eBay increases protection against scams

December 1, 2008 6:52:32 PM PST
The world's largest online auction site is making major changes that could make shopping on eBay a lot safer.

The changes should mean a lot less people getting scammed on eBay, and for the first time, nearly 100 percent protection for many users.

Richard Lamagna is eBay's online safety adviser. As a security expert, he has helped the DEA go after drug dealers, the National Security Council go after terrorists, and now he is helping eBay take down Internet scams.

He says the company's efforts are already getting results.

"Items that have a high degree of susceptibility to be fraudulent items, those items are removed before they even make it to the site," said Lamagna.

The number of complaints about eBay has been high.

The Federal Trade Commission received 18,000 complaints about eBay and its sister company PayPal in 2006 to 2007. That is more complaints than the prior four years combined.

One of those with complaints was Peter Comarato of Burlingame. He thought he was going to get tickets to the BCS National Championship college football game. He was outbid, but later offered a second chance to bid when the seller e-mailed him directly.

"It was quick," said Comarato.

Maybe too quick. He sent in $2,600. His money disappeared and so did the tickets.

What happened to him is known as the second chance auction. eBay says it has taken steps to make such scams more difficult to pull off.

"By protecting the identity of bidders, those fake second chance offers cannot be sent to people," said Lamagna.

eBay also now more prominently promotes its safety tips. Last year, the link to its tips was on the bottom of the page. People we talked with a year ago found it difficult to find. Now the link to eBay's security page has been moved to the top of the home page and is much easier to find.

However, the biggest change is to eBay's PayPal buyer protection plan.

"Virtually 100 percent protection with no cap. So you should feel very, very safe," said Lamagna.

Buyers will be fully covered up to their purchase price as long as they pay using PayPal and as long as they see the PayPal buyer protection logo on the right side of the item listing.

Not all items will be covered, but eBay says most will. We randomly checked 25 items for sale and all 25 were covered.

Most of the changes went into affect November 1. It remains to be seen if they will work, but eBay remains optimistic.


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