What is the "IT" from the eBay ads? Identity Theft.

BBC news is running a story on eBay fraud: eBay faces up to online fraud

"The online auctioneer eBay has admitted an "extreme growth" in the number of personal accounts being hijacked by fraudsters.... In one recent case, up to ten people are thought to have paid a total of £15,000 for non-existent hot tubs, while another would-be buyer thought he had purchased a £4,000 camper van - which turned out not to exist."

eBay has a number of MAJOR problems. First, it's feedback system is a BAD JOKE. Second, account hijacking is commonplace. Third, eBay doesn't give a damn about it's users, and won't help you.

The feedback system is truly a joke. You have three choices: Positive, Neutral, or Negative. Lots of negative feedback should prevent the bad guys from cheating customers, right? WRONG. Most buyers won't leave negative feedback simply because the seller can turn around and hit you right back with a very negative response. So what choice do you have? Also, it is trivial for people to get a new account. When the negative feedback gets too high, you just jump over to a new account.

Account hijacking is another major eBay problem. It is fairly simple to get an email from an eBay listing. Then you just send out a phishing email. While it might only work one out of twenty times, if you do it 30,000 times, you get 1,500 accounts. Because there is no way to tell you aren't dealing with the person reviewed in the feedback, you don't know that they are going to rip you off on that laptop or stereo.

Third, eBay really doesn't give a damn about it's users. "Oh, you got screwed out of $10,000? That sucks for you. You've found more listings by the same person? Well, we can't be sure of that. We'll "investigate", and maybe do something about it in four months after this person has ripped off two hundred more people."

I have always predicted that at a certain point, the tide will turn, and users will avoid eBay like the plague. There aren't really deals to be found there anymore. Mostly, it's a bunch of small-ish sellers pedalling wares that are somewhat of a deal - but only IF there wasn't such a HUGE RISK in buying. So what do you have? A website that charges big fees to sell, provides very little protection, has a meaningless feedback scheme, and a bunch of shady backyard sellers that may or may not screw you over.

What other options are there? I'm a big fan of Amazon.com. I've bought and sold a number of books on there. It's a good system. Amazon provides the payment processing, and provides REAL protection for both the buyer and the seller. The feedback system actually makes sense - the seller can't leave feedback for you, so you can leave HONEST REVIEWS. Sure, the fees are high, and they hardly pay you anything for shipping, but on the plus side, you don't have to worry about getting screwed over and there are some real deals to be found (used book for $0.01 + shipping anyone?)

See the Slashdot.org Discussion on the BBC article.