Ebay fake bidding
October 17, 2007 1:23 PM   Subscribe

I am bidding on an item in ebay and suspect that someone is throwing in fake bids. Is this illegal and how do I find out if it is the case? Can ebay trace a fake bid?
posted by username68 to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
shill bidding is a crime in most states.

you can complain to eBay but its hit and miss.

I found one crook who was using his wife's account to bid up all his auctions and eventually eBay had to make up a new rule as a result of my complaint that people in the same house bidding on their own items is considered shill bidding.
posted by Mr_Crazyhorse at 1:26 PM on October 17, 2007

Seems like there's a solution: use some sniping software. Either you buy it for a price you're willing to pay, or he buys it from himself while paying ebay a cut.
posted by alexei at 1:38 PM on October 17, 2007

It is illegal if it is the case. Why do you think it's happening?

I can't say I've ever been convinced an auction I was involved with had shill bidding but there are signs to watch for (the bidder bids on a bunch of the seller's auction but never wins being a big one).
posted by drezdn at 1:50 PM on October 17, 2007

Can ebay trace a fake bid?

Of course, but there's no financial incentive for them to do so, since anything that drives up auction prices will increase their cut at auction's end.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:50 PM on October 17, 2007

Detecting it is usually a matter of inference: you look for a pattern across several items. (You can 'search by bidder ID' to see if a particular user is only bidding on particular items.)

You'll usually see shills used to set 'soft reserves' on valuable items in no-reserve auctions with low minimum starts. And eBay is really hit-and-miss about it, even though shill bidding is designed primarily to rob eBay of reserve/placement fees.

But as alexei says, if you snipe, you won't end up in a bidding war with a shill.
posted by holgate at 1:52 PM on October 17, 2007

eBay could trace it, but they're probably not going to bother. There was a brief period where I, being intrinsically vindictive, found a similar cheater and so went around methodically bidding up his auctions, forcing him to bid higher, and then walked away leaving him to "win".

It was simple: I was extremely aggressive in bidding. The moment he bid up, I outbid him by a small increment. Do this a few times and the crook thinks he's got someone really interested, so he'll bid up by a markedly larger sum. Once that happens, I walked away. Naturally, I got subsequent messages about how the "deal had fallen through" and did I want the item now?

...then I realized I had better things to do with my time, and since I didn't actually want any of his things, it was just a pointless exercise that was arguably punishing legitimate users and risking my money.

This was a couple years ago. I don't think eBay has gotten more proactive since then.
posted by aramaic at 1:53 PM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Further to alexei's suggestion AuctionStealer offer a good free sniping service.
posted by Dr.Pill at 2:12 PM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

this is why you never ever bid until the last 15 seconds or so. There is no benefit to biffing earlier than that, you only artificially drive up the price for yourself and others. check out www.jbidwatcher.com if you don't think you can button mash fast enough.
posted by TomMelee at 2:17 PM on October 17, 2007

I recommend checking the community/discussion boards/bidding via your eBay account and do a search for "shill" or "fake." There's a lot of good information tucked away in these discussion boards. I was able find answers to some of my problems with the eBay interface rather than emailing eBay customer support which usually takes 24 hours or more to get an answer.
posted by plokent at 2:22 PM on October 17, 2007

I agree with the 'don't get caught up in the bidding war' concept.

Ebay only gets you a bargain if you totally ignore all the fun of the site. Put your details into Hammersnipe or something. Stick the price you are prepared to pay for the item into it and walk away. Don't go back until the item is gone. If it goes, it goes.

That way, you get what you want for the money you want (or less) and Hammersnipe (or equiv) does all the last minute stuff for you up to a winning bid at or lower than your price. This works better of there are a lot of the things you want, but patience usually pays off.
posted by Brockles at 4:17 PM on October 17, 2007

Bid in the final moments of the auctions, I mean 20-30 second range. Enter the maximum you are prepared to pay. Obviously if the item goes above your maximum before the end then forget it. No sensible person should be bidding on an eBay auction outwith the final half hour (can't believe I am saying this, I rely on chumps spending a week outbidding each other for my rent.)
posted by fire&wings at 4:24 PM on October 17, 2007

The other way to avoid a bidding war is to be the very first bidder on an item, in the assumption that some interested parties will decide not to bother. But between then and the final snipetastic seconds? Don't even look, because eBay ain't cracking down on shill bidders any time soon.
posted by holgate at 5:33 PM on October 17, 2007

When I buy things on eBay I determine what my maximum price is that I want to pay and I bid it. Then I either win or I don't.

Doing anything else is some combination of overpaying, rewarding bad behavior, or shortening your lifespan through stress.

You can certainly use the sniping tools or bid only in the last moments but personally I don't want to encourage sniping and I just don't have the attention span and schedule flexibility to keep going back to auctions at set times. Your mileage may vary.

But definitely stop getting involved in bidding wars. And don't hold your head under water waiting for anyone - eBay or law enforcement - to make an effort at stopping the behavior.
posted by phearlez at 2:35 PM on October 18, 2007

phearlez: what you're doing is also overpaying.
posted by delmoi at 6:28 PM on October 18, 2007

Overpaying is entirely a subjective measurement. To me, having decided ahead of time what the item is worth to me, I am not overpaying. While I may sometimes get my final price bid up higher than it should be by the seller using shills I also sometimes leave their shill account holding the bag. For me, that is enough.

For others it's not, which is why sniping tools exist. To you, and others here, you are overpaying if you pay $0.01 more than you could if you were to utilize tools or arrange to manually place your bid close to auction closing time. Nothing wrong with that, it's just not for me.

The real tragedy for a buyer (and victory for a seller), however, is when someone overpays because they've placed a bid and then continued to place more bids in response to another's bids, beyond what they originally wanted to spend for the item. It doesn't matter if you avoid that behavior by using tools or by having a strategy & amount you stick to, so long as you avoid that bidding frenzy.
posted by phearlez at 8:20 AM on October 19, 2007

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