Despite a lot of publicity that eBay is going after fraud, the bottom line is that the buyer better BEWARE when they purchase something on eBay, or for that matter, any digital auction site.

This morning, I read a story from Wales, where a person just got caught selling laptops that didn’t exist.

From the Evening Leader:

Christopher Malcolm Amos, from Green Lane, Shotton, admitted swindling customers of the online auction site out of thousands of pounds to fuel his gambling addiction.

Under the user name ‘Whitefruit,’ the 22-year-old accepted payments from 130 bidders wanting to buy laptop computers.

Some used eBay’s PayPal facility, while others transferred the cash directly into Amos’s bank account, but nobody ever received their orders.

Please note that at least some of the fraud victims used eBay’s preferred method of payment, PayPal.

And Mr. Whitefruit, who I gather is a gambling addict, didn’t get into very much trouble for swindling about 100 people. He was ordered to pay some restitution and got a 12 month suspended sentence.

I’m sure eBay fraudsters around the world are quivering in their boots!

I ran into another story in the ChronicleHerald (Halifax, Canada) describing a significantly larger operation involving selling neat “tech toys” that never existed:

Police said Wednesday several complaints about alleged electronic commerce crimes have come in during the past week to 10 days. Customers are from such countries as Australia, Sweden, Norway, the United States, Italy and Estonia. Const. Jeff Carr, a spokesman with Halifax Regional Police, said Canadian EBay users have allegedly been victimized as well, but there are no complaints from the Maritimes.

The person behind this, who hasn’t been caught yet was selling laptops that didn’t exist.

The story also indicates that PayPal was used on some of these transactions:

He said one complaint, from PayPal of San Jose, Calif., includes more than 100 alleged victims. PayPal, which was acquired by EBay in 2002, is an online money-sending service that provides users worldwide an opportunity to buy and sell goods without sharing personal financial information.

Even when you get the merchandise you paid for on an auction site, you are taking the chance that it is a cheap “knock off,” or might be some of the stolen merchandise being fenced on some of these digital marketplaces.

Knock off merchandise can be dangerous when it doesn’t work as well as the item it is passing itself off does. Buying stolen merchandise poses certain moral issues, also.

When buying something on an auction site, it is up to the buyer to make sure (beware) they are getting what they paid for. This can include using some good old “horse sense,” and being able to realize when the deal you seem to be getting is a “little too good to be true.”

Previous posts, I’ve written about fraud on eBay, can be seen, here.

Evening leader story, here.

I’ve also written about a company called buySAFE, who certifies sellers and guarantees what they sell. The seller pays for this — and while I suppose the cost is included in their cost of goods sold — this might be a good way to avoid fraud without having to do a lot of homework.

buySAFE’s CEO, Steve Swoda does a blog, which I read from time to time can be seen by clicking, here.

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