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For Buyers Who Have a Problem Getting Delivery of a Paid-For Item from a Seller

© 1999-2003 by Tessa Hebert, all right reserved.

 Introduction  Advice and Instructions  Your Rights  If the Item Was Lost or Damaged During Delivery
 Document Everything  Contact the Seller  Don't Break eBay's Rules  If the Seller Breaks eBay's Rules
 Request the Seller's Info from eBay  Phone the Seller  Payment Evidence  Arbitration Services
 File Fraud with the FBI  File Fraud with the USPS  National Fraud Information Center  International Web Police
 National Consumer Complaint Center  Your Local Fraud Group  Seller's Local Fraud Group  Your District Attorney
 Seller's District Attorney  State Attorney General  eBay's Fraud Report  eBay's Insurance
 Notify eBay  Federal Trade Commission  Seller's ISP  eBay Feedback
 eBay's Bidder Block  Credit-Card Charge-Back  PayPal  NA Arts & Crafts
 Notes  Help Articles  Obtaining Permission to Link To or Copy This Article  E-mail the Author
International Transactions:
Canada  International Web Police  Interpol


This article is for those who either:
1.  Paid for an item and never received it.
2.  Paid for an item, but received an item that was not as it was described in the advertisement or auction.
3.  Paid for an item that was received damaged in delivery.

Your Rights:  You have rights, by law in the United States of America, to receive the item you paid for, as it was described in the auction.  Even if you or the seller does not live in the USA, your country and the seller's country probably have similar laws.

The seller is required to ship within 30 days of payment, according to the rules of the Federal Trade Commission that governs the federal laws in the USA that are designed to protect consumers, and according to eBay's rules.

If the seller claims the item was shipped, but the item has not arrived, or if the item was damaged during shipping, the seller must replace the item or refund, unless you agreed that you would assume the risk of damage or loss during shipping.  (See below, If the item was lost or damaged in delivery.)  Even if the seller stated in the auction or sale listing that the buyer assumes the risk of loss/damage during shipping, you can still file fraud charges against the seller if you did not receive the item you paid for.

If you do not receive the item you paid for, or have not been notified by the seller that the item was shipped within 30 days of payment, please follow the Advice and Instructions in this article below.

There are local (city, county, and state) laws that also protect consumers in the USA, including laws against fraud. If the item was falsely or inaccurately described by the seller, you can file fraud and criminal charges against the seller.

It is important to file charges with the proper authorities.  Your local police may not be able to help you, because local law enforcement may lack jurisdiction over Internet crimes and/or may consider the matter to be one that has to be settled in a civil court.  But other government agencies, such as the FBI, have jurisdiction over Internet crimes and will investigate.  An investigation by the proper authorities may help you to get your money back, because the seller might decide it is in his best interests to avoid prosecution or jail time by refunding your money.

eBay will provide little if any assistance to you.  You are on your own in dealing with the seller.  eBay's position is that it is a listing venue only and has no responsibility for the actions of its users (See eBay's User Agreement, Paragraph 3) and that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 allows Internet companies and service providers to avoid responsibility for the content of the items bought or sold on their sites.  That position has unfortunately been upheld by USA courts.  (In June of 2002, the California Court of Appeals rejected an appeal of the dismissal by the state court of the class-action lawsuit filed against eBay in April of 2000 in San Diego County.)

If the Item Was Lost or Damaged in Delivery:

(a) First, contact the seller, either by e-mail or by phone, following the instructions in #2, #3, and #6 below.

(b) If the item was shipped by using the United States Postal Service, and the delivery was insured:  bring the item with all its packaging to the post office and file an insurance claim.

(c) If the item was shipped by United Parcel Service:

Non-Delivery:  If the item has not yet been delivered, you can track its delivery at this online location:

Damage:  If the item was damaged, either the seller or the buyer can complete the form at this online location:

You may also call UPS Customer Service at 1-800-PICK-UPS (1-800-742-5877).

(d) If the item was shipped by a service other than USPS or UPS:  Contact the seller about what to do.

(e) If the delivery was not insured and the item did not arrive:  Contact the seller and request a refund of the total amount you paid for the item and for shipping.

(f) If the delivery was not insured and the item was damaged:  Contact the seller about returning the item and request either (1) a replacement item; or (2) a refund of the total amount you paid for the item and for shipping plus the cost of returning the item to the seller.  Be sure to insure the return delivery to the seller to protect yourself against any possibility of the seller claiming non-delivery or damage during shipping.  You do NOT have the right to demand a replacement or a refund on the item if you do not return it to the seller.

(g) If you do not receive a complete refund of the amount you paid, or a replacement item from the seller:  Follow the Advice and Instructions below.

(g) You may also send the seller the link to my help article for sellers, What To Do If the Item Is Lost or Damaged During Delivery, that is available at this link:

Advice and Instructions:

1.  Keep good notes and document everything about the transaction. Print out hard copies of:

(a) all your e-mail correspondence to and from the seller:

Be sure to "turn the headers on" before you print out the e-mail.  Turning the headers on will show all of the internet-routing information on the e-mail.

In Netscape Navigator/Communicator:  Go to your e-mail section (Click "Communicator," then "Messenger"), then click "View," then "Headers," and then "All."

In Outlook Express, you can select or view a message, then select "Properties" under the File menu, and click the Details tab. You can then copy the header information, close the window, forward the message and paste the header information into your message.

(b) the auction listing; and
(c) the End-of-Auction Notice from eBay.
2.  Send an e-mail to the seller.
Be very firm, but polite, and make specific points about what you expect from the seller.

Set a deadline for compliance and tell the seller what it is.

Do NOT engage in any personal attacks against the seller's character or personality.

Refuse to participate in any arguments that the seller may present.

Do NOT make any statements which could be interpreted as threats.

3.  Do not engage in any activity that is against eBay's rules or is illegal.
Do not contact seller's other bidders or interfere in any way with seller's business. See note below, About Contacting Other eBay Users.

Do not post any personal information about the seller on any of eBay's boards.  Specifically forbidden by eBay is the posting of another user's e-mail address, name, mailing address, or any personal information.  Also, new interpretations of the board rules on eBay include being forbidden to post about any user who is no longer registered or any posting of auction reports or member violations.  Click here to read eBay's Board Rules:

For a list of activities which are against eBay's rules, read eBay's Safe Harbor Information at this URL:

4.  If the seller behaves in a manner which is against eBay's rules, use eBay's Safe Harbor form to report such violations of eBay's rules:

5.  Request the seller's user-registration information from eBay by going to this URL and completing the Contact Info form at this location:  This is especially helpful if you are not getting a response from the seller, because your request for the seller's eBay registration information will automatically notify the seller of your request and your user-registration information, which might provoke a response from the seller.

Tip:  Other users may have reported the seller already for fraud or violations of eBay's rules and eBay may be taking action to suspend the seller's registration.  You will NOT be able to easily get the seller's user-registration information if the seller becomes a non-registered user on eBay.  So, be sure to get this information while you still can.

If the seller is no-longer-registered on eBay, contact eBay support for the seller's user's registration information, by using the support form at this location:

6.  Attempt to contact the seller by phone or by postal mail (and proceed as in numbers 2 and 3 above).
[You are NOT required to do this, and the cost of a long distance phone call (or the effort of a written letter) may be more than you want to spend.  However, many times a problem can be promptly resolved by speaking or writing to the other party, so it is recommended that you try a phone call or letter].
7.  Be sure that you have evidence that the seller did receive your payment, such as a canceled check or a copy of the money order with the seller's endorsement on it.  This evidence that the seller received your payment might be required for filing charges.
You can obtain a copy of the canceled check from your bank, if you don't already have the original canceled check which was  provided to you with your bank statement for that month.

If you paid by money order, you will have to contact the institution which sold the money order.  Look on your copy of the money order receipt for an address or phone number and call or write the institution and ask for a copy of the canceled money order.  This may take several weeks or months, so get started on obtaining this early.  It will also cost you a fee.

Some money-order companies have online sites, where you can check to see if the money order has been cashed and find out who cashed it.

If the seller claims that your payment was not received, and you mailed your payment with the USA postal service, file a Lost Mail Claim at the post office, for your lost payment.  There is a Claim Form to be filled out, which you can obtain from a postal clerk at the post office.  You fill out your part and turn it in at the post office. The post office then will check through the postal system, from your area to the buyer's area for your lost payment, and the post office will require that the seller's postmaster, the seller's postal clerk and the seller fill out the form.  While it's not likely that this will result in finding your payment (and it can take four weeks for the post office to complete the claim), it might; and it will also alert the seller that you are seriously pursuing the avenues available to you.  Also, because the seller is required to fill out the form, the seller will not be very likely to lie to the post office, under penalties of perjury and mail fraud, about receiving your payment.

8.  Use an arbitration or mediation service. eBay's Square Trade offers an online dispute resolution service, which is a voluntary service, meaning that a buyer and seller do not have to agree to the suggestions that the service makes in an attempt to settle the dispute.  You can go to eBay's page to get more information about Square Trade by clicking the link below:

or visit Square Trade's site at this location:

However, it may not be worth the cost of using Square Trade, if the seller does not respond to or cooperate with Square Trade's efforts.  Arbitration services rely on voluntary compliance, and the seller may choose to ignore all attempts at arbitration.

New:  eBay now allows the removal of negative feedback, if you pay Square Trade, and if the other user does not respond, or if buy buyer and seller agree through arbitration to remove the negative feedback.

9.  File a fraud report with the FBI.  The Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC),, is for consumers and businesses to report suspected internet frauds.  The Internet Fraud Complaint Center is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and The National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).  For victims of internet fraud, the IFCC provides an easy-to-use form to report fraud.  For law enforcement agencies, the IFCC provides a depository for information, help with identifying fraud trends, and access to statistics on fraud trends.
To file a complaint, click here:
10.  If the transaction involved the use of the United States Postal Service (you mailed your payment to the seller, or seller mail item to you), file a Mail Fraud Complaint Form with the Postal Inspector's Office.
To File a Mail Fraud Complaint Form Online:  You can fill out a Mail Fraud Complaint Form online, or print out the form and mail it.

Click here to file the online Mail Fraud Complaint Form:

To get a Mail Fraud Complaint Form:   The form is available for a 1-800 phone call, and you will be provided a postage-free envelope to mail it back.  Call 1-800-275-8777 and ask the Operator there to give you the number to call for your zip code area.

You can also download the Mail Fraud Form, if you have Adobe Acrobat Reader software, by clicking this URL: 

It does help to file a Mail Fraud Complaint Form, because not many sellers will refuse to deliver the item or give you a refund on your payment for the item, when the Postal Service notifies them that a Mail Fraud Complaint is being investigated.
11.  Feel free to contact the National Fraud Information Center if you have questions concerning fraud. You can prevent future fraud by filing a complaint at this URL:
Several people who filed a report with this organization have reported that they received a refund of their money, so, do not hesitate to file a complaint with the NFIC.
12.  There is also the International Web Police, which is an organization to protect the Global Internet Community. You can file a report here:

13.  Another private organization, which reports consumer complaints to agencies that are interested in investigating and taking action, is The National Consumer Complaint Center for Internet Fraud, False Advertising, and Breached Warranties and you can file a complaint there:

14.  Contact your local-area fraud group.  Your city police or sheriff may be able to help you locate a local-area fraud group.  File a written complaint with that agency.

Note:  Your local police or sheriff may NOT have jurisdiction or be allowed by law to investigate or file charges about internet crimes.  But local police may be helpful in directing you to organizations that can help you.
15.  Contact a local-area fraud group in the seller's area.  The city police or sheriff in the seller's area may be able to help you locate a local-area fraud group.  File a written complaint with that agency.
Note:  The police or sheriff may NOT have jurisdiction or be allowed by law to investigate or file charges about internet crimes.  But they may be helpful in directing you to organizations that can help you.
16.  Contact your local District Attorney's Office.  File a written complaint with the District Attorney's fraud group.

17.  Contact the seller's local District Attorney's Office.  File a written complaint with the District Attorney's fraud group.

18.  File a complaint with your State Attorney General and the Attorney General in the state of the person who committed fraud.  Many state's Attorneys General have special investigative units for internet fraud.  You may be able to find a form online to report internet fraud directly to the State Attorney General.  To find out how to contact an Attorney General in the 50 USA states, go to the National Association of Attorneys General at this location:

19.  File a report with eBay's Fraud Reporting System.  At present, you may not file a fraud report with eBay until 30 days after the auction ended and you must file this report within 60 days of the auction's end.  Also, you must file a Fraud Report with eBay before filing a claim with eBay's Insurance.

eBay's Fraud Report is a separate procedure from eBay's Insurance.
There are no requirements about minimum amount lost, to file the Fraud Report.
You can file the Fraud Report even if your loss was less than $25.00.

20.  File a claim with eBay's Insurance, which pays a maximum of $175.00 ($200.00 less a $25.00 deductible) per transaction and can only be used for one transaction per month.  eBay insurance has some strict requirements and limitations, which may change, so be sure to check eBay's page at the link shown below to make sure you meet those requirements:

The present requirements include:  Claims with supporting documents required must be received by the insurance company within 90 days of the auction's end, and you must have filed eBay's Fraud Report within 60 days of the auction's end.

Be sure to send in your claim by certified mail/return-receipt request, so that you can prove the date the insurance company received your claim.

For more information about eBay's insurance, go to this URL:
eBay's claim form is at this URL:
If you purchased a vehicle on eBay Motors, the insurance coverage is different.  Please read the information at this location:
Your help is needed to provide information for an ongoing article about eBay's insurance and claim-filing process.
If you filed for eBay's insurance, please complete the
Questionnaire About eBay's Insurance with Lloyd's of London at this location:
To see the Results of Questionnaire on eBay's Insurance, please click here:

21.  Notify eBay of the problem and about all charges and complaints filed with legal authorities, by using the support form at this location:

Also provide eBay with copies of all legal complaints and actions filed by you against seller by mail to:
Attention: Fraud Prevention
2145 Hamilton Avenue
San Jose, CA 95125-5905

 eBay does have an information page, Complaints About Other Users, which may be of some help:

22.  File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. While the FTC does not resolve individual consumer problems, the FTC does compile complaint data and investigates criminal activity, and your complaint will help the FTC to investigate fraud and can lead to law enforcement action.  You can fill out the Complaint Form at: or go to the Federal Trade Commission Web Site at: and click on Complaint Form (at the bottom of the page) to report an internet scammer.
You can also file a complaint about Internet auction fraud with the Federal Trade Commission by calling the FTC toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).
The FTC also has a helpful article for buyers and sellers titled "Internet Auctions: Secrets of Success" at this location:

Also, the FTC has a publication titled "Internet Auctions: A Guide for Buyers and Sellers," that offers more information about Internet auctions. You can order a copy of the guide at or by calling the FTC toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).

Also, the FTC provides a host of pamphlets to help consumers recognize the warning signs of various financial cons at:
23.  Notify the seller's Internet Service Provider (ISP) of all charges and complaints filed with legal authorities, by e-mail to support@[ISP name].[com or net] or to go seller's ISP site and find a place to e-mail the webmaster of the ISP.

24.  Post negative feedback on seller's eBay Feedback File.  Specifically mention what seller did. Keep it non-personal, non-emotional, and non-offensive.

You can suggest in your feedback that anyone in need of more information can contact you, but be careful about what you post.  eBay can and will remove feedback under certain circumstances, and eBay specifically forbids: Feedback that makes any reference to an eBay or law enforcement organization investigation, i.e., "eBay is investigating this person".  You can make a simple statement, such as "contact me for details," if you wish to.

For more information on eBay's Feedback policies, go to these locations:  eBay Feedback Removal Policy  eBay Feedback Forum

It is best to NOT post negative feedback until after you have exhausted all possible means of communicating with and obtaining the item or a refund from the seller.

You must post feedback within 90 days of the auction's end, or you may not be able to do so after that, because the auction will no longer be available in eBay's public data base.  It is NOT always in your best interests to file negative feedback, and it certainly is NOT advisable to do so before you have exhausted other methods to attempt to complete the transaction.

It is quite possible that the seller will post retaliatory negative feedback against you.  So, you may not wish to post negative feedback against the seller, in the hope of not receiving retaliatory negative feedback.

You are NOT required to post feedback against the seller.

See the  Square Trade section of this article, for information about getting feedback removed.

25.  If you are also a seller on eBay, be sure the block the user ID of the seller so that the seller cannot bid on your auctions.  You can block any user from biding on your auctions by:  (1) signing in first and then filling out the form on this page: or (2) signing in first and setting the option on the seller page in My eBay.  Click here to sign in at My eBay:  Then click the "seller" tab and scroll down to the bottom left where you will find a link for blocking a bidder.

26.  If your payment was made by a credit card, notify your credit card company that there is a problem with the transaction and that you want to do a charge-back on the charge.

If you paid through a payment service, such as PayPal:  Notify the payment service before filing a charge-back with the credit-card company.  PayPal requires that you notify PayPal first and allow PayPal to try to work it out for you before you do a charge-back on your credit card.
27.  If your payment was made via PayPal, and if the seller did not ship the item, PayPal will help you get your money back.  Please read paragraph VII. Consumer Protection Programs of the User Agreement at this location: .  PayPal's protection does not cover an item that was misrepresented, or an item lost in the mail, or the seller's failure to deliver intangible goods.

The Buyer Complaint Form must be filed within 30 days of payment.  To file a Buyer Complaint Form, by logging in to PayPal and clicking the Security Center link in the footer of any PayPal page. However, even if you have passed that deadline, notify PayPal anyway.  If PayPal does not help you, and you paid with a credit card, contact your credit-card company about doing a charge-back.

You may be eligible for insurance with PayPal, in addition to eBay's insurance.  You must file the Buyer Complaint Form with PayPal within 30 days of the payment and you must successfully complete eBay's claim-filing process.  Be sure to check PayPal's requirements.  Presently, you can find those required by logging in to PayPal, clicking the Security Center link in the footer of any PayPal page, then click the Buyer Complaint Process link.

28.  If the item was described as art or craft made by a Native American, you may file a complaint under The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, which makes it illegal to advertise or sell any art or craft in a way that falsely suggests it is produced by an American Indian or is the product of a particular American Indian tribe.  The Indian Arts and Crafts Board receives and refers valid complaints about violations of The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 to the FBI for investigation and to the Department of Justice for legal action.

Please read the information available at this site and follow the instructions:

To file a complaint under the Act, or to get free information about the Act, contact the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W., MS 4004-MIB, Washington, D.C. 20240;
Phone:  202-208-3773;  or visit the website (the web site is often down, so keep trying) or e-mail:

You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (see above).

International Transactions:

When a transaction crosses an international border, filing a complaint or obtaining police help can be more difficult.  These sites offer help and information about what to do.

Canada:  To report a crime contact your local Royal Canadian Mounted Police Detachment or the police force of jurisdiction in your area.  If you reside outside Canada and assistance is required in Canada, contact your local police and ask your local police to request help from the appropriate Canadian agency.

Phone Numbers:  Links for the phone numbers of the RCMP Detachments are available at this location:
RCMP Website Main Page    Provides a complaint form that is shared with policing agencies and links for consumer agencies in various countries.    Filing a complaint will not provide you with individual police intervention, but your data will be helpful to governmental agencies investigating suspected criminals and may help uncover new scams and fraud trends.  The information contained in your complaint may be entered into Consumer Sentinel, a consumer complaint database maintained by the U. S. Federal Trade Commission.  Participating governments and international consumer-protection agencies include:  Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Polan, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA, OECD, and European Commission.
File a Complaint$com.main?p_lang_seq=1
Contact Consumer Protection Agencies:
Website Main Page$com.main?p_lang_seq=1
International Web Police:  An agency comprised of law-enforcement agencies, government officials, sworn police officers and civilian volunteers located in 61 countries throughout the world, IWP provides free help for law enforcement and crime prevention, and its services include investigation, tracking, recording, arbitration, prosecution and termination of criminal activities on the Internet.
Form to Report a Crime or Request Help:
Talk Live to Staff or Officers, Chat Rooms:
Website Main Page:
Interpol:  An international police organization to combat crime.  First, contact your local police and ask you local police to contact Interpol.
Links to Contact Interpol:
Website Main Page:


Remember, if the seller is cheating you, the seller is probably cheating a lot of other people too.  There might be others who will get hurt like you did, if you do not file complaints with the proper authorities and eBay.  It is very important to file a report with the proper authorities and notify eBay, because eBay and the legal authorities can only act if you report the crime.

If you provide sufficient evidence and file complaints, eBay can suspend the seller's registration and the authorities will have what they need to file charges, obtain search warrants to obtain further evidence, and prosecute.
Seek help and comfort from a friend. You are NOT alone and good people do care!
Post a message on the eBay User's Q&A Board about your problem and ask for some moral support, at this location:

Remember, other eBay users and sellers who practice good business ethics do not want scammers and criminals on eBay either.

About Contacting Other eBay Users:
 It may be helpful to contact other eBay users who may be having a similar problem with the same eBay user.  It may be very helpful to form a support group with other eBay users who have suffered a similar problem as yours.  A group action may be more effective than a single action.  Also information can be pooled about the criminal, which may be helpful in aiding the authorities to track down and prosecute the criminal.  Moral support can be provided to others to encourage them to file complaints and reports to legal authorities, as well as other actions which may prevent future fraud.

However, do be careful to not break any of eBay's rules or do anything to cause you to lose your user privileges with eBay.

Be particularly careful about what you write or state to any third-party user on eBay (who may not keep your correspondence confidential).

Do not make any statements which are untrue or speculative or may endanger you (such as libelous or slanderous statements).

Warning:  Some sellers shill their own auctions (use another User ID to bid on their own auctions).  So a bidder on the seller's auction is not always another person or a victim of the seller's scams.

Phone numbers for the proper agencies to file written complaints with are available:
(1) in your local phone book;
(2) through your phone company's long-distance information or 1-800 information; and
(3) by using an Internet search engine.

Another helpful site is 411 for eBay Users:

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This article © 1999-2003 by Tessa Hebert
Revised 3-20-03
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