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How Can Online Sellers Protect Themselves From Dishonest Buyers

How Can Online Sellers Protect Themselves From Dishonest Buyers

A classic example. You recently had a buyer purchase an item and two weeks later requested a refund for the item stating it did not work. You even had to pay return shipping. You received the item back and found the item to be in perfect working order. This transaction essentially cost you $19 in shipping expenses. So how to deal or report dishonest buyers?

There is always a risk in online retail on Amazon, eBay or any other marketplace that there will be a customer that tries to get one over you. Dishonest buyers will aim to get a product for free by asking for a refund on what they say is either a ‘broken’ product, the wrong item, or didn’t receive it in the first place.

Here we will be showing you some methods that will protect you and your store from dishonest buyers.

Before everything, it’s important that you understand that he burden lies with you to prove that the buyer has been dishonest in their approach in sending back the item for a refund.

They are going to do all they can to prove that they haven’t done anything wrong so you need to do the same.

The scenario of your actions differs from the marketplace to the marketplace. It also largely depends whether you are fulfilling orders or they are fulfilled by the marketplace or 3rd party. I assure you, after reading you’ll learn at least 1-2 relevant and practical tips you can use right away.

So let's dive into it.

Protection against refund claims

The first step you should look into should be checking the marketplace’s seller protection guarantee policy.

These are by far the best weapons you have at your disposal to fight against dishonest buyers.

This is because the buyers that submit fake refund claims are prone to suffering the consequences set by the terms of service of said marketplace. Some of the actions that can be taken include permanent suspension from using their service again meaning you will never have to deal with the fraudster again.

Example. You sell a complete deck of sports cards. The buyer claimes 3 of the cards are missing, and want to return the item with you paying shipping both ways, as the 3 cards allegedly missing are the only ones he wants out of 100 cards.

To prevent having get into these situations in the first place, you should implement some standard procedures.

  1. One of the first steps you can take is to make a record of the quality of the item before it goes out for delivery to the customer.

    Take some pictures that display the whole product and all the contents of the packaging, including an extra pieces that come with the item. It is a good idea to take pictures of the packaging it is sent in as well to give you some extra protection.

    By doing this, you will be able to have evidence against the buyer. If they send back a product that they claim didn’t come with x, y and z, you will have photo evidence that when you sent it for delivery, all components were included. The packaging photo will then show that you sealed the package sufficiently so they cannot get lost when sent for delivery.

    This is "must have" workflow for premium items.

    This is especially effective if the buyers claim that you sent them the wrong product or those that actually send you back a completely random item and expect a refund. This is more likely to happen on eBay than Amazon so taking pictures can help protect against dishonest customers.

  2. Another action you can do is take insurance on your items.

    This will of course end up costing you a little bit extra money but in the case of fraudulent customers, it’s a lot cheaper to have insurance premiums than having to issue a refund.

    When a customer claims the product is faulty or broken, ask them to send some proof that they are telling the truth. If the pictures come back and the product or packaging is damaged in some way, you can file an insurance claim and use this image as evidence.

    However, while this will be good for businesses that do not have large distribution volumes, it becomes time consuming and pretty much impractical for enterprises shipping on a bigger scale.

  3. Instead, you should be requesting invoices from your supplier to prove that you purchased the product from them in good condition and everything that should be there, is indeed present.

    For fraudulent buyers that may try to return items that aren’t what you sent out, you should look to compare the serial numbers of the product you sent out for delivery and the one that has been returned.

    If you have proof that a customer is being dishonest, you should file a complaint against them with that marketplace.

    Of course, they won’t ban the customer from one complaint as it will be an isolated incident and for all they know, all that’s happened is that the customer has been awkward and provided a bad experience to only your store.

    However, by issuing a complaint it makes the marketplace aware that something may not be right. The more and more issues that get filed against that customer will indicate they are not trustworthy and will eventually be prohibited from using that account again.

    Only by making the complaint you can get this action, so be proactive and don’t be afraid to speak up.

Protection against claims the product was not delivered

A dishonest buyer is most likely to trying to get a product for free or create their own ‘two for one’ offer. One of the most common tricks used in buyer fraud is to contact a marketplace or seller, and claim that a product was never delivered after it has been received.

This can be twice as frustrating to deal with as you not only lose money from issuing the refund but you also lose the product without the possibility of it ever getting it back.

In order to protect against this is to get your business to implement a tracked parcel delivery service. This will enable you to see that delivery can only be completed when someone signs for the package. Signatures show that someone has taken responsibility for the product’s whereabouts.

Bear in mind, that having a tracking number and requiring the buyer sign for the package does not protect against a fradulent claim that the shipping box was empty, or just filled with packing material to give it weight.

Keeping records of all product orders and deliveries is very important. Whether you use a manual or automated record keeping system, they are critical in keeping track of all deliveries.

Just in case you are using a manual system, you should switch to an automated one as soon as possible. We have drawn up a whole list of reasons in a separate article to show you why.

N.B. If going thru buyer or seller protection ALL conversation with buyer must be in Amazon/eBay messages. Thus, the full conversation is available for the marketplace's support team.

Protection against a buyer not paying for an item

This particularly applies to eBay as Amazon takes payment before any shipping can take place.

When a customer purchases an item on eBay, they effectively promise to complete the order cycle by paying the seller.

However, this may not happen straight away which can ring some alarm bells.

The obvious tip here is ensure that payment must be made up front before the item is sent out for delivery. This can be done in the ‘advanced listing’ section.

If you choose not to enable this feature then there are still steps you can take to avoid being subject to eBay scams.

First, make sure you send the buyer an invoice clearly displaying the price of the item and what you have sold to them.

From here, if they still haven’t provided payment, you should follow up with the customer by email to explain why they haven’t done so.

Sometimes it could be just an honest mistake; their card could have been declined for some reason or their payment system could be down.

However, if the item remains unpaid even after email communication then you should be filing a unpaid item request. You do this by using their unpaid item assistant.

Once you have done so, you must wait at least four days for payment to be made. If payment is received within these four days, the case closes automatically.

On the other hand, if it has not been received even up to this point, then the case closes automatically and you are issued with a final value fee credit. eBay says this must be done within 36 days after the listing has ended otherwise they will not provide the final value fee credit so do this as soon as possible.

Identifying a bad buyer

Some of the marketplaces actually allow feedback to be left by sellers themselves so it will be easier to identify a potential bad customer before you send anything out for delivery.

Take a look at some of the comments that have been left. The more negative the comments, the more likely it will be that the customer will be someone you aren’t likely to want to do business with.

This tip is just a precaution to give you an idea about what kind of customer you could be dealing with.


Dishonest buyers usually get away with getting fraudulent claims through because sellers either are worried or they don’t know what to do. Fingers crossed that you never have to deal with any bad buyers but these tips will prepare you in the event that you do.

Always voice your concerns if you feel uncomfortable about how a situation evolves. There will always be a solution so don’t feel like you’re being pressured by the customer.

At the end of the day, dishonest buyers want your money so don’t give it to them without putting up a fight.