Is eBay Safe? Tips for Good Experiences as a Buyer

March 18, 2023 • April Miller


eBay is an extremely popular site where you can get an enormous variety of items by bidding for them or using the “Buy It Now” option. As the name suggests, it allows you to pay the seller’s stated price for a product rather than engaging in a potential bidding war during an auction. But is eBay safe? Let’s take a closer look at that question. 

Caution Is Always Wise

People generally consider eBay a safe place to find what they need and want. However, a good thing to remember is that it’s like virtually any other website in that you should be cautious when using it. 

Scams can happen anywhere and at any time, but it’s often easier for someone to pull one off through an online transaction rather than a face-to-face one. That’s because scammers typically know just what to say to elicit the desired reaction, and there’s no need to convince you of their honesty through body language. 

The best approach is to use eBay carefully and be wary of anything that seems too good to be true or otherwise makes you raise your eyebrows for any other reason. Always exercise common sense in every situation. Is eBay safe to use for buying something that costs thousands of dollars? That’s up to you to decide based on your circumstances.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s go into some specific ways you can make your interactions with eBay as safe as possible. 

Become Familiar With Common eBay Scams

A good starting point is to understand some of the common tricks people try to pull when they scam people on eBay. If you know something about general online scams, you’ll notice many similarities in those specific to eBay.

For example, one scam is that buyers agree to send something that never arrives. That can happen through other online platforms, too. Fortunately, eBay offers a Money Back Guarantee that covers most categories of items. It protects you when things don’t arrive or they come to you broken, damaged or not matching the description in the eBay listing. 

However, vehicles and real estate are two excluded categories. Those are two types of items for which you’d almost certainly lose huge sums of money if things go wrong. Is eBay safe for handling those transactions? Most people would likely advise against it, since eBay’s guarantee doesn’t cover them. 

Another broad thing to keep in mind about eBay’s guarantee is that it won’t cover any transactions occurring outside its platform. That means you should be especially suspicious if a seller urges you to pay with a bank transfer, money order or cash. 

eBay scams can also occur when a person only has an empty box to sell but tries to get everyone excited that they’re actually selling the container along with its contents. This misleading approach is particularly common with in-demand video games. 

However, sellers convince people to fall for the scam by pricing the items below market value. The lesson learned is to know how much the item should sell for. Be cautious if you find someone trying to sell it for significantly less.

Set a Strong Password and Change It Often

Although you can buy things from eBay with a guest account, the checkout process is faster, and it’s easier to trace your order, if you’re a registered user. This is a good time to remind you that one of the most straightforward and important ways to stay safe on eBay is to use good password hygiene. 

That means choosing a strong password that’s not easy for anyone else to guess. On top of that, you should change it often. Consider the 2022 incident where someone on a hacking forum offered 14 million Amazon and eBay accounts for sale. They came from people who had site access across a seven-year period, originating from 18 countries. 

The longer you keep an account active without changing it, the more likely it is that hackers could access it with stolen credentials. Sure, it’s somewhat of a hassle, but much less so now, thanks to password managers. Google even has one you can use for free. 

Never share your password with others, even if you’re doing so to help a friend or something similar. Passwords only work as intended if kept private. Otherwise, it’s far too easy for them to get compromised, even if unintentionally. 

Learn About eBay’s Resources

eBay has a framework you can rely on if you need help with a purchase. Engaging with it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the outcome you want, but it gives you somewhere to turn rather than assuming you’ve lost money you’ll never get back. 

Even before approaching eBay representatives about purchases, there are things you can do to increase the chances of transactions going smoothly. One of them is to check a seller’s rating and feedback scores. Most people who sell things on eBay want to keep their status on the site in good standing. So, they do everything they can to ship items promptly and accurately represent what they have to sell. 

If you see a seller with a low rating and poor feedback scores, those are red flags. So is any evidence that the seller has not sold many things on the site yet.

eBay has a customer service hub that’s a great starting point for getting help. Relatedly, the site’s Security Center expands on many of the things you’ve read here by providing numerous safety tips and resources. Consider bookmarking both those pages for easy reference later — especially if you intend to shop on eBay frequently. 

Is eBay Safe? That Depends

The main thing to keep in mind about using eBay safely is that getting good results requires some proactiveness from you. Even though the site has some protections against fraudulent transactions, they don’t cover all instances. 

It’s up to you to check a seller’s ratings and see how what they’re offering compares to similar listings. If something seems too good to be true, you may want to look elsewhere in the interest of safety. 

There’s no need to be overly wary of using eBay in general. Many people find it a handy site for finding various items in one place. However, you’re more likely to have beneficial interactions with eBay sellers by following the suggestions above.