In days gone by the best way to be a scammer on eBay was to list a laptop for sale on eBay for an attractive price and send the buyer an empty box.
However this has now changed. The best way to become a scammer on eBay is to be a buyer. When scammers first turned to buying items to get their kicks one of the most popular ways was to use two accounts. Lets assume you want to sell your MacBook Pro which is worth about $800-900 second hand (brand new value $1,500). So in order to attract as many people as possible to bid on your item you start the bidding at a low price ($50 or $100). Now a scammer would log into his first account and place the starting bid (let's say $100) and then log into his second account and place a bid of $1,500 thus ensuring no one would out bid him (I mean who would pay more for the item second hand than you could buy it brand and new?). Now, about a minute before the auction is over he would retract his second bid of $1,500 and the item would be sold to the next highest bidder, which in this case would be himself at the incredibly low price of $100 and he would end up with a MacBook Pro for $100. Obviously the seller could appeal or refuse to sell it and besides this is a very complicated way of getting a free item and eBay have tightened this up, the bid you place is the MAXIMUM you want to pay and the bidding gradually increases as more people bid.
But by doing this scammers now have easier ways of getting free items. All they need to do is claim the item 'never arrived', and to ensure they get their money back they will open a case against you with eBay. Let me explain a bit about cases in eBay. There are two forms of ratings on eBay. One for the buyers and one for eBay (which the buyers don't see). For the buyers there is feedback which obviously the higher the percentage the more trustworthy the seller. eBay generally don't get involved in feedback (unless it dips below a certain percentage or the seller suspects foul play) in which case eBay will intervene and either suspend the sellers account or remove the negative feedback. The way eBay monitor the sellers is by detailed seller ratings (DSR) and by open cases (cases opened by the buyer against the seller).
DSR are those 5 stars you see when leaving feedback for a seller. These rate the seller and the more 5 stars the seller gets the better.
Open cases are any cases opened against the seller for any reason and these are opened in the eBay resolution center. It could be for item not as described, haven't received the item, item is damaged etc...
Now, for a scammer, leaving negative feedback is pointless especially if the seller had thousands of positive feedback. So the scammer will open a case against the buyer claiming he never received the item. Before anything happens the buyer and seller have to communicate in the resolution centre in eBay. After communicating, if the buyer is still unhappy, he escalate the case to eBay who will look into it and make a final decision. Since the case is harmful to the seller the seller may just decide to give a refund and be done. But if the buyer escalates the claim, 9/10 eBay find in favor of the buyer. So the scammer will buy an expensive item and pay for the cheapest shipping (thus ensuring there is no tracking on the item) and then open a case and escalate the claim to eBay and get his money back.
It is that easy to get free items from eBay! (I have essentially written the scammers handbook for eBay! although any scammer already knows this and is no deep dark secret.)
In part 2 I will discuss how eBay is very one sided and even once the scammer has received his money back the seller is still being scammed.