Am I being scammed on eBay?
October 9, 2010 12:10 PM   Subscribe

eBay scam filter. I sold a laptop on eBay. The buyer says that it is broken. What now?

I am pretty experienced with eBay, but I've never had this problem.

I sold a used, good condition laptop on eBay. The winner appears to buy and sell laptop parts and his username sounds like a computer store and upon googling, it is a computer store in the midwest. He has 100% feedback.

After he won the item and paid for it via PayPal, he sent me a message: "I paid for this system right away. Anything you can do to ship it out ASAP, would be greatly appreciated. The wireless quit working in mine."

I thought that the wireless not working was strange for a computer store person, but whatever. I immediately withdrew the $300 from PayPal (heard too many horror stories), turned the laptop on and off (it worked), bought a laptop shipping box, and shipped it off to him (insured.) This all happened on Thursday.

Today I got this message: "We received this computer this morning and it doesn't even power on. The power connector on the side of the machine has been broken as is evident by the bent pin on one of the chargers. This item was presented as a functioning tablet in great shape. It doesn't even work. Please respond back with your resolution to this issue."

I told him that one of the 2 AC adapters was a little finicky and to try the other one. I told him that I turned it on and off before I shipped it (in a laptop mailer) and that I was surprised.

Then I got this message: "We tried both generic adapters and a genuine HP adapter. The problem is the same. It is the power connector on the tablet itself. From the looks of one of the adapters, the tip is bent, it was probably moved or tripped over when plugged in. We are a service shop that is capable of fixing that issue, but it is labor intensive as the tablet has to be conpletely disassembled; then the connector unsoldered and resoldered. Please let me know how to proceed. Sorry there have been problems."

I told him that again, I was surprised and that if he wanted to ship it back to me with all of the adapters, in a laptop box, with insurance, that I would refund him, minus eBay fees and shipping.

It is entirely possible that this is legit, but I am worried that I am being scammed. Maybe he stripped it for parts?

Does this sound scammy to you?
posted by k8t to Computers & Internet (34 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
One scam that occurs if he really does sell laptop parts is that this is a great way to get rid of a non-working laptop: find an identical model on ebay, buy it & then report it as faulty on delivery and ship the non-working laptop back to the seller, keeping the working one for yourself.

Did you keep a note of the serial numbers?
posted by pharm at 12:16 PM on October 9, 2010


Response by poster: Yes, I have photos of the old laptop, none of the serial number though. I do have the paperwork from buying it originally though, so I'm sure that I have it around.

If he sends me one back and it isn't mine, I guess I'd have to try to resolve it with eBay, right?
posted by k8t at 12:19 PM on October 9, 2010


maybe you only refund the money upon finding out if it is the same computer. I'd also check and make sure all the parts are there like you mentioned. If it's not, call up Ebay immediately - and let us know! Personally, I wouldn't refund the money if it's not in exactly the same shape as when it left your house - you had insurance on shipping. Maybe the problem occured in shipping?
posted by hardsilver at 12:26 PM on October 9, 2010


The wireless quit working in mine

We are a service shop that is capable of fixing [another]issue

The incompatibility of those two statements might be significant in any Ebay resolution.
posted by Neiltupper at 12:30 PM on October 9, 2010


Response by poster: Should I mention to him that I'll be checking the serial number or is that just an opportunity for him to swap the stickers?
posted by k8t at 12:30 PM on October 9, 2010


If you get back a different laptop, inform Ebay, the police, and if you shipped USPS - your postmaster. Mail fraud can be a felony.
posted by COD at 12:46 PM on October 9, 2010


If you do find the/a serial number recorded somewhere in your paperwork, it's possible to compare the two numbers even without the sticker. All you need to do (assuming it's a Windows laptop) is go into a command prompt and type "wmic csproduct." That should output all the identifying information that's contained on the stickers. If he does switch the stickers, you can use this as a slam-dunk way to make a case against him.
posted by nasreddin at 1:02 PM on October 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


I sounds a little scammy. You've done everything "right" prior to shipping, and pulling the money out of paypal is important. Tell them prior to shipping it back you've got pictures and video of it working, and if there turns out to be no problem you'll be charging them a 15% restocking fee. COD's and rasreddin beat me to the punch with mail fraud and csproduct.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 1:17 PM on October 9, 2010


Response by poster: If he did switch the laptop with another (broken) one and switched the stickers, Windows wouldn't load. :(
posted by k8t at 1:17 PM on October 9, 2010


Right now, he's suggesting you damaged your laptop's power connector through negligence prior to sending. Which you know to be untrue, right? (You turned it on. It worked. You turned it off and unplugged it. You did not break anything. You put it in the box and sent it.) So the only possible scenario in which this guy is not a scammer is that it got damaged in transit, which seems highly unlikely for a goobered connector.

I wouldn't mention the serial number to him. If he learns you're on to him, he could damage your actual laptop before sending it back just to spite you and/or protect his ebay cred.
posted by gueneverey at 1:28 PM on October 9, 2010


Is it a laptop or a tablet? The buyer's messages refer to a tablet:

This item was presented as a functioning tablet in great shape.

It is the power connector on the tablet itself.

We are a service shop that is capable of fixing that issue, but it is labor intensive as the tablet has to be conpletely disassembled; then the connector unsoldered and resoldered.

Is it possible that he bought a tablet from someone else, and he's e-mailing the wrong seller?
posted by russilwvong at 2:37 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he did switch the laptop with another (broken) one and switched the stickers, Windows wouldn't load. :(

We're talking the serial number of the laptop here, not the Windows license key.
posted by mendel at 2:52 PM on October 9, 2010


Response by poster: This laptop is a tablet laptop.
posted by k8t at 3:03 PM on October 9, 2010


Response by poster: We're talking the serial number of the laptop here, not the Windows license key.

He alleges that the computer won't even turn on though. He could have, theoretically, swapped the stickers, mailed me a broken machine, and if the machine won't turn on, I won't be able to get into Windows to see if it the same machine.
posted by k8t at 3:04 PM on October 9, 2010


How much did you ensure it for? Can he send it back and you claim the insurance? Even if you pay him back, you want to make sure you actually get the laptop.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:05 PM on October 9, 2010


Response by poster: I ensured it with USPS at a $320 value.

I will not give him any money until I get the laptop back and it works (and is the same serial number.)
posted by k8t at 3:21 PM on October 9, 2010


I told him that one of the 2 AC adapters was a little finicky

Is there a chance that it was the jack, and not one of the adapters, that was finicky, and that it just picked this inconvenient moment to finally fail completely? Because it seems like a stretch to think that a seller w/solid feedback is scamming you by complaining about a problem that is closely related to a problem you already knew about...
posted by jon1270 at 3:52 PM on October 9, 2010


Best answer: I don't believe him. That sounds sketchy. But anyway, seems you should (politely and in a non-accusatory way) let him know that you have records of the shipping information and insurance, and the serial numbers of the laptop, and that what he needs to do is return your laptop to you, and once you've verified that it is the same laptop and the laptop is not working, you can refund his money. If he sends it back and it is not working, you put in the claim with USPS and get $320 back because they damaged it.

That's my take on the subject off the top of my head: proceed with caution, this is sketchy. eBay has user forums where people give pretty good advice though. I would read those, no doubt this kind of situation comes up a lot.
posted by citron at 3:54 PM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: Citron, tis exactly what I said to him. Hoping that USPS works out if he doesn't.
posted by k8t at 4:13 PM on October 9, 2010


So basically the whole thing works out like this: he engages you on a 0 bucks per hour basis to make the USPS insurance system pay him the value of your laptop, which you know works fine. Is this correct? Or do you believe that there is an actual chance that USPS bent that pin?
posted by Namlit at 4:28 PM on October 9, 2010


Response by poster: All I know, Namlit, is that it worked 5 minutes before I packed it up. Now he says it doesn't work. I want my money.
posted by k8t at 4:34 PM on October 9, 2010


No need to deny him eBay fees on the refund, eBay should be refunding you that money anyway, so you shouldn't be out anything substantial.

I'm strongly leaning towards 'not a scam' right now, but if the buyer does anything sketchy from this point forward it is a bad sign.


The incompatibility of those two statements might be significant in any Ebay resolution.

There is nothing inconsistent about this. The wireless chip is a BGA, and they often have soldering problems--not easy to fix properly.
posted by Chuckles at 5:36 PM on October 9, 2010


All I know, Namlit, is that it worked 5 minutes before I packed it up.

Ya, things aren't generally this simple in real life.. Was the battery charged when you shipped it? If so, your test wouldn't have revealed a power connector problem. It could have damaged power connector that nonetheless works just well enough that you didn't notice.

I'm not saying this is the case, but you have to keep an open mind and see how things play out..
posted by Chuckles at 5:39 PM on October 9, 2010


First, why doesn't it work with the battery? A battery shouldn't go flat in transit like that.

Here is what I think happened, and there is no way to prove it that I know of (*): he had machine with a broken power connector. He bought yours with good connector. He swaps the part (motherboard) between laptops, and tells you yours is broke. No need to swap stickers, because everything except the motherboard really is yours.

And he possibly uses the HP software to switch the serial numbers in the BIOS as well.

* Two possible ways to tell: he forgot to change something back and forth, like different processor or different kind of wireless card, or forgot to change the serial number thing in the HP BIOS. Second way to tell: see if you can find your laptop's old MAC address. Compare it to the one you get back. Proceed from there.

Another way to proceed: tell him to file a claim with the USPS himself. Doesn't insurance protect the receiver, not necessarily the sender?
posted by gjc at 5:43 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you sold a laptop to a friend, sent it via USPS and it arrived DOA, wouldn't it be your friend's responsibility to file an insurance claim? This is the same thing, except that instead of your friend it's someone you sold it to via Ebay. You should tell him to file a claim with USPS, because if the laptop doesn't work it obviously broke in transit.
posted by Simon Barclay at 6:12 PM on October 9, 2010


If you sold a laptop to a friend, sent it via USPS and it arrived DOA, wouldn't it be your friend's responsibility to file an insurance claim?

Absolutely not. The person who paid the USPS is the only person able to file claim.

Further--and it is a bit of a tangent in this case--the seller is always responsible for delivering goods as described to the buyer. That's the contract you're entering when you make a sale by mail order. So all the "buyer must buy insurance" disclaimers are bogus.
posted by Chuckles at 7:05 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


On further review, it looks like the receiver can make a claim in the case of damage, but only the sender can make a claim in the case of total loss (reference). This is pretty unusual, most shipping agencies will only ever talk to the sender.
posted by Chuckles at 7:12 PM on October 9, 2010


Sorry, that should be: most shipping agencies will only ever talk to the purchaser (who they sometimes assume is the same as the sender, but it isn't always).
posted by Chuckles at 7:13 PM on October 9, 2010


Response by poster: Thanks all. Yes, I have the old MAC address from registering it with the university network.

The buyer hasn't contacted me since mid-day, even tho I sent a reminder message telling him I'd be out of town this week, so there would likely be a delay in evaluating the laptop. I wonder if he has realized that I might not be a good target. (I hope.)
posted by k8t at 7:17 PM on October 9, 2010


Ebay is so rife with scam artists these days, it sometimes isn't even worth the trouble to sell certain items. Laptops, cameras, cell phones and other high ticket electronic items are prime targets for scammers. In the future, film yourself (or have someone else record you) turning the item on, demonstrating that it works, and securely packaging it before you actually ship it. If the item is really high ticket, I also have someone film me handing it over to the postal/UPS/FedEx worker.

That way, if the buyer is a scam artist, or the item was damaged in shipping, you have clear-cut proof that it wasn't your fault.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:46 PM on October 9, 2010


I once bought a Craigslist laptop for something like $1,000 that involved meeting the seller, turning it on and seeing it boot up fine. A few days later the screen went pink. I contacted the seller. He said he was as surprised as I was. So maybe it really did conk out just then. Anyway we split the cost on the repair, which seemed fair to both of us.

Not saying your case is similar, just that there could be other non-scam explanations, including the one mentioned earlier about mixing up computers and sellers. I expect a shop that does repairs could make more money on repairs than lengthy negotiations.
posted by ecourbanist at 7:45 AM on October 10, 2010


Good luck. I'll tell you why I think this is sketchy. He hit you up right away with this "I need this now ship ASAP" email, which is unusual, and might convince a un-savvy seller to skip the important step of buying insurance. It's just oddly pushy. Then he over-explains the nature of the problem. I don't believe it. That's what my intuition tells me. I work in IT, not that I'm a hardcore techy, but it's one of those fields where you can BS people by over-explaining.. Whereas, if the laptop simply didn't work, the appropriate message is not that complicated: "This laptop is broken. Please refund my money."
posted by citron at 12:07 AM on October 11, 2010


So...?
posted by Simon Barclay at 5:53 PM on October 15, 2010


Response by poster: I held strong and finally he said it turned on. YAY!
posted by k8t at 12:36 PM on October 26, 2010


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