Bot-On-Bot eBay Scamming

from the when-the-bots-takeover dept

It’s one of the oldest eBay scams in the book: sell something you don’t have, pocket the money and walk away. However, these days, for it to work you need to have at least a decent eBay feedback reputation. A few years ago, this would work out with the scammer acting as a legit eBay user for a few months, buying and selling various cheap items, building up a decent profile… and then putting up some big expensive item for the scam payoff. Again, however, the times are changing and that process is too involved — so the next generation of scammers has move on to eBay scamming automation. They use bots to scan eBay and buy $0.01 “buy it now” items. 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.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Bot-On-Bot eBay Scamming”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
bored now says:

hardly surprising

At work we raised the problem of penny items and feedback farming a long time ago. Since then I’ve had some success in ID-ing bad guys’ new accounts by analysing feedback on penny items.

This is just me, using the plain vanilla web interface, with no access to the API. Meanwhile eBay, with God level access to the database have achieved…?

firemeg (user link) says:

Conspiracy Theory...

eBay has been looking to rid the site of items priced at a penny for a long time now. This may give them reason to do so. Could it be an inside job? I’m not saying that they are scamming people, but could the technology have been created by eBay? Seems like it should be an easy loophole to fix, yet they don’t seem to be doing anything – if they were, it wouldn’t have gotten as far as the internet blogs.

DJ (user link) says:


Could this be a start of an Internet intelligence, with the basic building blocks being viriuses, trojans, and automated bots? While the individual behaivior of these can be a nuisance, will the emergant properties be something more?

I rue the day when the Internet starts talking to all of us– but in spam.. or in Scam Nigerian. What kind of deep buried “animalistic” urges will it have in it’s brain? When it gets mad, will it yell V1aRA?

Sean (user link) says:

Member for how long

I suppose you should check and see how long the seller has been a member. If they’ve only been a registered eBayer for a month or two, but have racked up dozens of transactions, you should think twice about doing business with them.

In the end I think it’s each person’s responsibility to protect themselves from being scammed, the same way things are done in the real world. It would be helpful though if eBay provided the information that people need to make good decisions.

bgmacaw says:

Hijacked Accounts are the biggest problem

The much bigger problem are hijacked account auctions. Scammers nab eBay accounts via phishing emails and web sites. Even powersellers with 1000’s of feedback have fallen for these phishes. The scammers then use the stolen accounts to list 100’s of high demand items, such as plasma TVs, on the account.

These auctions have several basic characteristics in common. First, they always ask the potential bidder to contact the seller via email before bidding at an email address and not through the ‘ask the seller a question’ link. Next, they’ll almost always be one day auctions however the ‘seller’ will have a ‘buy-it-now’ price mentioned in the listing. And, they will most often be miscatagorized to avoid detection by eBay’s own fraud bots, for example, a Plasma TV might be listed under Doll Clothing.

Should a bidder respond to the email, they will be told that the item, or one like it, is available if the bidder will Western Union the seller X amount of dollars. They may also mention Square Trade or some other service to try to build confidence. If the bidder/mark WU’s them the money, then it’s gone.

Taylor says:

Re: Hijacked Accounts are the biggest problem

I have fallen to this scam before. I bought a Mac Powerbook from a guy in Italy who required Western Union payment. YES I’M STUPID. But it’s simply an example of this being a big problem.

At the time, eBay was doing very little to combat this problem, but I think they are doing a little better.

All you have to do is look at the history of a seller to find out if the item they are selling is normal activity for them. That pretty much exposes any scam.

cjay says:

Simple Sniping Soltuion

I don’t know what the arguement against this is, perhaps someone can enlighten me… Extend teh close of auctions 5 minutes after the last bid, and if people keep bidding, keep extending. Then the snipers can sit there and keep running the price up and everyone has a fair shot at getting in on the action. It’s good for the sellers, feels better to the buyers and EBay get’s a higher selling price from which to take a cut. How is that not the win win?

Anonymous Coward says:

Yeah, i just wish no one was allowed to bid before the end of the auction….

what would be nice is if there was one of those picture text things you had to enter before you bid. so no one could send a bot at like .0003 seconds before the auction ends.

there could be a little delay, like if you register to bid at .00001, you still have 30 seconds or something to complete your bid.

Sherry says:

Use a Credit Card....

When purchasing items on eBay, just use your credit card through Paypal. If you don’t get your item, your credit card company WILL get the money back from Paypal. Paypal has to show them proof that the item was deliverd to you… which the buyer has to show Paypal with delivery confirmation or insurance on the package. This way eBay/Paypal are out the money…. not you! The scammer can run off if they like but it will be Paypal’s problem to get their money back and your money is safe!

Anonymous Coward says:

as a user, when an auction ends at time yy, the auciton is over. if i come in at yy – small time, and get highest bid, i win. i mean, anyone else has time in that small time to bid again, or they coulda bid higher. if they will pay xx and i will pay xx + .01, i have a higher price, then i win.

it’s almost like when an auctionere goes “once, twice, sold *bang*” if i bit when it goes bang, did i get in? who can tell?

so, why should i have to bid again, when the auction keeps going on and on and on… it sucks, i know, but obviously you don’t want the item as much as i do. if so, you’d either bit higher, or watch till the end.

if you say you can’t watch because of other commitments, well then you don’t have a high enough value on the item, otherwise you’d candel your event and bid. i don’t mean to be rude or anything, i’m sorry. but that’s life. that’s…eBay.

Sanguine Dream says:

Re: Re:

it’s almost like when an auctionere goes “once, twice, sold *bang*” if i bit when it goes bang, did i get in? who can tell?

When a auctionere goes “once…, twicce….,sold” there is time to offer a counter bid and if there is a counter bid then it goes “once…,twice,….(counter bid),…(a few seconds to wait for another counter bid)….once…., twice….,(if there is no other counter bid)….., sold.

Anonymous Coward says:

if you are using the auctioneer example, if you get a bid in after the “once, twice” but before the “bang” he does not drop the hammer. He gives every one else a chance to bid before starting the “once, twice” bit again.

This is just like an auto extending auction would work.

The arguement against it is simple. Proxy bidding makes it pointless. Bid the absolute max you are willing to pay, if someone bids higher (whether that is 10 minutes before or 0.01 seconds before) then that was more than you were willing to pay, Right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The arguement against it is simple. Proxy bidding makes it pointless.

That’s just another way of using a bot. And, unfortunately, the proxy bot eBay provides kicks in immediately to begin driving the price up. So many bidders subscribe to external proxy bot services that will wait until the last moment to begin bidding, resulting in sniping.

Anonymous Coward says:

wait, i thought ebay had that feature, the “going once, going twice…” type auction.

if any bid was placed within x minutes of the end of the auction, it would be extended for another y minutes. if another bid came in within x minuts of ending, another y minutes from the “end” till the new end..

did it not take well with useres and they discontinued it?

Steve says:

This has all been discussed before. Check the link above for why none of that works to fix sniping. Basically, automatically extending an auction turns *everyone* into snipers because everyone has to be at their machine at the end of the auction.

It’s better (for buyers) to just put in your maximum bid, and leave it at that. Of course there will still be an advantage to doing that near the end of the auction, so there will always be snipers. But snipers don’t “win” against you unless they are willing to pay more than you are.

Steve says:

I always wait till the last seconds to put in my bid. If I want an item that is up for $5 and maybe I’m willing to pay $10 for it, but I don’t REALLY want it….I’ll wait. If no one has bid on it and there are 30 secs left, I’ll throw in my bid for $5. If I get it cool. If someone out bids me, fine, I didn’t really want it that bad enough to put my max bid at $10 anyway.

My 2 cents

Proxy bidding IS a sniper says:

Do people not realize that proxy bidding IS a sniper in itself? Enter the max that you are willing to pay, and the proxy will allow you to win at the lowest price. Snipers only work if they’re willing to pay more than you (be it by $.01 or $100) , in which case they deserve to win.

People who complain about snipers bug me to no end.

nikko says:

Email spamming

I run a promotion company in canada. Here is my issue facebook nowadays really catches on to spam and your account will get deleted fairly quick i.e. you add to many people, sent to many messages, etc. I need to find a way where you can change your ip constantly and have thousands of accounts, also having networks of emails from around michigan area, mainly universitys and colleges, if anyone knows anything about this shoot me an email will pay.

Jake Lopez (user link) says:

bot bidders

Do not use Penny Purses website, I have the very same bid time on a purse and they said the other person won. Seems like the same people win each week, something is not right. Will be interested in what they write back since I notified them that two people having the same bid time and they select the other person’s bid as a winner?

Cody says:

Re: bot bidders

I seem to see this problem with bidders whose name appears as something like a***d. I’ve figured out that if you confirm your bid at EXACTLY 4s left, it takes a 3s lead time so your bid hits at exactly 1s left, leaving the bot no time to counter. I’ve tried this three times so far and it hasn’t failed me yet

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...