Monday, February 27, 2006

Does eBay need to be more aggressive on fraud?

Today's column on how an eBay newbie was scammed out of $2,400 while trying to buy a wedding dress – a scam that won't even add to eBay's fraud statistics, but it says she fell victim to a "back alley," off-eBay transaction that just isn't its problem – drew some telling response from experienced eBay users.

A common thread: It's a wonderful place to do business, but eBay could and should do more to address fraud problems – especially in such areas as password theft and account tampering that eBay can't so easily disavow.

This e-mail from Denny Hannigan of Northeast Philly, who does business on eBay as Way Back When Antiques, makes the point better than I can:

Just read your column in today's Inquirer and had to post a reply.

While Ebay buyers and sellers must be cautious and abide by all the safety rules, there is definitely some responsibility on the part of Ebay management. Ebay, as a consumer service company, must be more receptive to the problems and scams encountered by customers. They cannot just provide warnings and conclude that the customers must be more wary.

I've been a registered Ebay member since their early days in 1997. I deal with them on a daily basis for the last several years and have an impeccable transaction record with no negative marks. I was a recent victim of a scam attempt where a predator was able to get my Ebay passwords and info and list items under my account. He was able to run up a very large dollar amount in fees before I even noticed it was going on. Ebay DOES NOT provide a direct phone number to contact anyone in the event of this type of problem (or any problem for that matter). Due to this I was forced to get online in a chat room with an Ebay rep and after several hours got the problem resolved (with NO explanation from Ebay how this happened). I realize Ebay cannot have an open line for the whole world to call on trivial matters but they need a direct line for scam protection, at least for registered members. This scammer I ran into was able to represent himself as me through no fault of my own.

Also Ebay provides system called FEEDBACK where members can complain or praise other members on the results of a transaction. This system is a great concept but seriously flawed in that it allows a "questionable" member to make erroneous claims against a member with a good record. Ebay has no upfront system of reviewing these disputes and just posts the comments for all to see. A disreputable member can smear the record of an upstanding member with no review by Ebay (until much later down the road). This can cost the reputable seller/buyer a great deal of business.

In conclusion, my point is that while Ebay is a wonderful venue that has changed the course of online buying and selling, it must be more receptive to it's members. Create a hot line to stop scams as they are discovered, allowing members to contact someone at Ebay. Establish a review board to look at feedback issues to protect honest Ebay members and their reputations. Ebay must remember, its strength is in it's continued use by contented customers. They must not isolate themselves from their customer base and continue to point to problem issues as being caused by the weaknesses of their users.


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