“I’m being framed!”

I spent the day today in our Vancouver operations center, where we have a fairly large customer support organization. One of the great opportunities we had while at the center was to do some “side-by-sides” with our reps while they were on the phone with some of our customers. I mentioned these briefly when I wrote about the trip to Omaha last week, but I sat in on one call today that was actually pretty interesting, so I thought I’d relate it.

First, it’s important to understand the concept of shill bidding. If you’re not familiar with auctions, shill bidding is basically the practice of either using another account or another related person (family member, etc) to bid on your auction with the sole intent of driving the price up. This is a banned practice on eBay and we have a lot of sophisticated detection systems in place to combat this practice. Needless to say, if you get caught, you’re busted – big time.

So, our call today started with a seller who contacted CS. It started something like this:

eBay: “Hello, and thank you for calling eBay. My name is xxxxxx, how can I help you?”
Member (frantic): “I’m being framed! Someone is trying to frame me for shill bidding!”

The rep and I looked at each other with a bit of surprise. This was a new one – at least to us! Here’s the story of what appeared to have happened (from her perspective):

The member that was on the phone was both a buyer and a seller. A few weeks ago, they’d purchased something from a seller and had a terrible experience. The item wasn’t as the seller described it, the seller wouldn’t accept a return, and was generally awful to deal with. The buyer left the seller a negative feedback on the transaction – it sounded like it was well deserved. After some harrassing emails, apparently the seller left this member alone.

However, last week the member (who actually has a couple IDs that she uses to sell) listed some items for sale and watched as they were bid up. Excited, she saw the auctions end and got ready to close the transactions. But, much to her surprise, one of the user IDs that had been bidding on her item had her user information in it – the full name had her last name, and the account had the same mailing address! (That account was newly created with zero feedback thus far.) This user ID had actually been bidding on a number of her auctions.

The bottom line is that it looked to her like someone had maliciously created a fake eBay account with her personal information, and used it to try to frame the member for shill bidding. Her supposition was that it was the seller from her bad interaction (since that seller would have her name & address from that transaction.) There are a variety of possible explanations as to what *actually* happened, of course – some that implicate our member as much as anyone else… but needless to say it was an unexpected – and rather nefarious – trust and safety issue.

I won’t get into the details about what sort of steps we took to investigate and resolve the issue, but I thought the concept of framing someone on eBay for this type of violation was pretty interesting. There are certainly a lot of folks out there that think up some pretty devious ways to do bad things on the platform! Thank goodness for all our Trust & Safety team members working hard to keep the marketplace safe for everyone.

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~ by Nathan on February 14, 2007.

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