Tuesday, April 3, 2007

eBay's Public Image ... Does it not care about its reputation?

Do you get a warm and fuzzy feeling when you think about eBay? Or do you think of eBay as a rapist's accomplice? If you have been ripped off because you entered into or thought you entered into a legitimate transaction on eBay, you feel violated and most likely think the latter. If you are a victim of eBay fraud, you have every right to hold eBay partially responsible and accountable for its actions. If you have been led to believe that eBay is a safe place to transact business on and that eBay is doing everything it possibly can to combat fraud on its platforms, you are sadly mistaken.

A recent Google search of the phrase eBay scam provided 3.1 million results.

eBay used to be known as a website for being able to find unique, hard to find items and it was fun to surf through the listings. Now, this Internet giant, protected by its venue status is known as a website where it allows thieves to hack honest member accounts (by phishing/spoof emails and redirects) or allows them to create their own fraudulent accounts and use its servers to list tens of thousands of bogus listings each day. And, let's not forget that eBay allows a multitude of thousands of Chinese accounts on its site that are either selling illegal knockoffs or else they are making attempts to get honest members to act as money mules. These examples of fraud are only the tip of the iceberg.

Does eBay care? Absolutely not. This is a multi-billion dollar, multi-national company that does not have a conscience. eBay has grown too big for its britches and its arrogance is apparent every moment of the day. eBay is not a good member of the vast Internet commerce community. eBay's perception is that it is omnipotent.

On Thursday, March 29, 2007, eBay hosted a 90 minute Town Hall Meeting, and members were either invited to post their questions at eBay's Town Hall Forum message board on a thread entitled March 29 Town Hall Question Thread or call in. To hear the rebroadcast from the March 29, 2007 Town Hall Meeting, click here.

Bill Cobb, President of eBay North America and other management personnel were the panelists that answered questions. Members were informed in advance that not every question on the thread would be answered. However, what was most surprising is that members that called in to the live Town Hall Meeting not only had their questions pre-screened, but many were intentionally hung up on if the questions being posed to the panelists were related to fraud. The members that called in had legitimate concerns they wanted addressed, yet eBay treated each of these people as if they were childishly making prank telephone calls, and the only solution eBay had was to hang up on them. This is not the way for a corporation to treat its members. This action further cements eBay's arrogance and proves that eBay's management team has absolutely no respect for its users. eBay's Board of Directors and investors should be ashamed of eBay's management team.

Following are many of the questions from the thread cited above that were not addressed by the panelists during the live Town Hall Meeting:

Why is Google checkout not an accepted means of payment on eBay?

Is anything going to be done about the auction listings that have a super low starting price and then add shipping charges which are clearly double or triple what they should be?

What do you feel are the motives behind the recent Vladuz hackings, and do you personally maintain that company line that he never breached your security? If so, how do you explain his last two "hackings" where he took over control of eBay employees' accounts? If, as management's spokespeople have stated, he gained access to eBay servers and databases for employees only via employee email accounts, have these employees been dispatches appropriately?

Vladuz recently alluded to an interview with CNN (on March 15th, I believe)....he then later emailed certain people and said that the interview was off. Did eBay contact CNN and threaten to sue if such an interview was done? If so, did eBay contact corporate at CNN or just intimidate the reporters involved?

How were some scammers who listed dozens, hundreds or thousands of auctions allowed to keep listing even after becoming NARU'd?

Why was eBay unable to remove certain scam auctions from the site for hours and sometimes days after the user became NARU'd?

Last year you spoke of increasing customer service....yet we users have yet to see any sort of increase in the amount of customer service, nor have we seen better means of CS, quicker response times or less canned emails.

So, is that a result of you simply lying to customers or is it a case of poor management? If so, who's dropping the ball?

When is ebay going to take the quite necessary step IMO of requiring significant identity verification of all new users? Will this ever happen?

When is ebay going to step up and better educate new users as likely the only way to help control the incredible rash of hijacked accounts and users who are being scammed on a daily basis? Will this ever happen?

When will ebay, instead of merely telling potential customers that "feedback will keep them safe", take the also necessary step and ban 1 cent BIN and other auctions that can only result in a seller losing money in listing fees and thusly are obviously designed for no purpose other than to manipulate that system to the detriment of users? Will this ever happen?

We know that eBay has a tenuous relationship with instant money transfer services such as Western Union and Money Gram. Why doesn't eBay instead attempt to have an amicable working relationship with these companies, and work together to stop the transfer of funds to criminals?

How many fraudulent listings are TKO'd by eBay each week due to hijackings and fraudulently created accounts? How many accounts does this consist of on a weekly basis?

Thieves are now creating accounts on eBay Express and then listing on eBay. Are the same requirements necessary to register for both platforms?

Does eBay verify credit card, debit card, and banking information prior to allowing listings to be uploaded on its platforms? Besides matching account and routing numbers, is eBay verifying the name on the account?

Why is eBay not requiring thorough buyer education for all newly registered members? It should be mandatory to take and pass tutorials before having the ability to buy and sell. For that matter, eBay should require members to take refresher tutorials every 60 days.

eBay's T&S groups use third party intrusion detection software to determine if an account has been hijacked when reported via webform or to Live Help. Why is eBay not running this software 24/7/365 on all listings being downloaded onto eBay's platforms?

It was recently reported that 23% of all registered eBay members have been inactive for 1 year or more. Why is eBay not putting those accounts in suspense so that the hijackers don't have the ability to use those accounts and cut off the inventory? If an account is inactive for a minimum of 30 days, it should be suspended. The registered user can then answer the secret question to reactivate the account.

We know that FADE does not work well, so why doesn't the T&S group set up RSS feeds for specific key phrases and hijacker email addresses to find the fraudulent listings, fraudulently created accounts and hijacked accounts quickly instead of relying on the community to report them?

When is eBay going to eliminate penny listings?

Why doesn't eBay reprint the "category" a listing is in within the description in a large bold font so that members can easily see where the item is located in? The tiny font above the listing is barely noticeable. If members were more aware where the listings were located, believe me, it would put many of the thieves that hijack accounts out of business.

Why is eBay not sending out a monthly educational email to all members regarding how to protect themselves from fraud on eBay just like Overstock does?

When is eBay/PayPal going to remove all links from email messages and instead send out an email to say to check My Messages for email? This would certainly cut down the number of spoof and phish email messages.

When is eBay going to begin to enforce a detailed verification process for developers to insure that they aren't hackers? If I were going to allow developers to have access to my server, believe me, I would check them out and also make them secure a financial bond.

Why does eBay allow certain notifications to be turned off in Preferences? If members were required to receive listing and selling notifications to registered email addresses, they would know immediately if their accounts were hijacked. For that matter, why doesn't eBay have a similar notification for listing changes? In February thousands of listings were hacked by at least one thief with a contact message for Buy It Now. Had members who had their listings hacked by this thief been notified through eBay's message system, the members would have been able to take action.

Why is there not a warning message on the log in page to remind all members to not use instant money transfer services? This message should be in a large bold font.

Why is eBay not in contact with manufacturers to learn the release dates of items? The Nokia N95 cell phone was not available for sale until the end of February/beginning of March, yet thieves were listing the phone for sale as early as September. The same goes for the Apple I-Phone. It is being listed now by thieves, yet it will not be available for sale until at least June. eBay should not be allowing these items to upload until they are actually available for sale.

When is eBay going to begin taking a proactive stance towards fraud instead of a reactive one?

Why can unverified Chinese sellers list 1000's & 1000's of fraudulent designer named items w/o any problems BUT long standing UK & US sellers of authentic designer products suddenly be limited/banned from listing (sometimes indefinitely) even after they provided documentation proving the merchandise to be authentic?

When is eBay going to create a policy to not allow members to sell email addresses on its platform? The email providers such as gmail, AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. allow people to create them for free. Is eBay that greedy that it needs to make a profit from things that are free?

Are you gonna stick store sellers with another fee increase for 2007 or start charging them extra for Ebay Express exposure?

Will eBay consider make public how it calculates fraud? We would like to know the number of listings that are taken down because of hijackings/hackings and how many accounts are involved on a monthly basis. We would also like to know these numbers by listing category (note the numbers by category might not be accurate because thieves list items in the wrong categories). We know that listings from hijacks/hacked listings are not part of eBay's fraud calculation (and that you only base the numbers on claims) and therefore we would like to see fraud reported differently by eBay.

Approximately, what is the length of time it takes for eBay to secure an account from the first webform report it receives? A 2-hour window to me seems sufficient.

Mr. Cobb, will you, Meg Whitman and Rob Chesnut voluntarily agree to not accept your quarterly/annual bonuses if you cannot minimize the hijackings/hackings of accounts by at least 50% from the previous year? As a senior executive, we would like to see you be responsible and accountable instead of giving the community lip service.

What actions has eBay taken to protect users from the trojan.bayrob bug?

Will Mr. Cobb answer questions about scams, fraud and the general lack of security on eBay or does he just want soft questions to give the impression that all is well with eBay?

Why is Ebay not alerting users when their eBay accounts are compromised and their personal information is posted on the community boards?

The following question from the thread cited above was answered at the Town Hall Meeting, however, Bill Cobb, President of eBay North America had absolutely no idea that an announcement that he publicly made on January 17th, with an effective date of the same day has not been implemented. Currently, there is no proposed date for the policy to go into effect, and eBay doesn't even know if it is even possible to implement the policy. The second part of the question went unanswered.

I am finding newly registered members that are selling not accepting PayPal, however it was announced on January 17, 2007 that all newly registered members that are selling must accept PayPal effective January 17, 2007. The categories I found listings in were not exempt (Motor Vehicles and Mature Audience) from this policy.

Please advise why the policy below has not been implemented, and why there are no change notices on the site stating it has not been implemented?

Announced January 17th, 2007 by Bill Cobb

Safe Payment Requirement for New Sellers
- Today I announced that we'll be requiring all newly registered sellers to accept PayPal or a merchant credit card. We know that PayPal is the safest way to pay on eBay, and we want to make sure our buyers have this option with new sellers. (Existing sellers will not be affected by this requirement.). (Read our FAQs for more details.)

Here is the link: http://www2.ebay.com/aw/core/200701.shtml


What is the Safe Payment Requirement for New Sellers and what does eBay consider to be a safe payment method?
eBay will require new sellers offering items in most categories to buyers in the U.S. and Canada to provide at least one safe payment method. Safe payment methods include PayPal or a Merchant Credit Card. These safe payment methods must be included as an available payment method on their listings. New sellers may also include any of the other accepted payment methods on their listings. (See the Accepted Payments Policy for more details on accepted payments.)

eBay strongly encourages sellers to offer payments through PayPal – PayPal is not only convenient to use, but it also offers buyers and sellers industry-leading protection against fraud, chargebacks, and theft of financial data. Merchants with their own Merchant Credit Card processing account, and those who use a third-party credit card processor, may offer their buyers the option of paying directly with a credit card online (including through third party checkout) or by phone in addition to or instead of PayPal.

Who is affected by the Safe Payment Requirement for New Sellers and when will this requirement go into effect?
All members registered on or after January 17, 2007 who wish to list items will be affected by this requirement. Certain categories where these payment methods often are not practical, such as Motor Vehicles and Mature Audiences, will be exempted.


Step 3. Offer PayPal or a Merchant Account Credit Card as a Payment Method
To keep eBay a safe place for both buyers and sellers, sellers who register after January 17, 2007 are required to offer either PayPal or a merchant account credit card as an accepted payment method for their items. PayPal allows you to accept credit card and electronic check payments online from your buyers. You can sign up for PayPal before you list your first item for sale, or you can sign up when you list your first item.

Secondly, do you realize by not having this policy implemented you are still continuing to allow these bogus scam artists to create accounts and list their phantom, non-existent items? Do you understand that the T&S webform team and Live Help for ATOs is hesitant to shut down these accounts when reported because there are not any third-party intrusions?

Why did the President of eBay North America make this announcement on January 17, 2007 not only in a message posted on eBay's General Announcements but also at the eBay eCommerce Forum? And, as captain of the eBay ship, why did Bill Cobb not know until two and a half months after making the announcement that a policy initiative that he personally announced has not been been implemented? Is Cobb at the helm of eBay or asleep at the wheel? If he is asleep at the wheel, then eBay North America will soon sink like the Titanic.

We also believe that the reason this policy was to be implemented was due to eBay eliminating its own Standard Buyer Protection Plan in January for non-PayPal transactions, and it was meant to coincide with the improved PayPal Buyer Protection Plan. The change in buyer protection plans was announced by eBay Senior Vice President of Trust & Safety, Rob Chesnut on January 10, 2007.

eBay's Form 10-K Annual Report, filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on February 28, 2007 stated that eBay had 222 million registered users as of December 31, 2006, yet it was recently reported that 23% (51,060,000) of those registered users have not accessed their accounts in a year or more. However, another source reported in January 2007 that only 79.8 million registered users are active, intimating that 142.2 million or 64% of the registered accounts are dormant.

This begs to ask the question why does eBay not temporarily disable the dormant accounts until members need to access them again? If eBay would temporarily disable dormant member accounts that have not been accessed for 30 days, eBay would be taking a step in the right direction, being proactive and protecting its members' accounts from being hacked by thieves. Yet eBay refuses to do this. How difficult can it be for eBay's IT Department, with its state-of-the-art technology to write a program to review the last access date of each account on its member database and then temporarily disable the accounts if access has not occurred in the last 30 days? Why would eBay prefer to waste unneedless customer service manpower hours manually taking down fraudulent listings and securing member accounts that were hacked? Why doesn't eBay want to minimize the inventory of dormant accounts potentially available to hackers? eBay has steadfastly denied that the server the member accounts are located on has been hacked, yet a well-known Romanian hacker by name of Vladuz has been able to hack eBay employee accounts and post messages on eBay message boards.

On January 8, 2007, eBay's Senior Vice President of Trust and Safety, Rob Chesnut announced the Launch of Safeguarding Member IDs (SMI). This new policy initiative is eBay's way of protecting its members from receiving fake Second Chance Offers. When bids on listings break the $200 threshold, eBay member IDs are disguised as Bidder1, Bidder2, Bidder3, etc. On the surface, this was a good idea, however, the transparency that eBay was so proud of on its platforms is now hidden; fake Second Chance Offers are as prevalent as ever and shill bidding has increased. eBay adamantly denies these accusations. Although not implemented as of yet, eBay is now strongly considering obscuring all bidders IDs at the opening bid.

With the implementation of SMI, it is now nearly impossible for bidders to check on their bidding competition. SMI is contrary to the third tenet of eBay's Community Values, the very foundation that eBay was built on:

eBay is a community that encourages open and honest communication among all its members. Our community is guided by five fundamental values:
We believe people are basically good.
We believe everyone has something to contribute.
We believe that an honest, open environment can bring out the best in people.
We recognize and respect everyone as a unique individual.
We encourage you to treat others the way you want to be treated.
In early March 2007, eBay removed the Marketplace Safety Tips message prominently displaced in the upper right hand corner of every listing for a shortened version of tips called Buy Safely. The longer list of tips has been condensed to two:

1. Check the seller's reputation - Read feedback comments
2. Check how you're protected
Gone from the listings is the warning message reminding members to never pay via instant money transfer services, such as Western Union and Moneygram.

To view eBay's detailed list of Marketplace Safety Tips click here.

At approximately the same time, eBay changed the color of the Place Bid button to make it more appealing and prominent within the listing, but removed the direct link to report excessive shipping charges. And, on the Bid Confirmation page, eBay again removed the warning message to never pay via instant money transfer services, such as Western Union and Moneygram. It was suggested that the warning message on the Bid Confirmation page was removed because members that unknowingly enter into off-eBay transactions never see the message, because they aren't placing bids.

It appears that eBay's priority is to hide fraud on its platforms. When fraudulent listings are reported to eBay, it usually takes the listings down and secures the hijacked accounts, but it also destroys any evidence that the fraudulent listings ever existed. Those that were duped have little evidence that the listing ever existed, and have little information to provide to either eBay or law enforcement. Can eBay state with a clear conscience that fraud doesn't exist on its platforms because it destroys the evidence that it ever existed?

eBay could put in a mechanism to temporarily disable all member accounts that have not been active for 30 days. eBay could revert back to bidder transparency and instead discontinue all Second Chance Offers. eBay could improve member education and require all new members to take tutorials and pass them before allowing them to bid or list on eBay; it should require all other members to take refresher tutorials annually. eBay could place selling limits on all new members and make them establish a buying and selling history before giving them free reign to list an abundant number of expensive items for sale on its platforms. eBay could remove all links from its email messages and instead send out email messages to its members to check their My eBay My Messages accounts for all messages, including invoices. eBay could send out a monthly email message to all members regarding fraud prevention, just like its competitor, Overstock.com does. eBay could put back the Marketplace Tips in its listings and revert back to the Bid Confirmation page it had previously with the warning message about not paying for transactions through instant money transfer services. eBay could include the category a listing is in at the top of the body of description in a large bold font so that its members could easily see it and determine if the item is in the correct category. eBay could treat all members equally and not overlook violations of some. eBay could be proactive and make a lot of positive changes if it really wanted to. Unfortunately, eBay does not want to implement any of these suggestions.

Therefore, since eBay does not want to take positive action to minimize the rampant fraud on its platforms, The Nekkid Truth is suggesting that if you have not accessed your eBay account in at least 30 days and if you do not have intentions to do so soon, that you begin the process to close your eBay account by clicking here. Do not allow your dormant account to become useable by hackers. We strongly advise you not to enter into any transactions on eBay until this arrogant Internet giant takes positive steps that are apparent to its members and it begins to implement additional safeguards to combat fraud.

However, if you must shop on eBay, we encourage you to take every precaution possible and familiarize yourself with the warning signs so that you do not become a victim of fraud. Do not take unnecessary risk. Pay for transactions only via PayPal and only with a credit card. For further information on how to protect yourself read the blog entries at The Nekkid Truth, review the threads on eBay's Trust & Safety message board, and take the eBay tutorials.

eBay needs to be held accountable for the fraud that proliferates on its platforms. Whether you are a victim of fraud on eBay or want eBay to have its venue status removed, write to the members of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. Demand that this congressional subcommittee begin an investigation on eBay and ultimately have a hearing to review eBay's venue status.

If you are a victim of fraud on eBay and live in the United States or any of its commonwealth's or territories, also write to your state's, commonwealth's, or territory's Attorney General. A complete list of Attorneys General can be found by clicking here. From the National Association of Attorneys General website:

What does an Attorney General do?

As the chief legal officer of the states, commonwealths and territories of the United States, the Attorneys General serve as counselors to their legislatures and state agencies and also as the "People's Lawyer" for all citizens. Originating in the mid-13th century in the office of England's "King's Attorney," the office had become, by the American Revolution, one of advisor to the Crown and to government agencies.

In the United States, as the individual states and territories developed their own procedures, common law, constitution state government agencies and legislatures, and as representatives of the public interest. While varying from one jurisdiction to the next due to statutory and constitutional mandates, typical powers of the Attorneys General include the authority to issue formal opinions to state agencies; act as public advocates in areas such as child enforcement, consumer protections, antitrust and utility regulation; propose legislation; enforce federal and state environmental laws; represent the state and state agencies before the state and federal courts; handle criminal appeals and serious statewide criminal prosecutions; institute civil suits on behalf of the state; represent the public's interests in charitable trust and solicitations; and operate victim compensation programs.
Be proactive. Review the consumer protection alert bulletins on the Federal Trade Commission's website.

Don't allow eBay to continue to make its members the scapegoats for its own arrogance, ineptitude, short-sightedness and unwillingness to protect its members. Don't allow eBay to continue to blame its members for hijackings ... for clicking on links in spoof and phish email messages and on redirected links in listings on its platforms. Make eBay accountable.

David successfully slew Goliath.

Don't allow eBay to continue to be omnipotent. Take action, and make eBay impotent. There is no goodwill at eBay. Its public image and reputation are irrefutably tarnished.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Too many questions!! Will eBay answer them? Or continue to run rampant over the internet? Very great information!