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Ebay scam. Make me an offer: the eBay bid scam

Dealers fix online auctions with a little help from their friends 

Note: Seems that BidAncient is not anymore a members of Ebay UK. He sold 4.213 items with 99.1% happy clients and was a power seller, even his website http://www.bidancient.com/  writes WEBSITE UNDER CONSTRUCTION - EXPECTED LAUNCH FEBRUARY 2007 - PLEASE CHECK BACK LATER.


Ebay Buyers Beware, David Norden

Ebay scamEbay scam: The practice of artificially driving up prices, known as shill bidding, is widespread across the auction site

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The Sunday Times January 28, 2007  found at timesonline.co.uk 

THE PORTLY antiquities dealer was happy to divulge the secrets of his trade to the potential client who sat in the office of his Cambridgeshire farmhouse. 

Eftis Paraskevaides explained how to maximise the selling price on eBay, the world’s most popular internet auction site. 

He advised: “You phone up a mate, and say can you please make an offer . . . that’s called shill bidding, and strictly speaking it’s illegal. It’s against eBay regulations.” 

Asked if many sellers used the tactic, he replied: “Of course they do. Come on! We’re in the real world here.” 

Paraskevaides is a man well versed in the techniques used to boost sales on the auction site. He claims to be Britain’s biggest eBay seller with an income of £1.4m a year. But he was unaware that the client he was trying to impress was in fact an undercover Sunday Times reporter investigating dealers on eBay. 

Our inquiries have established that Paraskevaides was one of a number of eBay sellers prepared to “shill bid” — to drive up prices by asking friends or associates to bid on their goods. 

The site’s safeguards are so lax that it is often impossible to detect — especially if bids are placed on separate computers using different eBay identities. 

Many regular eBay users complain that the practice is widespread across the auction site. The Sunday Times has identified a number of businesses — ranging from a car dealership to an overseas property agency — that have bid on their own items. 

One former eBay employee said last week that “eBay never really bothered that much about customer service”. 

Since its foundation 11 years ago, eBay has become the world’s largest marketplace with 212m registered users. In Britain there are 15m customers and the site accounts for 10% of all time spent on the internet. 

The eBay phenomenon is driven by the simple idea of a marketplace based on trust. Sellers and buyers strike a bargain at an internet auction and their trading records are self-regulated by both leaving “feedback” on the success of the transaction. 

For example, should an item not meet its description or should a buyer fail to pay for the item, then this can be reported on a trading record. 

Auctions, which last several days, often begin at £1 and a seller cannot withdraw their goods in the last 12 hours when the bidding usually hots up. 

Shill bidding allows sellers to increase the price of their own items or to buy them back if the sale is not going well as it nears its end. The practice is particularly suited to the internet where eBay charges small commissions because it has such a high volume of sales and few overheads. 

The auctions have attracted a growing band of entrepreneurs who have made millions by trading solely through eBay. 

Paraskevaides, a 50-year-old Greek Cypriot, is regarded by eBay as one of its great success stories. He claims he was even invited to sit on the eBay table at an awards ceremony in London. His background is unusual for a dealer in antiquities. In 2002 he resigned from his job as a gynaecologist at Hinchingbrooke hospital, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, after being suspended for two years following complaints about his work. 

He set up BidAncient, initially claiming his artefacts were from his family’s private museum. He sells up to 30 antiquities a day and has attracted the attention of dealers and collectors who use the internet and who challenge some of his pieces’ authenticity. 

Questions have been raised recently about his multiple sales of ancient Greek hoplite helmets. Paraskevaides acquired 35 of the helmets three years ago from a German collection and is satisfied that they are genuine. 

Several of his critics suspect Paraskevaides of shill bidding on his items for sale. One, a Canadian dealer, claimed he knew of three associates bidding on behalf of Paraskevaides. 

Last week an undercover reporter approached BidAncient posing as a seller wanting to sell his late grandfather’s collection. Paraskevaides invited the reporter to his farmhouse in Godmanchester, near Huntingdon. 

The reporter asked Paraskevaides for help in selling his relative’s artefacts on eBay. Paraskevaides advised that he always sold goods starting at $1 without a reserve price. 

He said: “It works better putting everything with no reserve . . . if somebody thinks they are going to get something for nothing, they’re going to have a go.” 

The reporter asked how a seller could protect themselves from losing money on an item with no reserve price. Paraskevaides suggested “shill bidding”. 

Reporter: “Presumably you do it, do you? Paraskevaides: “Well if I put something really expensive (up for sale) and I was concerned that it was going for nothing, I would phone a friend of mine, even a client of mine who buys from me, and say: ‘For Christ’s sake, I sell you a 100 quid’s worth of items a week . . . just put two grand on it, will you?” He added that if his friend won the item, the sale would never actually go through. But the device would have avoided the item being sold to a genuine buyer for less than he wanted. 

There was another benefit: “He doesn’t pay. Just gives me feedback. Simple as that,” he said. Sellers on eBay have a history displayed on the site that shows whether they have had an endorsement from each buyer. 

Alternatively, the friend’s bid could bump up the price by prompting a higher offer from the genuine buyer. Paraskevaides gave another example: 

Paraskevaides: “I’d say: ‘Well what’s the least I’m prepared to sell this for? £1,000?’ I phone my friend and I say: ‘Just put £1,000 on it’.” 

Reporter: “But then somebody might bid £1,200.” 

Paraskevaides: “£1,100. Somebody who bids £1,100 is good.” 

Although Paraskevaides claimed he had no need to shill bid because his own sale items attracted sufficient attention, he had no hesitation in offering to help the reporter do so. 

“I’ve got people,” he said. “I mean I’ve got some of my big clients who buy big items off me, I look after them. So I can get on the phone to America and say: Mr X . . . you’re a multi- millionaire. You buy 100 grand’s worth off me a year. Do me a favour, would you.” 

He had no qualms about such practices. “Who’s the guy who’s losing out? Theoretically, the punters buying it. But again you’ve got to think: is he losing out? He’s not either, because you might dream that you’re going to get something for nothing in this world. Are you really going to get something for nothing in this world?” Paraskevaides was confident eBay would turn a blind eye if he were reported for shill bidding as he claimed he was the UK’s only “Titanium powerseller” and generated £180,000 a year in commission for the company. 

“If you report BidAncient, my company, to eBay for shill bidding, eBay will say: ‘What are we going to do? Well, this guy’s reported him. We’ve got to be seen to do something’. So the chances are you get an e-mail a week later saying: ‘Dear sir, Thank you for your query. We’ve investigated your allegations. We are pleased to inform you they are not true’. . .” 

There have already been a number of complaints to eBay about some artefacts being sold by BidAncient. 

The day before the meeting, BidAncient sold a lion mosaic “masterpiece” on eBay for $1,900 (£970) claiming that the work dated back to AD 300. The sales literature noted the condition of the piece was “excellent” as it had been “restored and reconstituted from ancient tessarae fragments and ancient tessarae”. 

During the meeting Paraskevaides referred to four Roman mosaics he had recently bought which he had described in a similar manner. He then admitted he wasn’t sure whether the mosaics had been produced 2,000 years ago or “whether some bastard has just filled them in with a sack of ancient stones and made a pattern out of them”. 

Last week The Sunday Times spoke to four collectors who had complained to eBay about Bid-Ancient’s artefacts. All claim they only received pro forma e-mail replies noting their complaints. 

Over the past month The Sunday Times has contacted a number of regular eBay users who claim to have reported what they believed were shill bids. 

Many say their complaints went unheeded or, at best, led to the offender being suspended briefly. Others say they were never told the result of eBay’s investigation. 

Our research found a number of cases where there was clear breach of eBay’s shilling policy and all the sellers are still trading on the auction site. 

They included “Andy” a second-hand car salesman who runs the Parkway Motor company in Thatcham, Berkshire. He made the mistake of using the same telephone number in two eBay identities which bought a van from each other. In the feedback he described his other ID (ie, himself) as a “good eBayer”. 

When approached last week, “Andy” said one of his eBay IDs had been suspended for six weeks last October. However, sales records show that his other ID kept trading over that period. 

There was also evidence of bidding between a Bulgarian property company and associated British businessmen. One item — a sauna bath — was clearly a transaction between two companies registered at the same address. In other cases, a linked businessman was buying cheap land and properties. 

Simon Balch, a major eBay trader in general items, was suspended for a week by the auction site after he bid on a large model car that he claims he was selling for “a friend of a friend”. 

Balch, who is an eBay “silver powerseller”, said the incident was a misunderstanding but later confessed that he had previously bid on his own items. “I’m not going to stand here and lie to you and say that I’ve never shill bidded in my life, because I have. And I’m sure that even though many people would say they haven’t, a lot of them have. If you put something on at 50 quid or something and you’ve paid 50 quid for it, you might feel a bit tempted to get it going a bit. You know what I’m saying. Obviously, I wouldn’t do it again.” 

A poster company in America was suspended for a week after being caught bidding on an item from the same office selling it. Emovieposter.com claimed it was an employee wanting the item for himself. 

The Sunday Times last week sold an item on eBay and bid on it from the same computer. The shill was never picked up. Until recently, regular users say they were forced to police the site themselves and tell eBay of suspicious transactions. But last November eBay decided to conceal the identities of anyone bidding more than £100 except the winner. 

The move was designed to stop other businesses e-mailing the bidders with similar items — which could have deprived eBay of subsequent trades. It has been viewed suspiciously by eBay’s community of sellers. Richard Hartley, from Norfolk, wrote: “(It) solves two problems for eBay: no reports of expected shilling to investigate and no need to tackle the thorny issue of powersellers.” 

This weekend eBay insisted that its changes to bidder IDs had made it a “safer environment” for users — who had previously been bombarded with fake offers after bidding for items. 

The company refused to comment on a number of issues raised by our investigation. It issued a statement saying: “Shill bidding is strictly prohibited on eBay. If we become aware of suspicious activity on either an item or an account, then it is thoroughly investigated.” 

On Friday Paraskevaides insisted he only sold artefacts he believed to be genuine and denied telling the reporter he had been engaged in shill bidding or that he was immune from action by eBay. But he said he had clients who “if it ever happened that something was going really, really cheap, they would put a bid themselves to protect it”. He added: “If you are asking me whether I would personally shill bid now, the answer is no.” 


Recorded excerpts of meetings with Paraskevaides at www.timesonline.co.uk 

Sensational growth of the online auction king

Pierre Omidyar, a Californian computer programmer, founded eBay in 1995. He still owns an estimated £3.1 billion of shares. His first president, Jeff Skoll, is also a billionaire 

In October 1999, eBay.co.uk was launched. One third of British internet users visit it at least once a month Britons are the world’s highest-spending eBay users, trading an average £50 a year per person 



The UK website has about 15m customers and British internet users spend more time on it than on any other site 


The auction site is believed to employ about 100 staff at its British headquarters in Richmond-upon-Thames, southwest London, headed by Doug McCallum 


The company was floated on America’s Nasdaq exchange in 1998. It is now worth about £22.5 billion 

The California-based group saw its worldwide profits surge 24% in the last quarter of 2006 to £177m 

How the Ebay scam is done

Eftis Paraskevaides explains tactics for selling on eBay

It works better putting (the sale item) with no reserve . . . If somebody thinks they are going to get something for nothing, they’re going to have a go. 


How do you ensure it doesn’t go for 20p?” 

Well, if you’re that concerned — which is rarely the case — then you phone up a mate and say can you please make an offer of 50 quid or something. 


So you get somebody else to bid on it? 

You can. That’s called shill bidding, and strictly speaking it’s illegal. It’s against eBay regulations. 

But presumably everyone does it? 

Of course they do. Come on. We’re in the real world here. 

Presumably you do it, do you? 

Well, if I put something really expensive and I was concerned that it was going for nothing, I would phone a friend, even a client, and say, ‘For Christ’s sake, I sell you 100 quids’ worth of items a week . . . just put two grand on it’. 

Later Paraskevaides is asked if he can guarantee a minimum price on items he will sell without a reserve. 

Leave it to me (laughs). Don’t call it shill bidding. Then I won’t be accused of shill bidding. How it’s done

Revealed: how eBay sellers fix auctions

Recorded excerpts of meetings with Paraskevaides: Clip 1 | Clip 2

found at timesonline.co.uk

 CUSTOMERS of the internet auction site eBay are being defrauded by unscrupulous dealers who secretly bid up the price of items on sale to boost profits. An investigation by The Sunday Times has indicated that the practice of artificially driving up prices — known as shill bidding — is widespread across the site.

Last week one of the UK’s biggest eBay sellers admitted in a taped conversation with an undercover reporter that he was prepared to use business associates to bid on his goods for him.

Our inquiries found evidence that a number of businesses — ranging from overseas property agencies to car dealerships — have placed bids on their own items using fake identities.

The cases raise questions about whether eBay, the world’s biggest auction site, is doing enough to protect consumers.

Shill bidding is against eBay rules and is illegal under the 2006 Fraud Act. However, the resulting higher prices on the site boost the value of eBay’s share of the sales.
Last November eBay changed its rules to conceal bidders’ identity — making it even more difficult for customers to see whether sellers are bidding on their own lots. Since its launch seven years ago, eBay’s UK website has attracted more than 15m customers. It sells more than 10m items at any given time.

One of the beneficiaries of the boom is Eftis Paraskevaides, a former gynaecologist, from Cambridgeshire. He has become a “Titanium PowerSeller” — one of eBay’s handful of top earners — selling more than £1.4m worth of antiquities a year on the site.In a conversation with an undercover reporter last week, Paraskevaides claimed shill bidding was commonplace on eBay.

When the reporter asked whether he arranged for associates to bid on his own items, he replied: “Well, if I put something really expensive (up for sale) and I was concerned that it was going for nothing, I would phone a friend of mine, even a client of mine who buys from me, and say: For Christ’s sake, I sell you 100 quids’ worth of items a week . . . just put two grand on it, will you?” The reporter was posing as a seller of valuable antiquities. He inquired whether Paraskevaides could sell them on eBay and guarantee a minimum price.

He replied: “Leave it to me (laughs). Don’t call it shill bidding. Then I won’t be accused of shill bidding. Yes. I mean — I’ve got people.

“I’ve got some of my big clients who buy big items off me, I look after them. So I can get on the phone to America and say: Mr XXXX . . . you’re a multi- millionaire. You buy a hundred grand’s worth off me a year. Do me a favour would you. Just put — yeah. Exactly.”

He claimed eBay would never follow up a complaint against him for shill bidding because he generated about £15,000 a month in commission for the company. “Are they going to ban somebody who’s making them the best part of 15 grand a month? No,” he said.After being told that he had been talking to an undercover reporter, Paraskevaides denied that he had ever shill bidded on eBay and claimed he was talking about clients who sometimes bid on expensive items if they wished to protect the price.

However The Sunday Times discovered businesses that have been bidding on their own items. One leading dealer from London admitted last week that that he had shill bidded in the past.

A spokesman for eBay said he expected that the company would now launch an investigation into Paraskevaides. Anyone caught shill bidding risks a permanent ban.
The spokesman added: “The change to the way bidder IDs are shown has already resulted in a safer environment for users.”


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