eBay Scams With Bots

Posted on August 17, 2006

Selling an item you don't actually own on eBay and then pocketing the cash but never completing the transaction is an old eBay scam. Feedback about sellers has helped solve this problem because people won't buy as often from a seller with little or no reputation. However, the use of bots to purchase very cheap items and the use of bots to automate feedback could possible help fraudulent sellers build up a false reputation. A post from TechDirt explains how it could work.
Apparently, many of the sellers who offer such things use bots themselves to manage all those offers -- including the near automatic "good feedback" stamps of approval. So, the bots talk to the bots, and any new scamming user can build up a nice looking feedback page with tons of successful deals -- all at just a penny a shot. The bots can create tons of new users as well, all of which are quickly building up good eBay reputations. Then, they can waltz in with the real scam and drop the account, and move right on to the next "primed" account their bot has set up for them. So far, there's no evidence that the bots on both sides may be controlled by the same scammers -- but each side benefits by getting a near automatic feedback boost.
Of course, this could be avoided if people look at the a sellers feedback to see if they contain mostly penny sales. eBay could also track a merchant's sale to see if they are all very small items. If a seller is somehow using bots to generate false feedback the feedback may also all sound fairly similar.