I recently offered an item on eBay, offering it for sale in Switzerland only (no international shipping offered). However, now someone bought it and messaged that they want it shipped to Italy, and that they need my name, IBAN, and emailaddress to proceed. They also mentioned that they want to pay 30€ extra for shipping.

The red flag that I see here is pretty much only the international delivery, which might make it more difficult to me to prove that the shipment made it to the recipient. Additionally, the ebay account is brand new, which is a huge red flag, I guess.

But what is a green flag to me, is that they want to pay with direct bank transfer. This (afaik) cannot be reversed by the sender fo the money after it's gone through, can it?

So I'm wondering about my risk exposure here. If I only offer to ship it in a way that I get confirmation that it arrived, and wait for the bank transfer to be gone through before shipping it, is there any significant risk?

Or is this even more evil and it's an attempt at identity theft or attempt to login to my online banking?

  • 3
    I always refuse overseas sales. The terms of sale I use are very clear (paypal only, UK only) and many/most questions I've had from overseas buyers smack of scams.
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 19:04
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    I don't see the scam aspect - maybe in the US "international" is special but you're in Europe, where borders are just signs on the street. I would not hesitate, though basic precautions like ensuring the bank transfer comes from an account matching the name of the purchaser (and asking for proof of ID) would be sensible.
    – Sander
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 7:13
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    What I find surprising is the unprompted additional shipping fee amount. Is the item something difficult to find, or could the buyer easily have found a seller for a similar item willing to sell to Italy? What is the value of the item? How much would it cost to ship it to Italy with appropriate tracking+signature?
    – jcaron
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 10:03
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    @Vicky Not sure what country/bank you refer to but I see the name of the account holder on every received payment regardless of whether it comes in via SEPA and SWIFT. Maybe you refer to some limitation imposed by your bank?
    – Sander
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 11:13
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    Google some of the exact phrases that the would-be buyer used. If they match scammer scripts (which can be found online), then you've got a scammer.
    – FlanMan
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 12:14

5 Answers 5


Since no-one else has answered I'll convert my comments into an answer.

This does have the hallmarks of a scam to me, and in your shoes I would cancel the purchase and explain to the would-be buyer that the item can only be shipped within Switzerland as stated in the listing.

Apart from anything else, I've had too many mishaps with international post to be willing to risk shipping internationally in these situations.

Paying by direct bank transfer to me is a red flag, not a green one. They lose all the buyer protection they would otherwise have if they paid with Paypal, so they must have some motivation for wanting to do this. My guess is they've somehow got access to someone else's account and will pay you with money that isn't theirs; either just to get the item for free or they will overpay you and ask you to return some of the money to them by some other means (gift cards etc.)

  • 2
    Thanks Vicky. I agree that this seems to be a scam and I'm inclined to cancel. I have asked the buyer to provide proof of identity, which so far is pending. I suspect that I won't hear again.
    – user91928
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 12:46
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    Don't even bother with the proof of identity. You have no means of verifying it anyways.
    – Nelson
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 4:07
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    I'm an honest e-Bay user, and I prefer to pay by transfer or credit card rather than PayPal. I dislike having yet another entity involved in my affairs.
    – JRE
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 10:04
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    How is this hard? I Photoshop my face onto the picture of the ID, done...
    – Nelson
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 11:58
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    @Nelson It's hard_er_, not making it impossible. Clearly asking achieved what I wanted: The scammer seemed to have backed off. Something a genuine person wouldn't do (even if, it doesn't matter, as I now know that I should not proceed with anything here), hence the validity of this test.
    – user91928
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 13:51

In Germany there is a somewhat popular schema that roughly translates to triangular fraud. The fraudster sees your auction and buys the item for price X. He will then immediately create an auction "selling" a valuable item that he does not posses for price X. He will then tell his buyer to transfer the money to your account. You'll see incoming money and ship the item. However, the buyer of the fraudster will not receive anything and will request his money to be returned. You are legally obliged to return the money and have lost the item.

Edit: „Ungerechtfertigte Bereicherung“ is the legal term in German which is the grounds for returning the money. That is also a term the Swiss legal system knows. Check this. But I am no legal expert. (The English term is “unjust enrichment”.)

  • 4
    "You are legally obliged to return the money" - Do you have a source for that (preferably under Swiss law)? Because I don't think this is the case where I live, as long as you acted in good faith...
    – marcelm
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 15:21
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    @marcelm, you're right that a source should be provided, but, if you reflect on it, you'll see that a recipient of stolen monies has no right to keep them. Ignorance of the crime may protect you from prosecution, but it doesn't give you a legal right to them. Theft & fraud involve taking of property w/o consent (theft) or w/ consent through deception (fraud) + an intent to deprive an owner of the use of their own property. If you keep that property after you discovered that it came to you fraudulently, there's a strong chance that you will lose any protection you had from prosecution.
    – Dancrumb
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 16:27
  • @Dancrumb No, the seller shipping the item would likely not have to refund anything. If I recall correctly, in the absence of any explicit laws to the contrary, the responsibility for fraud prevention between the real seller and real buyer is on whichever of the two parties is initiating the transaction in the first place --- so, the buyer in this case (the seller does not ship first and expect payment later. The first transfer is always in currency, because that's what's more convenient to deal with).
    – ManRow
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 14:26
  • So, it's up to the buyer to ensure the entity at the payment "destination" is the entity with the proper shipping information as well. You don't just go randomly tell a seller to ship to a random spot and then complain, "Well, I personally never received the item! So give me my money back! Even if you don't get your item! (in return)" Finally, note that I said "in the absence of explicit laws to the contrary" --- Germany, in your example, may have a explicit law specifically always placing the burden of fraud prevention on the seller.
    – ManRow
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 14:32
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    The police of cologne is explaining on the following page that the seller needs to refund the money: koeln.polizei.nrw/artikel/…
    – b0wter
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 18:40

Bank transfers certainly are reversible.

Just as one example, imagine this. The person hacks someone and transfers the money from the victim's account. Does the victim get to reverse that charge? Of course. Does it clawback out of your account? Oh, you bet!

You will be left holding the bag.

So one common scam is to do exactly that, then convince you to send onward an item or money (like the old overpay/refund scam). (note this is a compound scam; part of it is hacking a bank account, part is what you're experiencing, yet another part might be selling your item to a third person, this an innocent buyer who just paid the scammer).

I certainly think this is not a legitimate sale. Further, changing the terms of payment like this is itself a violation of eBay's policies; and that means you would violate TOS by agreeing to it. Those rules are to protect eBay from risk (not least, employee bandwidth of dealing with the support issue you would raise).

It would be alright if they paid you via a method that is genuinely irreversible, except you're not very good at knowing what those are (and the scammer is an expert; so don't play chess with Bobby Fischer). But that will never happen; they will never pay you via Western Union because that would involve real money that doesn't exist.

  • 14
    Things may be different in the US, and I don't know about Switzerland, but in Germany (or maybe all over SEPA zone?), a bank transfer is indeed irreversible. Once the funds has reached the receiver's account, it is generally irrevocable and you'd have to sue the receiver for repayment.
    – glglgl
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 20:21
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    @glglgl in the UK they are reversible, which is in the SEPA zone.
    – user45974
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 21:32
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    @Moo sterling transfers in the UK aren't covered by SEPA rules. Euro transfers probably are, but they would be quite rare. Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 8:18
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    @glglgl A bank transfer cannot be reversed by the sender. But it can be reversed by the banks, for instance if the payment was not properly authorised.
    – jcaron
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 10:01
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    @glglgl Actually, the rules should be pretty much the same, they are governed by the Payment Services Directive (PSD) and its successor PSD2. Being directives, they are transposed in national legislation, so there could be differences, but directive limit the scope of those differences a lot. However, the PSD only applies to EU countries, so Switzerland would be different, even though it is part of SEPA.
    – jcaron
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 12:10

Contrary to the given answers I think you can make the sale provided you have a shipping option with proper tracking.

First, not everybody has a paypal account but (at least in Western Europe) everybody has a bank account. Direct wire transfer is a generic form of payment in the EU that works between any two people, paypal is not. Especially if the ebay account is brand new, the buyer probably doesn't have a paypal account.

Second, bank transfer are irreversible. If the money arrived in your account, neither the buyer or their bank can take it back. They would have to set up a new transfer in the reverse direction that needs at the very least your banks approval. Your bank has no reason to give it. If you are repaid after a scam involving stolen identities, the transfers are not reversed. If you are repaid, that means your bank paid you out of their own pockets and is independently trying to recover the money from the scammers.

Finally, you do need some insurance the package actually gets there. Carefully check the TOS of ebay, at which point in the delivery does the responsibility switch from you to the buyer. If the delivery company gives you confirmation that the package was delivered to the recipient, that should be enough for your to claim you have done your part, no matter what the buyer says but you should check the ebay TOS carefully to see whether this is the case. If you can find an international delivery (for 30€) that satisfies the ebay TOS and you only send the package after you received the transfer you should be fine.

  • 1
    not everybody has a paypal account but surely they can make one for free... Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 13:15
  • Not everyone has a bank account...
    – Notts90
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 14:15
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    @Notts90 If you live in Western Europe and buy things on ebay you do have a bank account. In fact, if you have a legal job or receive any government benefits you need to have a bank account because you are not getting any money otherwise. I know there are a lot of people in the US who get by without bank accounts, there aren't in the EU.
    – quarague
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 15:34
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    @quarague there’s actually over a million adults in the UK without a bank account and it’s perfectly legal to be paid your wages in cash.
    – Notts90
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 15:38
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    This is the correct answer. The other answers have a USA bias.
    – Nemo
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 8:26

If your listing had clearly stated limits, eBay should support you in declining to weaken those limits.

(I say should, because they assisted one buyer and one seller in ripping me off, but those are the only two problems I had with dozens of other transactions.)

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