- Consider auctions other than ebay! This has nothing to do with slamming ebay. The problem with ebay, from a buyers point of view, is that there are too many bidders. This drives the price up, sometimes beyond retail! I know of many people who regularly buy things on other auctions (cheap) because there are fewer bidders, and then resell those same items on ebay for a profit. :-) If you want to get the best deal, go to where you have fewer people to bid against you.
- PRINT OUT THE PAGE! Not this page, the page of the ad you are bidding on! :-) If
you have a hard copy of the page, you will have evidence to substantiate a dispute. Saving it to the hard drive is not good enough. This simple thing saved me $237 on one auction and $210 on another. If you plan on paying with a credit card, and want to reserve your right to dispute an unauthorized charge, you must have a hard copy of the ad.
- Read the Feedback of the Seller. Be very cautious when bidding on items offered by sellers with feedback ratings of less than approximately 100. Consider feedback linked to an item much, much higher than feedback not linked to an item. Anyone can easily create a feedback rating 10, 20 even 50 or more. It's easy. But to create a feedback rating of 100, all linked to items, that's more difficult. If the item you are considering is expensive, (by your standards) be extra cautious.
- Email constantly. Any breach of more than 24 hours without a response to your email should make you suspicious. All reputable sellers on the auctions I know are online at least twice a day checking email. While missing email isn't a sure sign of a crook, it makes me more cautious.
- Don't always pay by credit card. Paying by credit card is usually considered the best way, however, there is a caveat to this... giving your credit card number to someone you've never met is a chance you are giving it to a crook. I know of a report of a crook putting up monitors for a very low price... just to get the credit card numbers of the "winning" bidders.) I would never give a credit card number to anyone with a feedback rating of less than 100. You can also ask for their merchant number and/or bank so that you can call and verify they indeed are a legitimate credit card accepting business. If you can verify their merchant account or they have substantial feedback, then paying by credit card is the preferred method when possible.
- Start small! Your first purchase should never be a $2000 laptop! Buy some rubber ducks for $4 each and work your way up. In the process you will learn the ropes and be less likely to get ripped off. And if you do get ripped off, the amount will be less. I know of one guy whose first auction purchase was for a $2000 laptop... You guessed it; he never got his laptop. I know I'm rubbing salt in the wound, but your first auction should NEVER be a high dollar item!
- Decide what you will spend for an item and stick to that amount. Pick a number of what the item is worth to you, and stick with it. By doing this, you effectively kill most shill bidders.
- Watch for retracted bids. Shill bidders (I call them "shillers") are people who bid on their own auction to drive the price up. If you see a bid retracted on the last day of the auction, chances ares, it's a shill bid. Any Auction site that allows retractions on the last day of the auction is turning a blind eye to the shillers. There may be 1 time in a 100 that a retraction on the last day is not be a Shill bid, but there are also 99 Shills out there for the one that isn't. If you follow No. 6 above, you will be less likely to be the victum of a shill.
You may be asking why would a shiller retract their bid? They do this to find your maximum bid price, ie, the maximum you are willing to pay. A shiller will bid you up to find your maximum bid. Then retract their bids (usually on the last day) and then under another account, place a bid that drives the price of the auction to just under your maximum price. Your proxy bid then tops their shill bid, and you just paid more than the market demanded for that item. That's not how auctions are suppose to work. If no one else is interested in the item, an auction is supposed to allow you to buy at a reduced price. Instead a shiller can find what you are willing to pay, and then manipulate the auction so that you pay it, even if no one else want's the item. This is one downside to proxy bidding. In addition a shiller can put you into an "auction frenzy" and have you bidding more than the item is worth. Lot's of people get very competitive when someone is trying to take "their stuff!" :-)
- Get the personal information of the seller, and PRINT IT OUT! Do not depend on emails or being able to access the auction site later. Compare what you have with where they ask you to send the check or money order. I know it sounds obvious, but people don't compare! UPDATE: eBay no longer provides complete information of the user. Makes it easier for the crooks to hide. Nice move ebay.
- Be a detective. If you suspect shill bidding, use the search function of auction to search for other auctions the suspected shiller is bidding on. Now use the search function to get a list of the items the seller is selling. Compare the two. If you see the same name on both lists more than a few times... you probably caught yourself a shiller. Now don't call the cops. There might be a reasonable explanation. If the seller is selling laptops and the buyer really is looking for a laptop, he or she may bid on more than one auction for a laptop. However, if the seller is selling laptops, lampshades, and lassos, and you see the same bidders on all, or even some of them, you can be pretty confident that's shill bidding. Obtain and compare the personal information on both seller and suspected shiller. If they are similiar, you've caught your suspect Holmes! Some of the better shillers have multiple accounts, so it can be pretty tough to spot, but if you are diligent you usually can find them. I have more ways to find shill bidders that I'm not willing to disclose here at this time, but will work with online Auction Houses to help them solve the problem.
- On second thought, maybe this page should be printed out! :-) If this information is valuable to you, don't send me any money, just click on one of my sponsors banner ads here and the link below. :-) Oh, and send us feedback if these tips have helped you. What keeps us going is knowing we are helping!