PSP Fraud on eBay: If they can get me...

Well, there's a first time for everything: I just got defrauded on and let me tell you, it's not a good feeling.

After resisting the urge to buy a PSP while in Singapore, I finally caved in upon my return to the UK and ordered one from a Buy It Now auction on eBay. Now, before you jump to any conclusions: No, I didn't click on one of the "free PSP" offers, or the £0.01 PSPs or even the £25 PSPs. Nope, this was a new £214 PSP, Japanese version (1.5 firmware), being shipped from the UK with one free game. Given that a local store here in Brighton stocks PSPs at £180 and games at £30, I thought it was a fair price. So, I didn't jump for a low price or anything. Just wanted a 1.5 so I could play with all the homebrew stuff.

It gets worse: You see, I'm somewhat of an anal retentive when it comes to making purchases. I research the hell out of things. On eBay, I'm the guy who reads every freakin' feedback you ever got *and* clicks on all the auction links to see what they were for. I look for patterns, "eBay smells", if you will and if anything is slightly off, well, I bail. I've been using eBay for about five or six years now and so far I hadn't had any problems. (Well, except for a particular PayPal screw-up that could've left me out of pocket on quite an expensive digital camcorder had the buyer not been -- despite all of PayPal's efforts to make it tempting for him to cross over to the dark side -- a very honest person.) So, I'm not your regular granny with her first computer out on her virgin eBay experience. But they got me.

I paid the amount right after buying it and started making plans about late nights spent basking in the glow of a tiny brilliant screen. That is, until, I received an email today from eBay, telling me that the seller was no longer an eBay member and that the auction had been cancelled. Oh yeah, and I shouldn't send payment for it. (You gotta love the balls -- it's like that message in Windows 95 that used to blame you for not shutting down properly every time the damn thing crashed!)

Anyway, so this whole thing got me thinking about what eBay could do better about security. This particular fraudster had covered himself well. I am assuming that he first placed lots of similar items for sale and bought them himself using other accounts, leaving himself positive feedback. (I recognized this in another auction because the fraudster had bought only £0.01 intagible items -- quite a pattern.) This guy was smarter though -- for all the world, it looked legit.

So how do you stop this? Easy (now listen up, eBay)...

(I don't believe I'm about to say this but...) There's only one way: Only accept PayPal payments *and* only allow people who have actually paid to leave feedback.

And here's one more suggestion, virtually guaranteed to stop all fraud:

Now that all transactions are going through PayPal, hold the money for a specified number of days before releasing it to the seller. If there is a dispute, start the arbitration process with the money still held in escrow, rather than in the potential fraudster's pocket.

Would this be hard to implement? No. Would eBay lose sales? Probably, in the short run. Would it piss off some people? Yes. But would it, ultimately, be worth it? Yes -- as it would clean the place up and instill confidence in buyers.

eBay today is a minefield. Everywhere you look you're confronted with fraudulent listings. It's like a walk through Marseilles, you have to watch your pockets every step of the way.

Come on, eBay, it's time to clean up the streets!

PS. I've started the dispute procedure with PayPal and should receive the money back as part of their buyer protection programme. But it still sucks to know that some bastard somewhere is grinning to his ears with over 200 bucks of my hard-earned dough.

[Update] Oh yeah, being the nutjob I am, I've already ordered another one. Not going to let the fraudsters win! In fact, I may just buy another (just kidding, Emilie, seriously honey, no... I don't want to sleep on the couch... but baby...)

[Update] After getting the eBay email, I actually wrote to the seller with a "you should be ashamed of yourself" email, thinking for all the world that it would probably bounce or take its place next in an inbox full of unread complaints. Instead, this morning, I got a reply:

"Its something wrong with my information my account should be restore by tomorrow. If you have any problems u could contact me on [number removed/local UK cell phone]. So far I could see you put the disput on the payment. So I no longer have your money. If you still want the item u could contact me to arrange it. Please note I am not trying to ripe u off. Its just Ebay need some more informations from me thats all."

The plot thickens... :)