Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Good deal or great scam?

Since late February, I've been outbid on five Tascam 122 tape decks. Five of them! It's getting out of hand.

And it's entirely my fault-- I've got a number that I consider to be the value of the machine and I won't bid higher than it, even though 122s routinely sell for quite a bit more.

So, when I came across this auction, with a "Buy It Now" price a little closer to my limit (but still not "a deal"), I got excited. "I might finally win one of these things!"

But the feeling died as soon as I read the item description, which clearly states:

We Do Not Use ebay Checkout. The winner will receive a payment notice via email. We Accept VISA, MasterCard and Discover.

Suspicious, right? Why wouldn't they use eBay checkout like everyone else? And why would I pass my credit card information through email to a complete stranger?

Naturally, I checked out the seller, "Auction Brokerage," a "Power Seller" out of California with a 99.8% rating. He/she/it/they registered with eBay over ten years ago.

"Auction Brokerage" looks and acts like a pawn shop. It traffics in random junk-- bargain bin LPs, oil paintings, men's jewelry, etc.-- and prices its wares to move. It fills a lot of small holes in the market without occupying any set niche, and its 99.8% rating is based on 8882 transactions: 19 of them listed as "negative" buying experiences, the rest "positive."

The next question, then, was "who are its clients?" Are they real, actual eBay users, or are they pseudonyms for "Auction Brokerage," created to boost its own stats? Tough to tell. They all have feedback histories of their own, so ultimately, it depends on how you deeply you want to read into their recent purchases.

Some of its patrons' handles are too perfect ("xtremebasshead" bought a subwoofer from "Auction Brokerage" on April 16th), and some of the sales defy logic altogether ("Matthewnyc" paid $20 for a copy of "Sign O' the Times" on April 8th), so who knows.

"Auction Brokerage" seems to sell a lot of the same thing as well, specifically Motorcycle t-shirts, which is tough to get a bead on-- is it a spam scam (where they make one listing and duplicate it thirty times) or did they just happen to score a crate of "Indian" shirts that people wanted for $25 a pop?

Also, interestingly enough, all of their auctions have ended after 1 bid.

What do you all think? Is "Auction Brokerage" a scam? And is it one dedicated enough to create a few thousand fake eBay accounts, involve each of them in 20-200 possibly fraudulent auctions independent of the parent scam, and then have them bid on/win something from "Auction Brokerage," so as to legitimize both the "personal" accounts ("xtremebasshead") and the seller's? Or is it a proper, successful eBay seller that I should not be doubting the realness of?

Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments, partially because I'm curious to hear what you have to say, and partially because they're also selling a 133 for half the price of their 122 and I want to know what I should do. Thanks!

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Anonymous Moshe said...

If you'll send your credit card number along with the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number and your mother's maiden name, I will give you my thoughts on whether this is a scam or not.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous BenT said...

I would ask if they'll do a money order. If not, fuck them and their "If you can read this, the bitch fell off" t-shirts.

5:41 PM  

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