eBay scam?
March 22, 2007 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Is this a simple eBay scam or something else?

I consider myself fairly internet savvy, but this situation has me perplexed.

(Names changed for my security):

My name is "John Smith". I'm a guy of simplicity so my primary, personal email address is johnsmith@gmail.com. I do not have an eBay account.

There is an eBay account with the name johnsmith which is not my account. So someone has the same name as me - no big deal. He has 100% good feedback and has had the account since 2001, he enjoys buying army products. Good for him; no problem there.

The odd thing is that I often receive emails (to inbox, not spambox) telling me that I am being offered the chance to buy one of these army products as "my" bid (i.e. HIS bid) came in second and the winning bidder failed to pay. The emails are sometimes HTML formatted "official" looking emails and sometimes standard text from the ebay seller: "The following eBay item on which you placed a bid for US$ 121.22 is now available for purchase" etc...

Now, why would I get these emails? Why is my personal email associated with this other guys account - who has the same name as me? I don't think this is a case of simple spam. I just don't... get it! Maybe I'm missing something here?
posted by rocco to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like something going wrong on eBay's advertising end. They know he buys army stuff and johnsmith@gmail.com is a very easy e-mail address to hit, so they're doing it, even if it isn't the address in his profile. Do you know for certain that he's a real person with real bids? I'd contact him and check, or just delete the e-mails when they come in.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 11:47 AM on March 22, 2007

Did eBay user johnsmith actually bid on the things referenced in the e-mails? You can check this by looking at the item's bid history. If not, it could be plain old phishing.
posted by Dec One at 11:49 AM on March 22, 2007

When you have a plain your-name email address (I have tomwalker@ all sorts of places), you tend to get emails intended for all the losers with addresses like tomwalker8569586@whatever.com. I think it's just that some people don't realise the numbers are actually important, or something, and go around entering your email address as theirs. You'd think eBay would have some kind of confirmation to defeat that, but maybe your address has been put down as some kind of secondary email address that isn't checked.
posted by reklaw at 11:55 AM on March 22, 2007

This has happened to a couple people I know. It's phishing. Contact the actual parties involved and I bet they have nothing to do with it.
posted by sarelicar at 12:05 PM on March 22, 2007

Definitely a scam! The only person that would have access to the winning bidders actual email address is the seller. These guys are probably phishing for the winning bidder's email address by sending second chance offers to all the popular email addresses, like johnsmith@yahoo, johnsmith@hotmail, etc.

You can forward the email to spoof@ebay.com and they'll tell you whether or not it's legitimate. But I can say with almost full certainty that it's phishing. Sending fake second chance offers is a fairly common way to bilk someone.
posted by suki at 12:15 PM on March 22, 2007

Of course, I can't find it now, but I believe there was a piece in Wired (late 2005 ish?) about how gmail uses fuzzy address recognition. So if you truly are using johnsmith@gmail, it might be a gmail problem more than an ebay one.

For example, I am amy.reallastname@gmail, and I get a boatload of mail for the amyreallastname without the dot. Mostly from when she's been registering at online shopping sites. It's weird, but I just filter them into spam.
posted by librarianamy at 12:22 PM on March 22, 2007

I get fake ebay emails all the time that don't make it through my gmail spam filter. I always report them as phishing (since the link urls and headers indicate that it's not actually from eBay -- are yours?) or else I'd give you specific subjects & details, but they're usually something like "need payment on this" or "question for seller" and formatted appropriately. My vote is for phishing.
posted by artifarce at 1:03 PM on March 22, 2007

librarianamy: Gmail doesn't recognize the dot as a relevant character. amyreallastname@gmail is also your email address, and the emails you receive to it are likely spam, not legit emails meant for someone else.
posted by decathecting at 1:17 PM on March 22, 2007

Best answer: Sure, this is a basic scam, as others here have been telling you. The mechanism is as follows:

Scammer looks at any eBay auction which is not private and doesn't have the bidder name blocked. A nonbidding eBay member can see the history of bidder IDs and their associated highest bid on an auction before the auction closes. So, the scammer grabs valid eBay member IDs off a public auction with knowledge of what they bid.

Many people have an eBay ID that is the same as their e-mail address. The scammer, impersonating the seller, sends a bogus second chance offer to the second name on the list, or more likely the entire bidder list, because it's all a numbers game of who-falls-for-this-scheme anyway. Gmail is very popular, so scammer tries sending the scam e-mail to eBay_ID@gmail.com, plus Yahoo and other common e-mail domains. The hapless losing eBay member thinks "a-ha! I can get the item after all for and for what I was willing to max bid" and happily sends along credit card information, or the scammer gives a revised address which the member sends payment to.

There are two things which help this scam. First is that eBay has an official second chance offer mechanism for sellers, so it's not an unlikely scenario. Second, the scammer is trading on the good reputation of the seller. As far as an ignorant second chance bidder is concerned, they are sending payment to a seller with a good track record and feedback score.

The scam is countered by knowing that real second chance offers come through the official online eBay message system, so if you're a member and you don't see the offer through eBay, it ain't real. But a lot of members don't know that. It's why many sellers are publicly vocal in their dislike of second chance offers and why you see listing instructions which say they don't make second chance offers. I've easily lost a hundred bids on eBay and have only had one legitimate second chance offer afterwards.

Basically, your problem is that you have an e-mail address (sans domain) which matches an eBay ID of someone who has lost on public auctions and is fairly active on eBay.
posted by mdevore at 1:26 PM on March 22, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks all... Yes, I concede it's a simple scam. I guess it just caught me off guard.
posted by rocco at 1:54 PM on March 22, 2007

Interesting decathecting, I'm going to have to look into this a bit more - since I've corresponded and exchanged photos with the person without the dot, because I kept getting party invitations for her. Since she's in London, and I'm in Pittsburgh, her friends are certainly not inviting me. Now I'm very curious...
posted by librarianamy at 6:24 PM on March 22, 2007

Google doesn't recognize the dot. Sounds like something strange is going on in your situation. Best of luck figuring it out.
posted by decathecting at 7:53 PM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

I agree it's probably a scam, but also people can enter their email address incorrectly. I have a very simple hotmail address which gets a lot of wrong email, including some registrations for software with codes etc. Not scams, but actual `thank you for your purchase, Mr Very similar name, here is the code'. Also occasional important legal documents, etc.
posted by tomble at 10:05 PM on March 22, 2007

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