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I've recently tried to sell an electronic item on eBay. I listed it is for sale in Europe.

A buyer with a US address on his invoice and based in Africa seems to have somehow bought it. He then sent me an invoice looking for a price. When I asked him to confirm his address was in the US he said it's a

freight forwarder company which have another branch in England and can I send it there.

He then said

I seem to have an issue making the payment Can we split the amount into 2 payments if you send me you paypal Id I will pay the amount in 2 installments which I think should go through.

I've done some googling and I think that this is an address scam, where the courier will try to deliver to the address, which won't exist, and they will get an update from the receiver and deliver it. The receiver then states that they didn't get it, and can show the initial address was wrong and claim it back from PayPal.

Does this seem correct to people or is there something else going on there?

So my main question, assuming this is a scam, and I don't want to sell the item to them: What should I do next? Tell the receiver that I will only take normal payment through eBay? Cancel the sale somehow?

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    For future reference, I believe this is why many list with a requirement from the buyer of a “verified shipping address”. – Eric McCormick Mar 28 at 4:04
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    Not to be spammy, but there are some excellent Facebook groups filled with people who do this (ebay, general thrifting/reselling) professionally and love to share their knowledge. If you do this a lot I recommend you try some of them out because they can save you a lot of money and headache! – corsiKa Mar 28 at 19:06
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    I don't understand - why would the buyer present you with an invoice? Invoices come from sellers, not buyers. – JBentley Mar 28 at 23:57
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With eBay, what's important to always keep front and center is how to protect yourself via eBay's policies, because diverging from them can easily result in all monetary burdens resting on you, possibly along with account penalties being incurred. I'll explain, but to start, in answer to "how to deal with" this situation:

In Short, How to Proceed

  1. Reply to the buyer, telling them that due to eBay policies, you can only complete the transaction through the eBay checkout process, but you'd be happy to re-send the invoice (do so, see below for explanation).
  2. Tell the buyer you can only ship to the address that is given to you via the eBay invoice system, but that they can make updates as needed before finalizing their check out.
  3. File an abusive buyer report now (see below), let eBay sort out whether or not they're actively malicious. This may sound mercenary, but it's what you need to do as a seller.
  4. Two days after close, when the buyer in all likelihood still hasn't properly paid, start the unpaid transaction process. The buyer will have 4 days to contest. "The seller won't let me do a paypal transaction outside of eBay" is not going to go their way.

Between these, you either safely get out of this transaction without risking your seller rating (much less possibly getting your account flagged), or the buyer is forced to pay normally. If the buyer says anything that can be construed as threatening (including simply to your seller rating) in response to any of this, re-report them as an abusive buyer and you should be completely out at that point. Regardless, block the buyer after this is all done.

You can skip the rest so long as you stick to the above, but if you're interested in why, what helps is looking at the situation through the lens of eBay policies, and first and foremost,

Your buyer's request violates the Abusive Buyer policies on multiple counts

You should report this buyer under the abusive buyer policy (there's a report button right there on the policy page), and here's the specific parts they're violating:

Under Don't demand something not offered in the original listing

Not allowed

Requesting the seller ship to an address other than what you included in checkout

Requesting to use a payment method not offered during checkout

Conversely, here's how a valid buyer could handle this. And if you want to continue communicating with this buyer, this is what you could tell them:

Allowed

Updating your address in your eBay account before you checkout

Pay for your item through a payment option offered at checkout

Ebay's advice is generally to re-send the invoice:

Send the buyer an invoice to remind them to pay. In your Sold items in My eBay, select the item, then select More actions, and choose Send invoice.

Essentially, they need to make their updates in eBay. Trying to do it by contacting you with requests to engage in changes outside the eBay invoicing system is an immediate red flag for you. Most importantly, if you proceed to try completing the transaction like this, you highly risk not being considered covered by seller protections on eBay for this sale.

Always Approach Buyers with Civility, and Keep to the Rules

Your best approach (other than reporting them as an abusive buyer) is to calmly tell them that you can only proceed using eBay's built in systems and you will happily re-send the invoice (do so).

When this goes to resolution and someone is reading through the messaging between you both, you always want to be the one who is both calm and nicely emphasizing following eBay's rules.

The easy out is unpaid transaction

If a buyer won't pay through eBay's systems, and you haven't said you accept other forms of payment, you can stick to standard transaction policies and then use unpaid transaction when the buyer refuses to pay in a normal way to safely back out as a seller, which engages a number of protections for you in regards to the sale, attempts at negative feedback, etc. Once two days are up from the invoice date/time, you can mark the transaction as unpaid to close it out via the Resolution center.

Don't Ever Jeopardize your Seller Protections, Stick to Seller Policies

When I asked him to confirm his address was in the US he said it's a freight forwarder company which have another branch in England and can I send it there.

  1. Only EVER send to the address on the invoice.

I seem to have an issue making the payment Can we split the amount into 2 payments if you send me you paypal Id I will pay the amount in 2 installments which I think should go through.

  1. Only EVER accept payment through the invoice system.

While this isn't quite a case of a buyer or seller trying to fully sell outside of eBay, all signs point to trying to scam you via either a faked "you've been paid" email or something similar (always only check paypal itself, and never using links in emails, for whether or not you have been paid and what your account balance is). There are plenty of ways to complete a transaction in eBay's invoicing system via paypal with multiple payment sources if this were a straightforward related concern. A legitimate buyer can contact eBay for assistance in doing so, and if you're trying to be nice and pretend like you believe everything is fine, that's what you could relay back to the buyer in a case like this (when eBay reviews your message logs about this, it also helps to show you have done everything right as a seller, it always helps to look like you've bent over backwards to be kindly helpful but within the constraints of the system).

Note that when a buyer makes demands that don't match the invoicing, you are protected under the Seller Protection Policy when it comes to things like retaliatory feedback or similar repercussions so long as you stick to the invoicing, rather than the changed demands the buyer is making in messaging, per:

A buyer demanded something not offered in the original listing

You never have to agree to any changes to the terms in your listing (e.g., adding additional items or discounts). If a buyer demands a change to what you originally offered, you can choose to either cancel the order, or you can complete the transaction under the original terms. We will remove feedback and canceled transaction defects when we can see the buyer's demands in eBay messages.

If you're really in doubt, always directly contact eBay and/or Paypal (depending on which is most relevant) and receive clarification on your coverage in the event of engaging in anything that's outside of the norm. Be specific in asking whether the specific actions being requested would still be covered under their policies. They will generally be very upfront in the replies to this. But my personal advice is that whenever anything starts going sideways from normal, first and foremost stick to related tools (Abusive Buyer, Nonpayment reporting, etc) while you wait for responses from eBay personnel (rather than holding off until you get a response), and don't deviate from normal practices in eBay if you want any chance of their Seller policies working in your favor.

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    +1, but there's nothing short about this answer. It would be well served by a TLDR. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 28 at 4:45
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica You're absolutely correct, let me see if I can... mush it around a bit and maybe frontload the direct action advice, then follow with the supporting reasons? – taswyn Mar 28 at 4:50
  • "Only EVER send to the address on the invoice." -> This will lose many potential customers. E.g., when I purchase something online, my delivery address is tyoically a "DHL PackStation" (a package receiving and vending machine; quite widespread now in Germany), while my invoice address is usually my home address, for taxation and other reasons. I guess that many people also use the two-address mode to sent presents to friends and fiancés. – phresnel Mar 30 at 10:46
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    @phresnel then you add that address as a shipping address in eBay, and boom it's on the invoice as your shipping address. If a customer is unwilling to do this and insists I ship elsewhere, then I don't want them as a customer. – Doktor J Mar 30 at 14:56
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    @DoktorJ: Seems I have misunderstood taswyn. – phresnel Mar 31 at 11:59
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I've sold a limited number of times on eBay (not for profit, just cleaning out basement).

Any time a buyer offers anything that's not 100% 'normal', i.e. needing anything at all outside the terms of normal sale, I cancel the transaction. Maybe you'll lose the honest buyer who genuinely had some issue. It's a big world, and they'll find their item elsewhere, and you'll find a buyer who is in the same country as you, able to stick to the terms.

Simple - cancel now.

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    All due respect, no good can ever come of that. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Mar 27 at 18:39
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    @user1936752 For starters, scamming the scammer makes you a scammer, too. You're still committing a crime, and if you get caught (either by Paypal or eBay, for example) then saying "but he was trying to scam me first" won't do you much good in court. You're also provoking someone who's already involved in a criminal enterprise. Just because you'll never find him doesn't mean he can't find you. – Steve-O Mar 27 at 19:02
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    +1 to this. I sell a fair bit on Ebay and my response to any special payment requests is always the same. Sorry, but you need to make payment through eBay. I don't need the hassle more than I need the money – Valorum Mar 27 at 19:07
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    @user1936752 Besides what's already mentioned, you're disregarding the possibility that it's an honest buyer. You'd be the only scammer, then. – JoL Mar 27 at 20:14
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    You can't out-scam a scammer. They do this every day and have seen every trick you can think of. – stannius Mar 28 at 0:12
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I think JTP's answer is a good one, you will want to cancel this order. Their reasoning is maybe a little more zealous than I would handle it, but in this case, I agree with your assessment - this is almost certainly a scam.

But it seems your real question is: How do I cancel this transaction. Here is a link to an eBay site explaining how to cancel it. There is a link on the help page to cancel a transaction. You can also follow these steps in the seller hub:

In Seller Hub, go to Orders; or in My eBay, go to Sold. Find the transaction you want to cancel, and from More actions, select Cancel this order. Choose a reason for the cancellation and then select Continue to finish.

According to that help page, you can only do this if:

  • You haven’t sent the item yet.
  • The buyer hasn’t asked us to step in and help because they didn’t receive the item.
  • You haven’t opened an unpaid item case.

You may also with to block this buyer from purchasing your items in the future:

  • Go to the Block bidders or buyers from your listings page.
  • Enter their username – You can add up to 5,000 usernames.
  • Select Submit.

It might also be a good idea to restrict buyers based on certain criteria, for example, you may want to block all buyers from certain countries.

  • Go to Selling preferences in My eBay.
  • Select Show next to Buyer requirements.
  • Beside Block buyers who, choose Edit.
  • Enter your preferences and select Submit.
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    Up voted, but you could improve the answer by providing a way to block that buyer. – Pete B. Mar 27 at 15:48
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    Good point, added. Thanks! – Najel Mar 27 at 15:57
  • Who has time to block 5,000 usernames? – Michael Mar 28 at 8:05
  • @Michael ebay has been operating for maybe 25 years, and some sellers have been professionals for almost as long, so they would have had to deal with a number of bad customers – njzk2 Mar 28 at 23:13
  • @njzk2 but 5,000 usernames in a single sitting? – Michael Mar 29 at 3:00
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Cancel the sale. Report the buyer.

Most likely, this is a legit eBay account that has been hacked. Telling eBay will help the owner get it back.

The purpose of saying "Africa" was to self-declare as a scammer. Scammers do this for good reason.

Any genuine buyer in Africa would know (by now) how to buy on American eBay properly. For instance they would forward through an American friend or PMB (UPS Store etc.) This guy is "pretending to be new at this" to trick you.

What's the scam?

To start with, the scammer couldn't care less about your item.

This may be a scam to obtain your PayPal credentials. After all, they have already obtained someone else's eBay credentials, so they trade in this sort of thing. The scam would be to get where you are communicating outside of the eBay platform itself... by email text etc. Then they will claim to make one of the payments off the eBay platform. They will send you a link "to prove they paid". When you click the link, PayPal will give you the totally normal password challenge, and you'll fill it in just like you always do. Except that site isn't PayPal and now they know your PayPal email/username/password.

The "second payment" may also turn out to be one of the classic overpayment scams: They "accidentally" send you $547 too much, and ask for $500 back (letting you keep some for the trouble). They'll be particular about how they want the $500 sent, e.g. they'll insist on Western Union, Zelle, etc. They are choosing a method that is irreversible. Later, their payment to you will reverse/bounce. The net result is they got $500 off of you. Who would fall for that? Well, they usually wrap it up in an excuse like "that money is for my shipping company".

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  • Thanks for the article explaining the cheapness of the messages sent to potential victims. I am always looked upon like I'm the bad guy when I honestly say that I don't feel any pity for people falling for such super extreme obvious scams. I have one thumb rule: if it seems too good to be true, it most likely is. So double check it at least 5 times before proceeding to engage in something that is too good to be true... So many years later, I wasn't scammed even once, ever. – Akito Mar 30 at 9:25
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Its a SCAM! Happened to me. They copy the PayPal page. When you click the link to check the payment the sites states that the funds are being held. Paypal doesn't hold money. Payments are transferred between parties instantly and if there isms problem then you file a dispute. Whenever anything seems a little off check the url. They will trick you with changing one of the letters or...,something you wouldn't notice at a glance. But always go directly to the site on a separate page or call to verify. ALWAYS VERIFY.

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    Paypal doesn't hold money That's untrue. PayPal can hold money in some circumstances (they have internal fraud filters and account controls). It's uncommon, but we used PayPal for years and would run up against that problem from time to time. – Machavity Mar 28 at 3:30
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    @Machavity I think MissDollE's point is that the scammer will claim payment was made, and will you a link "to the transaction". When you click through on that link, it will ask for your PayPal login. get it? It's phishing for your PP login. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 28 at 4:21

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