The Lookout: Phishing for eBay Users

E-mail scams known as phishers continue to evolve. According to antispam company MailFrontier, a new bogus e-mail that appears to be from eBay indicates that the site has suspended your account because it suspects the account has been hijacked by a foreign IP address. As with previous scams, you are asked to click on a link to a form to confirm your identity. What’s different about this scam is that the link doesn’t take you to a fake site that looks like eBay; rather, it takes you to a redirection page that uses JavaScript to spawn a pop-up form and then redirects you to the legitimate eBay site. What you see is the fraudulent form on top of a real eBay page.

Be suspicious of any e-mail message that asks for your personal information. Don’t ever follow a link in an e-mail that asks you to enter or edit sensitive information. Close the message and either log on to your account directly or call the company.

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10 Hot eBay Tips

Think of eBay as the ultimate return policy. No matter where or when you bought an item (or from which crazy relative you received it as a gift), you can turn around and sell it, sometimes for more than what you paid. The eBay marketplace is no longer a phenomenon; it’s a hobby, a livelihood, and even a way of life for millions of addicts around the globe. But no matter how much you sell on eBay, odds are you’re missing a few opportunities to maximize your bottom line. Here are some tips that can help.

Look before you list. The most effective way to get the most money is to know your market. Before you list your item, perform a quick, title-only search on eBay for items similar to yours. Then, click on Completed items (under the Display heading) and sort the results by price (highest-priced first). Keep in mind that any given item on eBay is worth only what others are willing to pay for it, so ignore any listings that never received bids. Scrutinize the most successful sales and see how the sellers have described and promoted their items in order to earn top dollar.

Price to sell. When you’re ready to list, set your Buy-It-Now price in the neighborhood of what you expect your item is worth; raise it a little for particularly in-demand or scarce objects, or take a few dollars off if you want to move your merchandise fast. Set the starting price (the opening bid) much lower, though, anywhere from a single dollar to no more than half your item’s value; this will encourage healthy bidding, thus raising the perceived value and the final price. If you’ve done your research, you won’t have to worry about your item selling for too little.

Reserve judgment. If you’re considering a reserve price for your listings—don’t. The reserve price is a secret dollar amount below which you’re under no obligation to sell, and it is useful only if you don’t know the value of your item. Reserves tend to scare away bidders and accomplish nothing more than lowering the closing price unnecessarily. Even worse is the use of a Buy-It-Now price alongside a reserve price, as bidders easily confuse the two and give up any hope of getting a bargain.

Spelling counts. The success of any auction item relies almost entirely on the likelihood of its being found in searches and—to a lesser extent—eBay’s category listings. eBay searches are seeded by the words you place in your auction titles, so include as many relevant keywords as possible without wasting space with unnecessary punctuation, nonsense such as “@@ Look! @@,” or any other terms for which your customers won’t be searching. Since eBay uses exact-match (as opposed to fuzzy) searches, the words in your titles must be spelled correctly in order to show up in search results. But if you have the space, be sure to include some intentional misspellings (Delorean, Delorian, or Delorion, for example) to accommodate your more spelling-challenged customers; just make sure the correct spelling is also there.

With only a scant 45 characters in which to work, there’s rarely room to spare in an auction title. If you’re inclined to highlight the condition, scarcity, or other special aspects of your item, do so in the subtitle. Although subtitles are indexed only in title-and-description searches (not the more common title-only searches), they do appear in all search results and category listings and are effective in getting extra attention. A subtitle costs 50 cents, so don’t bother for any item worth less than about $25.

Dress for success. A little color and spice in your auction will not only make it more inviting and more professional-looking, it will help emphasize important details in the auction description. Among the most vital are the payment and shipping details, both of which are unfortunately buried far beneath the photos in eBay’s new auction page design. The clearer, simpler, and easier to find your terms are, the less likely you are to be hassled by confused or disappointed customers or deadbeat bidders.

HTML: Make it look good. A rudimentary WYSIWYG description editor is part of eBay’s Sell Your Item form (Internet Explorer only), but it offers little more than basic control over the font size and appearance. For the best-looking and most feature-rich descriptions (including such niceties as in-line images, tables, and even JavaScript), you’ll want to turn to your favorite Web page editor; Adobe GoLive, Netscape Composer, or even Microsoft Word will do. The problem with these applications is that they generate complete, standalone pages, not insertable HTML code that can be pasted into a Web form. Fortunately, Creative Element Power Tools (free trial, $18 registration fee, http://www.creativelement.com/powertools) comes with an Extract HTML Page Content tool, which bridges this gap. Type and format your auction description in your Web page editor and save it as an HTML file. Then, right-click on the file, select Extract Page Content, and paste the formatted text into the description field of eBay’s Sell Your Item form. Finally, click on Preview Your Description to double-check your work.

Easy payment plan. The easier you make payment for customers, the more likely they’ll be to give you their business. The most popular payment method these days is PayPal, which lets members send money to anyone with an e-mail address. The only cost is assessed to sellers, on the order of about 3 percent of the amount a seller receives. But don’t be put off; the extra bids you’ll get with that PayPal logo in your auction will more than make up for the measly 3 percent fee.

Although PayPal goes to some lengths to safeguard its members, you’ll want to take a few extra steps to protect yourself. As a seller, refuse any payments from buyers who don’t provide confirmed addresses (meaning that PayPal has verified them through their credit card records). Otherwise, you’ll be forced to forfeit any money later found to be from a stolen credit card. And as a buyer, always fund your payments with a credit card for an extra layer of protection from your credit card company’s charge-dispute department.

Worth a thousand bids. Nothing sells your auction better than a good photo, and you can improve your auction photo– taking skills with a few simple tricks. Shoot your item at an angle to exaggerate its depth and to make it look like it’s about to jump out of the screen. Light your item from two different sources (including your camera’s flash) to reduce shadows and enhance detail. Finally, make sure it’s in focus! Move farther away from your item to help your camera focus on the whole thing, and crop out excess background later.

Open communication. Everyone hates junk e-mail, but your attempts to curb it may be costing you more than you realize. Overly aggressive spam filters are probably the biggest cause of negative feedback on eBay, as sellers’ payment instructions often don’t get to their customers’ in-boxes. And bidders frequently retract bids after receiving no replies to questions sent to sellers, usually because of spam filters on both ends. Start by disabling any spam-blocking services you (or your ISP) may be employing and replacing them with a more passive spam scanner. PC Magazine recommends Norton AntiSpam 2004 (www.symantec.com/antispam) or SpamCatcher (www.mailshell.com), which mark suspected spam so that your e-mail program can trash the messages—but only after you’ve had a chance to inspect them.

If you suspect that your e-mail isn’t reaching its destination, there are a number of back doors you can use. First, use eBay’s Contact Member form whenever possible, as e-mail originating directly from eBay’s servers is less likely to be trapped by an errant junk filter. If that doesn’t work, send your message from an alternate account just in case your return address is what’s causing the problem. If you’re a seller, put a note in your auction and payment instructions that tells customers to disable their spam filters if they don’t get e-mail from you. Finally, try to answer your bidders’ questions right in the auction description to educate—as well as reassure—all your potential customers.

Tools to use. Creating new eBay listings can be cumbersome and time-consuming, especially if you’re listing a dozen or more items at once. Automated listing software lets you create templates into which you can insert item-specific information. You can save the listings on your hard drive, which makes selling similar items or relisting the same item easy.

You can also use listing tools to schedule your listings without additional fees (a service for which eBay otherwise charges a dime per listing). You can also take your time to compose your listings at 1:00 A.M. and then upload them to eBay the next day at work. Auctions that begin and end during the daytime (by your customers’ clocks) fetch higher prices than those that close while your customers are asleep.

eBay’s own very capable Turbo Lister application for Windows is available for free from http://pages.ebay.com/turbo_lister (although normal listing fees still apply). Another worthy and free tool is Auction Submit (www.auctionsubmit.com), which adds post-auction record keeping, such as the final price and high bidder of each successful auction. Both tools help you list more items in less time and fund your own binge shopping at the world’s largest flea market.

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Abidia Wireless 3.0; mobile eBay auction Software now available for Palm OS platform

Abidia, the leading provider of mobile-phone and wireless handheld device solutions for online auctions, announced the availability of Abidia’s third-generation wireless application for eBay on the Palm OS(R) platform, enabling effortless real-time access to eBay accounts and listings for mobile devices worldwide. The next-generation technology features a convenient auction experience comparable to a personal computer on the eBay site, in performance, presentation, productivity, and convenience. Additionally, Abidia Wireless(TM) 3.0 offers a streamlined and improved interface, allowing instant access to eBay auction information.

Abidia Wireless 3.0 for Palm Powered(TM) devices with an Internet connection, builds upon the popular application from Abidia, providing mobile devices effortless real-time access to a users’ account and listings from the eBay site, as well as many international eBay sites. Abidia Wireless version 3.0 makes a convenient auction experience possible; users are allowed to view real-time information about items that have been won, lost, bought, and sold; view and add items to the watch list; view any items’ current bid price or image; or compare prices of other auctions. Abidia Wireless 3.0 makes it easy to carry item listings and visual images, as well as buyer and seller lists, in your pocket. Easy, on-the-go supervision of real-time auction status is a simple install away.

“Abidia Wireless is a convenient way to keep connected to eBay, wherever you are. The easy setup, simple interface, and powerful features combined with a Palm Powered device provide a top notch enhancement to eBay,” said Mike Burch, chief technical officer of Abidia. “Expanding the functionality of Palm Powered mobile devices and smartphones, Abidia Wireless 3.0 offers users instant, real-time access to constantly changing eBay auction data,” said Larry Berkin, director of developer marketing, PalmSource. “Auction buyers and sellers can now benefit from tracking their auctions while on-the-go.”

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Building an Online Reputation At eBay!

Online business shares many of the same fundamentals as an offline business. Both needs a strong presence. Like for any brick-and-mortar company, building online reputation is essential for the prosperity of your business. In principle, online reputation is not radically different from offline reputation, a fact you will appreciate. But building your reputation as eBay seller follows different lines.

Using the ‘About Me’ Page to Build Reputation
Many potential Ebay buyers often check the About Me page of the seller to determine if the seller is indeed who he says he is. Let the eBay community know about you through this page. Use the page carefully, writing about yourself, your expertise and niche. You can add weightage by talking about your selling philosophy and principles. Let on that you are indeed an expert in your product field. Always maintain an Ebay Theme for your business in order to be viewed as an authority in your field.

Use the ‘About Me’ page to its maximum potential. Although it can be modified later, it is wise to have clarity before you uploaded it. If you are a beginner, your ‘About Me’ page means a lot to your prospective customers. So, it is a good idea to refer to other veteran sellers’ similar pages on eBay itself. This tiny tip is critical to your Ebay success!

Build your reputation with ‘Feedbacks’
Ebay Feedbacks can either make or break your online business. It is anybody’s dream to have their customers’ choicest of feedbacks in an ideal situation. Obviously, eBay provides for your prospective customers to check your reputation by reviewing feedbacks left for you by your customers. If you are serious about your business, do ensure that you take every possible action in acquiring good feedbacks, positive feedbacks.

Feedback Rankings
eBay allows customer feedbacks in three rankings; positive, negative and neutral. So this is your chance to buildup real reputation in return for the value delivered. Each positive comment will credit you with a +1 point and negative with -1. Crossing 10 points mark signifies that you are off the start-off block. Here afterwards you are rated by a system of stars distinguished by colors. If you have in anyway offended a customer, quickly offer to remedy the situation, or offer a refund. A negative feedback from the customer can jeopardize your business more than a refund would!

There are ten varieties of stars for points earned by you, starting from 10 to 100,000 points and more. Make sure you strive to achieve good rankings!

Let Your Customers See It
Your greatest eBay asset is the customer feedbacks which you can proudly display. You can choose to hide them for your own reasons but keeping it public has the chance to boost your business. You can initiate dispute resolution if you didn’t deserve a negative feedback. All the Power Sellers flaunt their status, so should you!

Like all things good, positive feedbacks do not come overnight. You have to work at it. You can’t take customer feedbacks for granted. Earn them through sustained professional and ethical practices and by proving your practices are one with your declared principles.

Ebay Business Experts
Anyone can earn a good living by having a business on Ebay. With the proper guide and good foundation, you too can be an Ebay Power Seller within months!

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How Long Should Your Ebay Auction Be Open?

Now, for any newbie on Ebay, I am sure the first thing you will encounter is to decide how long your product should be listed on auction on Ebay.

1. If the product is thought to be in great demand, the Auction needs to be open for a short time only. For example, if it is Picasso which is on sale, there would be thousands of bidders, so there is no point in extending the last date beyond a couple of days. It could even be a couple of hours! Considering the item offered, word will get around and many people will know about the offer soon. If they are common products which are highly competitive, it is advised to go for a longer auction time.

2. On the other hand, if you are offering, a used Printer, you need to have it for at least a week or somewhere thereabouts because the number of people interested in buying a used printer would be rather few and it takes time for buyers to notice it. Especially for second hand product, try to keep your listing there as long as possible because potential of second hand goods normally takes much longer time to think and decide! Get your Price Listing Strategy right and you will beat your competition!

3. The Reserve Ebay Price set for the item to be sold is another factor that determines the last date. If the Reserve Price is relatively high, say $2,500, you do not expect buyers to cough up such amounts in a hurry. You need to give them some time to consider if the purchase is worth the high price. Therefore in such cases the Auction may be kept open for up to a week or even more. Needless to mention, if the Reserve Price is a small amount, the bidding may be kept open for a much shorter period. Prospective buyers can decide faster to buy or not in such cases.

4. Urgency is yet another factor to consider. For example, if one is moving away, s/he needs to dispose off some of his belongings in a hurry, and in such cases you will have no option than to keep the auction open for limited time. In such cases, even if the bids are lower than the Reserve Price, the seller may accept it because of the urgency of the matter. It is also good to state the cause of urgency in your product listing so that potential buyers actually get a feel for the seller.

5. When perishable goods are offered, it is essential that the auction be kept open for a very short period. For example, if mangoes are to be auctioned, you cannot keep the Auction open for more than a day or two at the most. Also for these goods, remember to state that delivery be regional only! This is to avoid complications and mistaken bids later on.

Making Money on Ebay
Finally you cannot go by the price alone as monthly revenue begins to loom large towards the end. In such cases, if your expectation isn’t met but crossed the reserve price you may close the bid and award the highest bidder. You will still make some money on that product! Remember, making money on Ebay is not about selling a few products at a huge profit, it is about selling in mass volume at marginally thin profits! Look at all the Ebay Power Sellers! Remember, anyone can become an Ebay Power Seller. All you need is a good guide to selling on ebay and a good foundation.

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Ebay Strategy: Reserve Price Vs Buy Now

Buy Now Price
If you have even tried glancing at ebay, one of the first things you will notice is that sellers almost always have a ‘Buy Now’ scheme attached to the product they are selling. The “Buy Now” scheme allows a customer to buy an item whenever he wants, at a fixed price.

Reserve Price
A Reserve Price is indicated when the item will not be sold at a price lower than a certain set price. Price listing in different categories also plays a critical role.

Why Use a Buy Now Scheme
In the “buy now” scheme, a buyer may be prepared to offer a higher price for an item which he badly needs, but since the price is already fixed by the store, he gladly buys the item. Your store loses the difference. Usually this method is used to sell commodity items or fast-moving items for which the demand is on the higher side. The advantages are:
1. You will be able to sell more items because the buyers know once they select the item they are certain that they would receive the same in due course (depending on the delivery terms you have stipulated) and that there is no waiting period. Most buyers are happy with this arrangement.
2. You will be able to compete with others who are not following this method, otherwise, the buyers need to bid for an item and wait and take their chance of clinching their order or not because the item in question will be sold only to the highest bidder.
3. Eventually this will even drive more traffic to your store as the buyers are confident that they can buy items at a reasonable price from your store without having to wait. Remember, Ebay is the largest online marketplace, and not everyone on Ebay has the patience to bid and wait!

When to use Reserve Price Scheme
The “Reserve Price” scheme, on the other hand, is used mostly for items which are slow moving or certain unique or rare items known as “collector’s items”, antiques and curios, or used items or a “one-off” article meaning no more of the same article is available for sale. The advantages are:
1. Though you have fixed a certain price as the rock-bottom price at which the item in question will be sold, buyers will compete with one another to buy this item, each buyer outbidding the other in the process resulting in more profit for you.
2. Further, since you have fixed a “reserve price”, you have the option to withhold the sale if you are not satisfied with the bids received.
3. If you stock and offer more such items, the buyers will always remember your store whenever they are searching for rare or unique items, increasing your store’s popularity.

Your Product on Ebay
So, evaluate your item which you are selling on Ebay, will they do better with or without the Buy Now scheme? Of perhaps your product is better off with a solid starting Reserve Price. Either way, there is no absolute right or wrong answer. Test both out and see which one works well for your product if you are not so sure. Remember, anyone can be a Ebay Power Seller! So, Start Selling on Ebay!

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Unpaid Item Process

Unpaid Items can usually be resolved by direct communication between buyers and sellers. eBay provides an online process enabling the buyer and seller to communicate with each other to resolve the situation. eBay’s Unpaid Item policy and eBay’s User Agreement make clear that buyers must pay for the items that they commit to purchase.

There are four steps to the Unpaid Item process.

1) Sellers can file an Unpaid Item Dispute.

Sellers can report an Unpaid Item up to 45 days after the transaction date (i.e. the date when the buyer commits to buying the item and the seller commits to selling it). Usually the seller must wait 7 days after a listing closes to file an Unpaid Item Dispute. However, in the following exceptional cases, the seller can file a dispute immediately:

  • At the time of the filing the buyer is no longer a registered user of eBay.
  • The seller and buyer wish to mutually withdraw from the transaction.

In the first case the buyer will receive an Unpaid Item strike and the seller will receive a Final Value Fee credit without any additional steps.

In the second case the seller must file the dispute for mutual withdrawal. If the buyer responds to the dispute and agrees, the seller will receive a Final Value Fee credit and no strike will be given to the buyer. If the buyer fails to respond, the seller can still close the dispute to receive a Final Value Fee credit, and the buyer will not receive an Unpaid Item strike.

File an Unpaid Item Dispute
See all my Unpaid Item Disputes

2) eBay contacts the buyer.

Once the seller files an Unpaid Item Dispute, eBay sends the buyer an email notification and displays a pop-up message if the buyer signs into eBay within 14 days of filing. The email and pop-up message will provide the following details:

  • Friendly reminder to pay. The email and pop-up message will remind the buyer that payment has not been received, along with simple instructions on how to respond or how to pay for the item. If the buyer does not respond to the email or pop-up message within 7 days, the seller may file for a Final Value Fee credit. The seller also becomes eligible for a free re-list credit.

  • Mutual agreement indication. If the seller indicates that a mutual agreement has been reached with the buyer not to complete the transaction, eBay will ask the buyer for confirmation through an email and pop-up message.

    • If the buyer confirms the seller’s statement about mutual agreement not to complete the transaction, the buyer will not receive an Unpaid Item strike and the seller will receive a Final Value Fee credit.

    • If the buyer disagrees with the seller’s statement on mutual agreement, the buyer will not receive an Unpaid Item strike and the seller will not receive a Final Value Fee credit. The dispute will be closed immediately after the buyer responds and the seller will not be eligible to re-file an Unpaid Item dispute for that transaction.

    • If the buyer does not respond to the email or pop-up message within 7 days then the seller will be able to close the dispute. The seller will receive a Final Value Fee credit and the buyer will not receive a strike.

3) Item Dispute Communication

The buyer is presented with several response options to communicate to the seller:

  • I want to pay now. Paying for the item will close the dispute. For listings where PayPal is available, the buyer just has to pay using PayPal to close the dispute. With other payment methods (such as checks or money orders), the seller is encouraged to wait until payment is received before choosing the appropriate option to close the dispute.
  • I already paid. If payment has already been made, the buyer may provide details of the payment to the seller for review. The seller can then choose the appropriate option to close the dispute.
  • Communicate with the seller. The buyer and seller can attempt to resolve the problem by communicating directly through the eBay Web site. eBay will provide a message area where the buyer and seller can communicate with each other without relying on email. The seller can close the dispute at any time by selecting the appropriate closure option.

4) Closing the dispute

The seller can close the dispute after the buyer has responded at least once, or if the buyer does not respond within 8 days. A seller can find all Unpaid Item disputes they have filed in their Dispute Console. The seller has several options to close the dispute:

  • We’ve completed the transaction and we’re both satisfied. With this option, the seller does not receive a Final Value Fee credit and the buyer does not receive an Unpaid Item strike.
  • We’ve agreed not to complete the transaction. With this option, the buyer does not receive an Unpaid Item strike, the seller receives a Final Value Fee credit, and the item is eligible for a relist credit.
  • I no longer wish to communicate with or wait for the buyer. With this option, the buyer receives an Unpaid Item strike, the seller receives a Final Value Fee credit, and the item is eligible for a relist credit.

Note: A dispute can only be open for 60 days after the transaction date (i.e. the date when the buyer commits to buying the item and the seller commits to selling it). If the seller has not closed the dispute within 60 days, it will be automatically closed. When this automatic closure takes place the seller does not receive a Final Value Fee credit and the buyer does not receive an Unpaid Item strike.

Feedback and Unpaid Items

  • Buyers and sellers may leave feedback for each other on transactions involving Unpaid Items even if there was a mutual agreement not to complete the transaction. eBay encourages all users to leave appropriate feedback about their trading partners.
  • Unpaid Item strikes do not affect a user’s feedback score or member profile

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