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Ebay Shill Bidding and Fraud recourse or options?


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Questions on shill bidding, and protection with PayPal or other

method in case fraud occurs.

#1: Is there anything that can be done to stop shill bidding on


Ebay doesn't seem to do anything about it (in their info about it,

they stress how there can be mistakes, and might just give a

warning, etc). Of course it's in their interest NOT to stop it

because they make more money by having people go against their own


I've read what other people have written, how some real bidders

might look like shill bidders. Fair enough. But if you have a

seller where on every item that is publically listed (some are

private) there's always another ID (the same one all the time)

bumping it up a LOT higher -- and that ID has a "0" by it

(meaning it never bought or sold anything even though it bids all

the time on this guy's auction).. isn't that a pretty good

indication that it's a shill bid? Especially when it's not just

bidding up to the next available amount, but raising it double the

price or by leaps?

Can anything be done about this? If an auction has been won,

there's no way to demand the seller lower the price back... if an

auction is going on, the worst that can happen is that it gets

relisted but ebay is so slow, by the time anyone reads it, it's

usually too late (and I doubt ebay takes any such action -- maybe

only on rare occasion). Any tips about this?

Also, how do you know if a bad seller has just started with another

ID? In reading a bunch of posts here over the last few hours, I

noticed some mention of sellers having had shut down ebay accounts

and opened up new ones. How do you guys know it's the same


#2: if a seller allows you to pay with PayPal, what options are

there for a seller to have to keep his word, or if there are

problems? PayPal (I looked) has only a $200 guarantee against fraud

(and a $25 fee). Most instruments sell for more than that

obviously. Even when using a credit card for a backup, I remember

being told once by my bank that they don't usually give refunds or

fight PayPal themselves, because paypal isn't a credit card,

they're a service, and the bank that issues the credit card has

nothing to do with it (not like a normal credit card transaction

where you're protected against fraud). They say you have to

complain to PayPal, but PayPal only will give you back $200 max.

What if you bid $2,800 or $1,300 or $950 or $4,200 or something? A

cashier's check or money order or personal check aren't any safer.

What have been some experiences with people here in the past? For

instance, if a seller completely goes back on his word or lies in

the listing (ie, not honoring a listed 7-day refund option if buyer

wants to return, or the violin is full of cracks if advertised

as perfect condition, or not at all what advertised as, or things

such as this?)

I don't know if this would apply to international buyers/sellers,

but what about interstate fraud laws? Would that help any if PayPal

won't refund the amount in obvious fraud? Because the mail system

is being utilized for fraud?

Finally, how can you find out what a generic violin might be worth?

By this I mean, a violin with an unknown maker and lower profile

(assuming it's in good condition). Such as a German violin from the

WW2 era, or something like this. It's much easier to know what a

Villaume's value is worth, but what about, say, a generic WW2

German or East European fiddle should be worth, assuming it's

nicely made and in good shape?

Thanks everyone!

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You (a buyer) should know what you want with your money. There is no joy to

beat another bidder if you don't get the violin you want. I think most people are fair

and honest. They will do their best to tell you what they know. However, The risk is built-in when you buy something you have not seen or not played.

My impression on the price of an old German violin is somewhere in $600-$1500. I bought one for $600.

(from Elderly Instrument, online) It has a nice sound but I wish it looks prettier.

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Not trying to be snide here, only trying to answer your concerns succinctly:

Your post reads as though you aren't very experienced with eBay. If so, you need to run away from violin shopping on eBay and just do the retail route.

It takes a lot (and I mean a LOT) of experience using eBay and even more experience with buying instruments before you want to trek into the shark infested waters of eBay stringed instrument sales. Yes, there are reputable sellers of stringed instruments, but their numbers are waning as the slezoids of the world find their way to the eBay platform of ripping people off.

My two cents worth....

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i have almost no experience with eBay in general or with buying

violins on eBay in particular (i have only 1 eBay transaction, for

a violin), but as someone new to eBay, here is my approach:

keep in mind this is my own personal opinion, which may or not be


 first and foremost, i only seriously consider violins for

sale by someone who has a good reputation in an 'independent'

forum, such as the violin boards, especially Maestronet...i feel

pretty sure that if someone mentioned a name here that people knew

to be shady, they would speak up...plus people here are curious and

helpful, so quite often people post links to an on-line auction and

ask for opinions, which are usually rendered (and which if anything

seem to my very inexperienced eye to err far on the side of not

giving the benefit of doubt!  &nbsp...this is the sort of

person i bought my violin from...

also, i would be pretty hard-pressed to buy from someone with no

feedback! i hadn't thought about them just setting up a new account

to escape bad feedback, which now makes me even more unlikely

(again, unless i knew this person in another context) to do so! i

prefer to deal with someone with something of a reputation--i know

that maybe sometimes someone with no feedback offers what they

describe as an amazing violin, but they found it in an attic or got

it at an estate sale, and it's really valuable, but they can't

play, so they haven't tried it, and by the way ALL SALES ARE

FINAL!!! (i also would be *very* unlikely to buy from someone

without a return policy or some sort of arbitration commitment)

second, if i had a bad feeling about someone (if for example i

thought they were having shills bid on their items!), i would *not*

buy from them! i feel that any sleazy practices would extent to the

rest of the interaction with this person...

third, i agree with yuen that you have to decide what it's worth to

you personally...there is another thread going on just now where

several people are telling someone that the violin they are

considering is not worth the cost of the repairs it will require,

even though the purchase price is cheap...while they are certainly

likely to be absolutely correct from a resale perspective, if

someone bought it and fixed it up, they would have a well-set-up

instrument that they could play for a long time! (of course, even

well set up, this violin might be crap, and maybe that's what they


the violin i bought from eBay kinda fits in this

category--although i really don't know what it's worth, i paid

somewhat more than i really wanted to, but it seemed like a nice,

solid instrument that would meet my needs, and i'm not planning to

sell it anytime soon, so even if i paid a bit too much, i really

don't mind...also, after getting it, i felt it needed a new bridge,

so i have it in the shop right now...although the fingerboard and

nut work ok, the fingerboard is not ebony, and is pretty thin, so

they may replace them, too (i haven't heard back from the luthier

yet) so that a new bridge doesn't have to be cut again when the

fingerboard is replaced...i don't know, a lot of people may feel

that i am putting too much money in the instrument, but as i

described above, i feel i will have an instrument that will work

very well for me for a long time without giving me any

problems...yes, i could have put that same money in a nicer old

instrument, but then it would need some of the same stuff done at

some point, too!

and finally, as Elaine (Gray Violiner) says, eBay is very much

buyer beware! the problems you mention are there, but eBay just

provides the network, i don't think they are interesting in

policing much, because they would have to add a *lot* of staff, and

substantially increase their commission to cover it, which would

maybe make it cost-prohibitive for most sellers...

to me, it's like doing business through the classifieds--any time

you are dealing with a private person, as a seller you don't know

if their check will clear, and as a buyer, unless you are an expert

in whatever you're buying, you often don't know if what you're

getting has hidden flaws or is grossly over-priced, and the stories

are legion of people trying to resolve such issues! eBay increases

these issues to a whole 'nother level, because you don't even

know where the people live or have easy access to their local legal

system! and i think you're right, PayPal is like giving a personal

check, when you release it, your only recourse is through the law

and driven by your own time and money, not someone else's (like a

big ole gredit card company!)

so i agree with yuen and Elaine, you can't really get involved with

eBay if you don't want to take these risks (and i typically don't

that's why i don't shop eBay!), and you can't risk an amount that's

too much to lose, unless you are dealing with someone you really


i know this was really long, and i don't have solutions for the

issues you raised, but i hope this helps in your dealings with




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Using reserves or high starting bids are simply a big turnoff on ebay, when buyers see this, they move to the next item, maybe they can get a a great deal on the next item. Some sellers use shill bids or break even bids so they don't lose money on certain listings. If a seller consitantly loses money on ebay they will not sell on ebay and then the ebay public will lose that seller who might otherwise offer excellent merchandise.

Some sellers use a breakeven shill bid as a counter to systemic sniper bidding. Since most bidders with hold their bids to the last seconds the seller has no way to determine whether he will be succesful until the auction is over.

Sellers are routinely emailed questions, what is your buy it now price?...even though it is not listed as a buy it now item. Since so many bidders are snipers, the seller might not know the true market value nor see any action on the item and sell for a fraction of the price and end the auction early.

"I need this for my daughter, It's for my Grandson. It's a gift!", Here's $300 ( for an item that eventually sells for $1,500)

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i see what you mean! if i were selling on eBay, i would worry about

getting a fair value for my item, too!

and definitely as a buyer (and i assume even more so for

the seller!), it is highly frustrating to follow

something for days and then have it all decided in the last few


on the other hand, though, i wonder, does seeing a starting bid or

reserve really make people any more likely to just move on than

seeing that the current bid is at the same price as the starting

bid would have been? as windycity mentioned, seems like it might

actually turn people away because it looks like the auction might

be rigged?


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As far as the potential shill bidder, you can do a search on their bidding history and see if they are only bidding on the one seller's auctions or not. Some people do like to 'sport bid', not caring if they win or maybe even preferring not to, they just like to run the bidding up. Of course if you are noticing they run the bids up but are also withdrawing their bid at the last moment that would certainly be a strong indication it is shilling.

If you are fairly certain it is a shill then I'd recommend reporting it to ebay, they can and do give warnings as well as eventually remove the seller, if they persist in the practice.

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thanks everyone for your comments and thoughts.

I'm sorry, I have no agreement with those who support shill bidding

on ebay.

The way I see it, there's nothing wrong with a last minute bid.

That's not against ebay's rules. Shill bidding is DEFINITELY

against ebay's rules even though they don't seem to care. If a

seller doesn't like the prospect of his item being bid on at the

last minute, he can easily go to a violin shop and sell it on

consignment or sell it another way. The auction process includes

many who bid at the last minute. That's the way ebay works. Some

people will bid early, some will bid last second. If a seller wants

a guarantee they should not use ebay. Ebay should be about chance

and seeing what the market will bear, not falsly raising the market

(that's Enron's job). The prospect of a buyer getting a good deal

is just as valid as the prospect of the seller getting tons of bids

and some really high ones. If a seller has a $1000 violin and he's

concerned because the bids are only at $400, to me the person is

pretty low to create a second account and have himself (or friend

or spouse) bid it up. If he's worried and wants that much, he

shouldn't use an auction system. The chance of not getting enough

is just like the chance of getting a jackpot in high bids. I've

sold a total of two items on ebay -- one got a lot more than I

thought it would and one got a lot less than I thought it would.

That's ebay. I would never try to fraudulently send the price

up. TO ME shill bidding is no different than bidders who don't

pay. Non-paying bidders are simply the buyers version of seller

shilling. Don't get me wrong, I've NEVER been a non-payer, but I'd

have no sympathies towards a seller if some jerk bid on an auction

then didn't pay if that seller was also bidding up his own stuff.

It's exactly the same thing. When the other "account" has a zero

after it, never actually completing a transaction, is in the same

location as the seller, does nothing but bid on the seller's items

but never to win, and makes sure the price jumps up by huge amounts

(not just to the next level), as far as I'm concerned that's a

shill account and I have no respect at all for sellers who do this.

I suggest people watch out for -- and avoid bidding -- on sellers

who keep their listings private, and for those who don't, have such

a bidder on them all the time. Look for zeros after bids that

substantially increase the amount. Of course if it's just once or

twice it could be a coincidence, but when it happens multiple times

it's a dead giveaway (especially if you know that the seller and

the other account are in the same location).

I would never buy an expensive violin on ebay (I found with humour

posts here linking to auctions on ebay with this guy selling the

Strad and del gesu talking about ghosts and Christ and such). But a

lesser instrument or bow or accessory I would consider (since if

you don't like the tone at least you're not out too much) but some

sellers are really liars and cheats. And they seem to be players

too. A real shame. Of course there are a tiny, tiny few that say

things like "full refund if not satisfied, just pay for postage and

listing fees" which seems really fair (assuming they keep their

word as even with paypal there's only a 200 dollar guarantee in

case of fraud).

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Hi Windy,

Return to your topic. Sorry you feel that way. I have never bought or sold anything on e-bay. However,

A friend of mine had a very good experience of buying a sail-boat for $4,000 from e-bay

Otherwise he would never be able to afford it. It took him 3 days to go Georgia to get it to his place..

Imagine the joy he got from this deal. The seller needed the money, and e-bay provides him

aplace to get it sold.

If you try to buy something for yourself. Just be patient. There is bargain. E-bay is just a market

place, which is no more honest or crooked than any other market place.

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There are only two ways to bid on eBay.

First, place your highest bid and never increase it. Only suckers get trapped into a bidding frenzy.

The second and best method is to place your bid with a sniping service. Again, place your absolute highest bid and wait for the results. I like sniping because I can cancel before the end of the auction.

I must admit that I feel sorry for newbies on eBay who keep uping their bids. If you are ever tempted to increase your bid it is most likely you don't know what you are doing and should avoid eBay.

Sorry to come down so hard on this topic, but I want to protect you.

Mike in NJ

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yes, i did that with the violin i bought! i wound up paying about

$300 more than i meant to spends, because i kept losing out, and

felt that i was never going to get a violin! i do* get caught up in

the 'gotta have it!' insanity, rather than approaching it in a

no-nonsense, rational way...frustratingly, that's kinda my life!

(yes, i know that's stupid, i've been that way since i was little,

and unfortunately am too likely to ever change!)

that said, if you read my loooonnnnggg post above (or want to read

it now!), i explain why i am not unhappy with the deal i got, and i

am glad i just went ahead and did it...i'm not sure i would ever

find anything cheaper on eBay, and nothing like that is in the

shops in my area (old, ~$1000, in good shape, with a mellow

sound...most of the old violins start over $2000, are heavily

repaired, and while good for large halls or something, are way too

harch and loud for me!)

however, in general, i feel your advice is spot-on!  


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Hi all,

Is shilling biddding that bad? It is equivalent to " the seller wants more money for the

merchandise" It is still up to the bidder to say "yes or no". It is a negotiation thing. Is it?

I am confused.

PS. Let us assume the seller knows more about the value of the merchnadise than the bidders.

(usually the case) Then, it is a way that the seller tells you its reserve has benn been met. What good is it if your machnadise has not sold? Its underline's telling that the merchadise is worth at least that much. Make sense?

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  • 3 weeks later...

In Europe shilling up to the reserve is normal auction


Auctions come from Europe and not from the USA.

Are you sure that Sothebys, Skinners and other auction

houses do not bid up their auction to the reserve price?

I think you could find this in their guides written in the auction


At ebay shilling is not allowed because it is a internet sale and

not auction.

Ebay is not a real auction. The european law says it is a internet

sale and has nothing to do with a auction, because it ends to at a

fixed point of time.

For example Tarisio is different it is a internet auction because

they extend the auction 15 minutes if theres a bid in the last 5


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I,m of the view that bidding against the wall is common in the US ,which is the same as bidding up to the reserve.I bid at normal auctions in the UK and the States.

In the UK a seller can bid or get someone else to bid on his behalf up to any reserve price.This is entirely inside the law.

On the otherhand bidding like this above the reserve is strictly illegal but i suspect does go on ,expecially if your not present in person and leave an absentee bid.

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