Transaction and account security tips for eBay

Tips to help buyers and sellers on eBay.

We explain how to buy and sell items on eBay safely, and how to prevent your eBay account from being hijacked

eBay is one of the most popular marketplaces in the world, and one of the reasons is that it’s generally safe and reliable. But when you engage in monetary transactions, you always assume the risk of losing money as a result of fraud or negligence, to name just two causes. What can you do to protect yourself as much as possible from fraud and deception when using eBay?

eBay’s increasing number of measures to ensure its users’ security is representative of a general trend. The site has programs to protect both buyers and sellers. The programs recommend some clear risk-minimizing practices. Nevertheless, it does not hurt to once again list these as well as other recommendations in a single place and to comment on them a little.

General security rules for all eBay users

  • Make your account password long, difficult to guess, and unique. That means not using passwords shorter than 8 characters (which are easy to brute-force), passwords that are simply your date of birth (or those of relatives), or passwords you’ve already used for other services (data leaks occur every day, and in the likely event that your password was part of one, then no matter how complicated it is, an attacker can simply try it on another site).
  • If you are having trouble thinking up and remembering dozens of passwords, use a password manager, which can perform both of these functions for you.
  • Activate two-factor authentication. eBay offers two options: You can receive a code by text message or push notifications from eBay’s mobile app. Any attempt to log in to your account from a new device will trigger the generation of a code, so simply having your login name and password won’t be enough for an outsider to access your account.
  • Choose from one to three security questions to further verify your identity. eBay’s verification questions are mostly not very reliable, so be cunning and provide made-up answers that cannot easily be found on the Internet or your social network profiles. So as not to forget the tricky answers, save them in an encrypted note in your password manager.
  • Learn the tricks of averting phishing attacks, and be suspicious of any e-mails and messages that claim to come from eBay. Sending such messages has long been a primary way for scammers to dupe their victims. Moreover, distinguishing fake messages from real ones can be difficult.
  • The most reliable way to send and receive payments on eBay is through PayPal. First, doing so prevents you from exposing your financial data to potential fraud, and second, the service’s money-back guarantee program protects you. If a seller proposes that you pay by card, money transfer, or cash, then be careful: If you go for it, you’ll lose eBay’s protection, and should the seller turn out to be a scammer, you’ll be on your own.
  • Related to the previous tip: Don’t communicate with the other party outside of the platform. eBay’s built-in communication tools are perfectly sufficient for most transactions, and if someone asks for your e-mail address or phone number, chances are they are a scammer.
  • Check your transaction history from time to time, and if you notice anything suspicious, contact support immediately.
  • Keep your operating system, browser, and antivirus software up to date to reduce your risk of being hacked. If you use eBay on your phone, keep the mobile app updated as well.
  • In case of any dispute or disagreement, use the platform’s Resolution Center, which provides step-by-step directions for all common conflict situations. If you follow the rules, issues should be resolved in your favor.
  • Sign out of your account before you leave eBay. This is especially important if you visit the site from a public or work computer.

eBay security guidelines for buyers

  • If the price seems unbelievably low, it’s suspicious. eBay is a well-established platform, and you are very unlikely to find a genuine item for sale here that is much cheaper than average.
  • Read product descriptions carefully. If you receive a damaged (scratched, broken, or torn) item, you can return it for a refund, but only if the defect was not indicated in the description. The same applies to any discrepancies between what you expected and what you actually got. When you buy a product, you are agreeing that everything in the description is acceptable.
  • Pay attention to the seller’s rating. Everyone’s threshold is different. If you aren’t comfortable with a seller’s rating, but the deal still seems attractive, go ahead and read other users’ reviews, including in particular the negative ones. Perhaps the seller made a couple of mistakes at the start of their selling career, but their record has been perfect for a long time.
  • Don’t buy illegal goods. It may sound obvious, but remember that what is legal in one country may be illegal in another.

eBay security guidelines for sellers

  • If you are a seller, keeping meticulous records of your transactions is a must. Keep all receipts documenting the sending and delivery of goods to avoid situations in which a buyer can claim they did not receive anything and requests a refund. In the same vein, use a reputable delivery service that can issue receipts for shipped goods.
  • Write accurate descriptions. Carefully describe all of the important characteristics of the product, including any defects. If an item has a flaw you didn’t mention, you may have to accept its return and issue a refund.
  • Never ship an item before receiving payment from the customer. That’s where the eBay-plus-PayPal combination shines, allowing both parties to use an escrow account, which means PayPal withdraws the payable amount from the buyer’s account, holds it until buyer and seller are mutually satisfied, and then transfers it to the seller’s account.