How I lost £2,000 on eBay

Is eBay safe in 2018? Seller sent parcel via Royal Mail special delivery but the item has not arrived and someone else has signed for it. Seller wins.

(Short version at the bottom of this page)

I am no writer by any means so please bear with me as I try to bring to light a very creative and complex new scam which I have experienced first-hand. This new scam has been designed to be very confusing so that the seller can get away with it with no effort at all.

A little about my history: I have been a member on eBay since 15th Feb 2005 and with over 300 purchases (products ranging between £1 to £1,500) I have not had a single problem. The thought of not receiving an item has never even occurred to me, as I have trusted eBay and was under the impression we as buyers (and sellers) are all protected. On top of that, I felt doubly secure in the knowledge that we have a second security via PayPal too. 
Yet after eBay sided with a seller simply for providing a “tracking number” therefore causing me to lose £1,750, my trust and safety has been shattered. As I try to explain my complex situation to eBay, I feel as though I’m the criminal as I’m not being taken seriously, even though I have been played out of almost £2,000. 

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I'll start from the beginning. I found a great deal for a Canon 5D mark IV for £1,850 and thought this was too good to be true. Being a professional photographer for many years, I not only thoroughly conduct research into the equipment I use, but have always followed an incredibly cautious approach when purchasing from prospective sellers. So, I did the first thing any user would do and checked the seller's reviews, paying attention to the items others had purchased (mainly items that were over £1,500). Next thing I checked was the length of the user's account - a member since 2016. Everything seemed great, and with 100% positive feedback, I placed an offer for £1,750.


Fast forward to delivery date. I was tracking my item all day and waiting for the postman. The parcel was sent via Royal Mail special delivery to arrive before 1pm, so I felt further secured in the idea that it would be with me soon as it passed midday. While waiting, I refreshed the tracking information around 12:40 to check where it was, only to find out that the parcel had already been delivered and signed, yet I clearly did not have a package with me, so who could have possibly received it? Checking the details, I saw it had been signed by someone I did not recognise (let's call them VP) but who lived in the same town as me, yet no further information. First thing I did was check with my neighbours - there are only 3 other houses on my street. Nothing.


My next move was to call Royal Mail, yet for some unknown reason they wouldn't tell me any information regarding the parcel and instead insisted I contact the sender to find out with GPS coordinates of where the delivery happened. So, I sent the eBay seller an email asking them to call Royal Mail and do that for me, yet oddly he responded that he would call in the next morning (very strange).

Feeling that something fishy was going on, later on in the day I went to the local shop/Post office and asked around if they knew anyone by the name of VP who had signed for my parcel. Luckily one person did. Great! They gave me the location, which turned out to be the local GP and I met with VP. After explaining my situation, they recalled that they did in fact sign for a parcel that came from eBay in their name VP and the same address, yet had not ordered what she had received. VP explained that when she opened the parcel it was filled with junk and cardboard pieces. VP allowed me to even see the parcel with my own eyes, which displayed the label and the exact tracking number matching the one my seller had given to me! Why had my seller sent an empty box to someone else's name and address? Here is when I discovered the absolute disgusting genius of the scam!


I will explain. When you send a package through Royal Mail as ‘special delivery’, the item is tracked online but without displaying the full details of the address - only that the name of the town. The only difference is the name of the signee, so it seems that it could easily be a family member or a partner that signed for it. This makes the buyer lose credibility. 

Secondly when you call Royal Mail they cannot give you any information and most importantly none of your calls get logged into the system, because it’s in the other person’s name. So in reality, no one has claimed for the item and this again makes the buyer lose credibility. I personally called Royal Mail 4 times after sending 2 emails and no one could neither confirm or deny the address, because the package technically was not in my name. The only way RM could find out the location would be if the sender opened an investigation for RM to find out and contact the local depot. This was never going to happen. How frustrating!

After 8 days of opening an 'Item not received' dispute, I escalated this for eBay to investigate. The escalation was put into place just after midnight and when I woke up in the morning, I had received an email with the subject ‘Case ### has been closed. We're not able to give you a refund.’ I was shocked. When did eBay get a chance to investigate between the hours of 12am to 7am on a Saturday? I went into my case to find out more information, and the reason behind the decision was, ‘We received tracking information from the seller that shows the item was delivered to your address or will be arriving shortly.’ What? I am speechless! The seller simply has provided the tracking number? That’s it?


Of course it makes sense! The person who signed my parcel could have been a family member in the same address, as the tracking page doesn't show the full address. If eBay called Royal Mail to check if there had been any calls logged for the buyer making complains, they would have found none, as the parcel itself was not in my name. Remember the parcel was sent to VP and I wouldn't have been able to open any case for that parcel. Why should eBay believe me over the seller who has an “actual proof” (if you want to call the tracking number that) over a buyer who has not made any attempts to track and open a case for a parcel that was not delivered (since my calls could not be logged).

But I do have proof and there was no way of me adding any documents in the dispute and eBay didn't even ask me for my side during this "investigation."

I am still in the process of fighting for my money back and my last hope is my credit card fraud team actually taking me seriously and looking at my evidence. Please take this as a strong warning that eBay is not safe, and please be cautious when purchasing expensive items. As if all of that wasn’t enough - positive reviews mean nothing because once the case is closed, you cannot leave any feedback to warn others! Good luck out there and please share this with anyone that might benefit with this information. 

Short Version
Sellers have found a loophole where they send an empty parcel via Special Delivery to a nearby address, since the full address is not shown when tracked online. Online tracking only shows the name who has signed for the parcel, which makes it look like it was a family member has signed for the package. You also cannot chase Royal Mail or open a case as the parcel is not in your name. eBay sees this as lack of activity on your part and favours the seller. Sellers make money with little effort and after the dispute has settled, you cannot even leave any feedback to warn others. The user remains 100% positive feedback. Rinse and repeat with the next sucker.