money. Don’t do the same mistake. If it is too good to be true it is!! Dont be rushed into buying something and dont trust anyone!

  9. If this real is a scam…i wish to save somebody else too.how can i do that….
    It surely hurt to see ppl easily steal money from innocent and hard working ppl.and just get aware with it.

  10. I really would have liked to watch this show. I tried signing up and I got the wrong postal code message. Ilive in USA and did give the right postal code for my area…I giess this is only available for GB?

  11. eBay’s Contact Details under the “Advanced” link does not work. I am now logging every contact detail attempt that I make after purchasing with screenshots. Obstructing “caveat emptor” is an unfair contract term. Accepting fraudsters funds for adverts is money laundering, AKA Stateside as “racketeering”. Check out RICO.

  12. Hi
    I feel the big problem with ebay today, is you can not see thr sellers address , even when you buy the item on collection only the address is not shown. You need to ask for it which could be anywhere .


  13. Disappointed with the small sentences they all received and now taxpayers have to pay to house them in the jail, wasn’t surprised when they suddenly forgot how to speak English,also there’s no way they’ll do all of their sentences,probably let out after half,any point in deporting them? Probably not,they’ll be back in the country with a new id to start over again,the program said they would take the house off the leaders family and where were they hoping to put them then? Into a house paid for by tax payers? Because I’m sure they work? Erm not really! Good work by police catching them but government needs to close all immigration immediately, should have done it years ago!


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