The online auction world was shocked by biggest eBay fraud in its seven year history. What made it even more astonishing is fact that crooked seller has a five history of successful sales on eBay, accompanied by thousands of glowing testimonials from satisfied buyers.
Stewart Richardson, owner of a Michigan store called Retired Figurine Exchange Inc., sold small figurines to eBay collectors, some of them costing thousands of dollars. The heart of eBay's seller-honesty system is "Feedback", which allows buyers and sellers to rate each other. Mr. Richardson earned 6,185 positive feedback points since he started selling on eBay in 1997, with an additional 58 negative and 56 neutral ratings from buyers who bought from him. These scores mean that 98% of sales Mr. Richardson made resulted in satisfied buyers.
Richardson posted large numbers of auctions which concluded early in January, supposedly selling hundreds of figurines from an estate sale. He apparently sold items he didn't possess, listed same item multiple times and even contacted losers in auctions, informing them that winners didn't pay and offering them opportunity to buy. Then on January 17, he left for lunch and hasn't been seen since. Estimates of his stolen money range from $225,000-$400,000. Investigators later discovered that Richardson spent a total of about eight years in prison during late 1950s and 1960s for a number of felonies, most serious of which was assault with intent to commit murder.
Nor is he only high-profile crook. Brian D. Wildman was convicted of wire and mail fraud for selling valuable sports card sets ? but not delivering them as promised. Other sellers were indicted for attempting to sell a fake painting for $135,805. In another case, sellers themselves turned into a vigilante group, seeking justice from a 35 year old man who sold computers and then failed to deliver. The angry buyers apparently broke law in their attempts to retrieve their money back from dishonest seller.
You and I are damaged by these reports. There are many people who are uneasy about internet sales in general, and these kinds of high-profile stories make it tougher for honest people. In truth, eBay claims that fraud includes only .01% of its transactions, but that isn't reassuring to a nervous buyer.
What can we do?
1. Plaster your identity everywhere. Put full contact information where all potential buyers can see it. Give as many ways to contact you as possible. Include your picture (and perhaps dog and cat. :-) Choose anything that will let buyers see you as a real person with a stable life.