A warning about transactions on EBay from an experienced seller

It was bound to happen. After hundreds of successful transactions on eBay, someone managed to pull one over on me. Let the following story serve as a warming to you if you’re looking to sell something online to a stranger. Bottom line: Wait for the check to clear.

A couple of weeks ago, I put up an old iPhone for sale on eBay. During the week that it was up for bids, I got some interesting questions. People from Africa and Europe wanted to buy it outside of EBay. Because I thought I was so smart, I declined their requests and continued the process. By the end of the auction, a person named “Gary” had bid $450 and won.

After I completely wiped all the information from the phone, I put it in a box to ship it. In the 24 hours that it took me to ship it, Gary emailed me several times to ask if it was shipped. I responded to him that I would ship it as soon as I could. In the meantime, his payment through PayPal, in the form of an electronic check, was being processed. Since I didn’t have any issues with electronic checks before, I went ahead and shipped the phone.

In the 24 hours after shipping the phone, Gary emailed me several times to confirm that the package was on its way. He even worried that I had not shipped it since it takes a while for UPS to update the shipping database. But, by the end of the 24 hours, the package was verified as sent and all was well… Until last Friday.

Last Friday, I got a notification from PayPal that the electronic check had not cleared. I contacted Gary and asked for an explanation. Via email, Gary responded that he would clear it up with the bank. In the meantime, I asked UPS to intercept the package and return it to me. According to their tracking system, the package was indeed intercepted at 8am. However, someone called them impsonating me at 5pm and asked that the package be delivered anyway. I didn’t find out about that until Monday.

When I found out what happened on Monday, I contacted Gary again. I asked him by email why he had received the package if he had not paid. His reply would be the last thing I heard from him. He wrote back that he did not receive the package and that he didn’t want to be contacted again. I reminded him that I h ad his contact info, except for his phone number, and that there we legal means to get back my phone and my money. No reply. A last attempt by PayPal to cash the check was declined.

The thing about Gary is that he has a YouTube channel and a Twitter account, both linked to the verified email from PayPal. Through both accounts, he preemptively blocked me from contacting him, so he must have looked me up. He is also a “music producer” who tells everyone about his music, his projects, and about being “original” and true to one self. This is hilarious coming from someone who is in possession of something that doesn’t belong to him.

I contacted a friend who is an attorney and we agreed that going after Gary is not worth the hassle, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t do anything about it. I contacted UPS, and they are launching an investigation. They will attempt to get the package back and figure out if Gary called impersonating me to get the package delivered. I had also bought insurance for the package, so they will pay me the money I lost in the deal. I also contacted the phone carrier with whom I had the phone, and they will essentially turn it into a brick by adding it to the IMEI blacklist. Neither Gary nor anyone will be able to activate it, and I will be notified if someone tries. Finally, I filed a police report for theft which I forwarded to PayPal and EBay to report Gary’s activities. Police in his state will also receive a notification.

In essence, Gary is about to be walking around with a bricked phone and a couple of investigations into what he’s done. If this were Mexico, I probably would have handled things differently. But we have a rule of law here and a robust insurance system. So this is about as much action as I’m going to take against Gary.

Next time, I’ll wait for the check to clear.

I'm a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen

One thought on “A warning about transactions on EBay from an experienced seller

  1. ebay and Paypal may end up blocking his account for theft, for theft is indeed what he did. That and wire fraud.
    That said, the FBI won’t act, as it’s only a $450 theft. They only tend to act when the fraud is in the millions.

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