Home » Advertising, collecting, Financial, Internet, Marketing, Retail

eBay PayPal: Auction Problems, Filing Claims & Charges

EM was kind enough to send along the new FBI online fraud website so here’s a brief recap of your possible courses of actions when an auction goes awry.


Unfortunately, the first onus is on you to read everything carefully and see if the auction and the seller passes the smell test. The more descriptive and the more photos the better, of course. If they are lax in that, who knows what else they are lax in – especially if the photo is just grabbed from another auction. If it doesn’t look like a custom photo of that item, always ask if it’s of that item – don’t presume. And another wrinkle to consider, if it’s an overseas auction and you have to return the item, you have to pay for shipping back so consider that as part of the cost of doing business. But of course, sometimes overseas is the only place to find such an item and if they’ve been in business a while, you should be okay. Of course, cost also weighs into it – if you pay under $10 for something and whether it’s fraud or ineptitude, it’s not a tragedy … above that, whatever your threshold for annoyance, anger or anguish is your call – just think of it as a friend at a flea market calling you up and saying they saw a thing you’re collecting, you want it? But on the other hand, in my 500+ transactions on ebay, I’ve really only had a couple poor experiences but I try and make sure everything I’m bidding on passes the smell test by reading it very carefully. A prime example is the auctions of Frank from the game set. Honest sellers line Frank up with a ruler so he can see he’s about 1.5″ long – nothing wrong if you’re okay with that … but less honest ones try to sell it as “Mattel Frank!” which he is but do not note that he is NOT part of the 1:55 line.

ALWAYS use PayPal to pay unless it’s an item that’s hard to find that hardly anyone else is selling so you have to take a chance. If it’s some higher cost item, you can always negotiate with the person. If they’re honest, it’s about the Paypal fees and again, it depends on rare or hard to find the item, you might kick in another % or two and/or send them a check/MO for some of the fees – negotiate. And report them to PayPal if they try and demand you bank pay with Paypal versus using a credit card. Always try and use a credit card – you have a backup protection plan.

ALSO – if you have a balance in your Paypal account – it’s actually better to CLEAR it out because if you pay with that, you lose protection from your bank and or credit card company – you are relying on Paypal to refund out of their own bank account so be warned – again, if it’s $10, it might not be worth the bother but anything above $20? Your call as to value in your time in trying to deal with this … so before you complete the purchase transaction, go to Paypal and WITHDRAW whatever balance you have – once you start that process, your paypal balance is zero (even if the money won’t actually arrive in your bank for 3 days).


As I just found out recently, some people think a grocery sack is okay to use a mailer … for CARS, uh, no … for feathers and loose tissues? Okay, that might work … so sometimes they are just not rocket scientists or even a dead rocket scientist so it’s more work for you but in most cases, people want to resolve the situation especially now that sellers can NO longer leave feedback. Before the problem was that a buyer always feared that the seller would knock down your rating as a buyer just out of spite even if you were 100% in the right so you have that now.

The first thing to do is to click on SEND MESSAGE to seller. Be brief in what is wrong and describe the problem, why it’s a problem and how you want it resolved. If it’s damaged in shipping because they packed poorly, just point that out and note if you want a refund or an exchange. If it’s fraud, don’t raise that word just yet … use a phrase such as ‘not as described’ and why it’s not as described. There’s plenty of time to raise the specter of ‘fraud’ or stronger words. At this point, there’s no reaon to escalate the argument.

Then, presuming you used Paypal, IMMEDIATELY start the Paypal process by clicking on your auction in Paypal and DETAILS and scroll down to RESOLUTION CENTER.

You just want it in the system and Paypal will contact the seller a dispute has been started and they know you know you’re serious about it. Again, in the description box, just be factual but you can elaborate if you want just so it’s in the record especially if you contacted them by email before the auction closed – and don’t forget to explain how you want to resolve the situation.

Now, if it all goes well, you mail back the item, you get the replacement or a refund and the matter is resolved. Annoying and more work but sometimes it happens. No need to escalate it with too much emotion or name calling.


Now, if it’s fraud or they are unreasonable, you have more work to do. Note that you have to keep on top of Paypal’s dispute process – if you forget to check after they post a message, they will claim you are disinterested in continuing and rule in the other party’s favor.

If you don’t feel this is going to resolved quickly, the next step is to write to your credit card company and say you “dispute the charges” and list the reasons. You only need to do this step if it seems like the seller is either trying to be a weasel or outright fraud and just ignoring you and of course, you can always withdraw the dispute versus waiting too long to start one up. Make sure to tell Paypal you’re doing this – this might hasten their efforts also. Your letter should go to the customer service address of your credit card and not your payment address.


You can then choose to file charges locally but determining where the package is from and or contacting that person’s State Attorney General’s office. Most states now have the Attorney General filing claims online now – just do a search.

And now, thanks to “EM” for the headups, for larger cases, you can file a claim with the new FBI online crime website. Or who knows, others might also be filing a claim against this person so it can all add up …

Remember to notify the seller what you intend to do next and they have X number of days to respond. Do not leave it open ended. But always give them 24-hours or 48-hours to respond (and tell them the timetable) before you will proceed to the next step.


Most sellers are not interested in being arrested or having the State Attorney General or FBI look into why they cannot conclude a business transaction properly and will simply refund your money. Even if Paypal gives up easily, don’t you give up, it’s the principle … and in 98% of cases, if you point you intend to file charges with their local police, with the State Attorney General’s office or with the FBI, they will try and resolve the matter quickly … hopefully but there are always a few people who rather risk jail for a couple bucks … So, good luck.

(P.S. – Yes, people here had some problems but let’s NOT name names or rehash old issues. If you have anything factual to add as advice, please do so in the comments and if I need to add it into the main body of this post or leave it in the comments. Thanks).

«  »
18 September 2008 Advertising, collecting, Financial, Internet, Marketing, Retail 11 Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.