Is eBay Safe? Tips, Tricks, and Buyers Guide for 2020

Luis Silva

(Jan. 2020)


If you’re living in the 21st century like most people, chances are that you already noticed dozens of online stores like eBay (or Amazon). And most likely you already bought, or felt very tempted to buy that cheap gadget you always wanted, right?

The fact is, as more and more people surrender to the comfort of buying things from their couch, more and more people are tempted to make money from these purchases illegally.

So my recommendation is to shop at traditional online stores, rather than rush to shop at newly discovered ones.

Does this mean that it is safe to buy from eBay?

Well, you can breathe, you are indeed safe.

But before you rush into buying every fancy smartphone case or shinny new RGB keyboard you always dreamt of, there are a few things that you should be aware of.

These days, all online stores protect their connections with an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption technology. That means your personal information like your credit/debit card details is protected from prying eyes. Unfortunately, that alone is not enough to guarantee a worry-free experience.


Tips for safe online shopping

How to avoid getting scammed on eBay

eBay vs Amazon

When should you buy from eBay

When should you avoid eBay

How to shop on eBay

eBay tips and tricks

Tips for getting amazing deals

Bidding tips

Best offer tips

Tips for getting stuff for free (yes, for real!)

Items that I will not buy again

Best things to buy on eBay

Package-tracking sites


Tips For Safe Online Shopping

Here are some standard tips that will keep your shopping an enjoyable experience:

  • Keep software and virus protection up-to-date.

  • Use strong passwords for online accounts and change them from time to time.

  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi or public PCs.

  • Check your credit card statement frequently.

  • Do not click on any links. Instead, type into your browser (or,,, and so on).

If you follow these tips, you are usually safe. Unless eBay servers get hacked, which has happened before. But passwords are always stored in encrypted formats, so a password reset usually solves this issue. Besides, while not entirely mandatory, most eBay sellers only accept Paypal as a payment method. In that case, you have to create a PayPal account, but I see it as an extra layer of security and buyers protection (more on that later).

How To Avoid Getting Scammed On eBay

There are some specific eBay tips that you can follow to avoid any small hickups like not receiving the ordered item:

  • Do not buy outside of eBay. Buyers and sellers aren't allowed to contact each other off eBay. Plus, as a buyer, you will not be protected by eBay money-back guarantee.

  • Use this eBay app while on mobile.

  • Do not open any links from unsolicited eBay emails. If you do not have the corresponding message in your eBay inbox account, they are probably fake. This also applies to PayPal.

  • Before buying, make sure you see this sticker. This means that the item you are about to order is protected by the eBay money-back guarantee.

  • Avoid new sellers or stores with less than 1000 ratings.

  • Any seller with less than about 98% of Positive feedback is generally considered not to be very attentive.

  • If you are not very confident when making a purchase, It is always safer to buy from someone that is registered as a Business Seller.

  • If the price is too good to be true, it usually is. That doesn't mean you should stay away from those deals, even if a hacker takes possession of the seller account, eBay will refund you under the money-back guarantee. Just don't get too much hope of getting the item you paid for.

  • Check the seller's feedback.

  • If the time frame for contacting the seller thru eBay Resolution Center is over, you can still get a refund from Paypal. Unfortunately, they can take several weeks to resolve the issue. You can read more about the eBay Money Back Guarantee policy here.

  • Edit: Some people are stating that you should never order a Shipping Free item with an item you have to pay to ship (from the same seller). Just wait 4 or 5 days and place the second order. You can read more about it (among other tips) here (on

eBay vs Amazon

If you're torn between these two e-commerce giants, be aware that even if they end up selling the exact same item, it doesn't mean you should choose one of them at random.

eBay and Amazon are battling out for market supremacy since the dawn of e-commerce. But despite its core differences, both have found ways to offer something similar to what the other competitor offers.

While eBay has found a way to speed up its shipments, Amazon has adopted the possibility of selling used items. This doesn't mean that you'll get fast shipping from eBay or that you'll be able to purchase the used part that you really want from Amazon.

The main difference between eBay and Amazon is that the latter sells and ships its products while the former is just a platform to bring buyers and sellers together. Although Amazon also allows other sellers to do business in its own store.

When Should You Buy From eBay

If you're looking for the best possible deal while not being really concerned with its shipping speed or the time you've spent while searching or auctioning for it, you're at the right place.

If you're looking for rare and/or used items or if you enjoy establishing a relationship with the seller, eBay should be your platform of choice.

When Should You Avoid eBay

If you're past Black Friday and are thinking of ordering something cheap from a warehouse in China to give as a Christmas gift, forget it!

If the item you are looking for isn't that cheap, it may be subject to customs processing. That means you're in for a possible delay (it can take up to a week or two) and import duties and taxes. You should check your country's customs office or visit eBay's page on international trade.

If you choose to buy from a seller that ships from a warehouse close to your country, you may be able to avoid these inconveniences and get faster deliveries. But if you find him, be aware that the price of the item he's selling will also reflect that choice.

If you love receiving items new-in-box, eBay isn't for you.

If you value one or more years of warranty service, think twice before ordering tech gadgets (among other things) on eBay, as most sellers only offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.

How To Shop On eBay

Disclaimer: The tips I'm about to share are based on my personal experience only (after buying hundreds of items in the last 6 years). I have no business relationship with eBay. I may join its affiliate network in the future. If I do, I'll update my Privacy Policy.

You can click here to open on another tab.

As with any other online store, you can start by typing your item in the search bar. That's where I go at least 95% of the time. Of course, you can also shop by category.

Then click on an item and on the Buy It Now button.

If you've already registered on eBay, click on the Confirm And Pay button. Its that simple.

You can buy as a guest, but you'll have to enter your shipping address and payment details every time you complete a purchase.

That's the basics.

eBay Tips And Tricks

To make it more accessible, let's assume you're looking for a 6-button wireless mouse. Start by typing it in the search box.

Take a minute or two to familiarise yourself with the search filters of the browser or with the app version of the store. The most popular filter results are Condition, Price range, Buying format, Item Location, and Delivery Options.

Tip #1: Consider sorting the results by Price + Shipping: Lowest First. You may take longer to find what you were looking for, but it's the only way you'll find the best deal that you can get.

Tip #2: For Chinese warehouses, consider purchasing from Top rated sellers only.

You may find a slightly better deal from other sellers, but the risk of not receiving the item you've ordered will increase (up to about 15 to 20%, I believe). Then you'll have to contact the seller, and he'll suggest a resend, which will likely never come either. Just decline a resend and ask for a refund.

Most affordable shipping companies "lose" their items or delay the delivery regularly. It wouldn't be the first time I'd receive an item I ordered a year earlier. That's not to say it won't happen with Top rated sellers, but when an issue arises, they'll also work things out with you a lot faster.

If you want to know more about it, check it here on

Tip #3: Be aware of shipping costs. If you want a worldwide free shipping service, you can filter the results by Free International Shipping.

Tip #4: You can refine your search results in the Advanced search page. Some sellers may not include the phrase 6-button in the items title, so you'll get better results by selecting Title and description in the Search including section.

Tip #5: For additional results, consider changing the condition of the item to Refurbished or Used.

Tip #6: When purchasing an item, always be aware of its size, or else you'll end up disappointed more often than not.

Tips For Getting Amazing Deals

Tip #7: Usually, the lowest price found on eBay for the most affordable things is AU $1.00, but if you're willing to spend the time, and with a little luck, you can purchase some for as low as $0.01. We'll get into that soon.

Tip #8: Another way to get good deals is to make an offer to the seller. You can find more details in the "best offer tips" section below.

Tip #9: From time to time, eBay offers 20% off everything coupons for a short period. What I recommend is that you save your favorite items in your wishlist so that you can quickly make your purchases.

Tip #10: eBay also has a Daily Deals section. If you want to browse thru them, check it here

Tip #11: There are also coupon dedicated sites with dedicated eBay sections, like and but it's hard to find a valid coupon. I guess if you really want, you can give it a try.

Tip #12: There are other ways for you to get a great deal. Some sellers get "carried over" and exaggerate on the title of the item. Once I've found a 60w solar panel the size of a 20w one. If you can find these items, you can order them and then later ask for a discount under the eBay Money Back Guarantee (Get the item you ordered or get your money back). How much of a discount you'll ask is up to you.

Bidding Tips

Are you longing for your first penny purchase? Let's get you ready for your first auction on eBay. Start by clicking on Auction and then try and search for something cheap.

Tip #13: If you need some inspiration, click here.

Then, filter the results by choosing your favorite categories. Don't forget to sort your results by Time: Ending soonest.

Did you pick an item already?

Tip #14: You can enter an amount and click on Place bid, or you can click without entering any value, and you'll get the chance to place your highest bid. That doesn't mean you'll have to pay that price. If you enter $1 and the previous highest bid was, for example, $0.50, and no one else bids again, you'll end up paying $0.51 or close to that. eBay bids enough to just beat any competing bidder.

Tip #15: Another tip is to place your bid at the very last moment. Decide how much you are willing to spend and then, at 10 or 15 seconds before the end of the auction, type that amount and click bid. This does not guarantee that you will win (remember the previous tip), but it's the most effective way to bid. I have successfully used this trick many times before.

Tip #16: You can also use bid snipping tools/services. I won't quote brands because I'm not 100% sure it's legal. I believe it is, but I have never used them.

Best Offer Tips

Best Offer lets you offer the seller a price you're willing to pay on Buy It Now items. The seller decides whether to accept, reject, or suggest another price.

Tip #17: Not all sellers accept price proposals, but you can filter the results to only include listings from sellers who do. If you're on the desktop, on the left panel, at the end of the filters list, click on More filters..., then on Show only, and then on Accepts Best Offer.

Tip #18: How much you decide to offer is up to you, but if you are only buying a single item, don't expect the seller to accept a significant price reduction. For most categories, you can make up to 5 offers, so use them wisely.

Tip #19: You can add a message to the seller when you're entering your proposal. A friendly, personal message could help you get the item at the price you want.

Tip #20: If the item's been listed for a long time, the seller might be more flexible on the price.

Tips For Getting Stuff For Free (Yes, for real!)

What I'm about to tell you is perfectly legal, but I'd like to ask you to be reasonable. Remember that every eBay user has a public profile, and it's subject to feedback ratings. This includes buyers too. That doesn't mean you should give negative feedback to the sellers that you're about to find, even if some are on eBay to try to take advantage of less knowledgable users.

What I'm about to teach you is how to take advantage of those sellers, but in the end, if you get a full refund (I'm sure you will), please don't give him a negative feedback. We both know what he's trying to do, but if he gets enough bad ratings, eBay will most likely suspend him, and we'll have one less chance to get things for free.

Tip #21:Carefully look for items that you know "for sure" that aren't legit. For example, try and search for the M4 smart band. As you can see, you can buy one for as low as $4. What some sellers are trying to do is to sell them as Xiaomi's Mi band 4 for about $5 to $20.

Watching a Youtube review of the original item may help you identify what's fake and what's not. In this case, the Mi Band 4 doesn't have a blood pressure monitor, so look for that in the item's description.

Also, as soon as you install the companion app, you'll see right away that it isn't from Xiaomi. Then just contact the seller stating that this isn't the item you've ordered and that you want a full refund. They'll offer a 50% refund. At $10, they'll still make a profit, but that's not the point. It isn't the item you ordered, so just ask for a full refund. You are not bound to return it either.

Tip #22: Some sellers don't bother to list the actual images of the item. Sometimes you can clearly see that they are of similar items. Once I bought a Smart Vacuum Cleaning Robot for about $20 just to try it out (by the way, don't even bother). On one of the pictures, the robot had two rotating brushes.

When I bought it, I sent a message to the seller asking him to send the one with the brushes, or I would ask for a full refund. I'm sure you already guessed what happened next!

Tip #23: One other way you can get free stuff is by ordering from "non-Top Sellers." Then if the item doesn't arrive in the next 35 to 40 days, just ask for a refund. There is a slight chance that you will get this item later, even if it is next year.

Don't forget to share these tips with your friends!

Items That I Will Not Buy Again

This is a list of things that I am avoiding ordering. Keep in mind that's based on my personal experience only.

  • Power supply units (chargers included). Don't get me wrong, I've ordered plenty of those before, but some simply just blow up. I should also include cheap batteries too. While I haven't had any problems with that before (I do avoid buying them), the worst thing that can happen is it blowing up next to the ones we love.

  • Clothes. That's something that you'll have to be extra careful when buying. You may find great deals, but even if you only regret buying one item out of ten, overall, it may still be a not-so-positive experience. It also is hard to find quality purses under $20.

  • There are also very cheap unbranded microSD cards that you'll probably want to avoid. While they may work fine on day-to-day usage, I've had some issues when trying to install a Linux-based Raspberry Pi OS.

Best Things To Buy On eBay

These are the items that I'll buy over and over again for sure.

  • $1 Bass Stereo Earphones. If that's something you're into, just search for them, and you'll see what I mean.

  • TOMO M4 Power Bank Case. Who wouldn't want a free portable almost-unlimited power bank? If you're willing to open used laptop batteries, you may find up to six 18650 lithium cells that you can use with this power bank. This isn't the cheapest case you'll find, and unfortunately, it doesn't support fast charging. But it can charge the cells individually, and you can exchange them while in use, thus the "unlimited" charging power. It also has a real-time power consumption display.

  • Stainless steel card case. Great for those who want to live in a world free of big wallets and paper money.

  • $1 Luminous tape. It may sound like a gimmick, but if you have small kids and you want to walk around in your house with the lights out, it's a must-have.

  • Universal LCD controller board. If you're a DIY guy and have an old or broken laptop with a working LCD lying around, this project is for you. Just be sure to buy the right board for your LCD.

  • Smartphone cases. The choice is just tremendous. No physical smartphone accessories store can ever compete.

  • Wi-Fi Video Doorbell. This is no Ring doorbell, but I actually like mine, and it runs for weeks on two of those 18650 cells that I've just mentioned.

Package-Tracking Sites

Last but not least, some sellers may give you a tracking number for you to track your package. Depending on the price of the item, you may get an easy or a hard number to track.

First, you'll want to check if your local post office has its own package-tracking site. If not, or if your tracking number isn't recognized, try the following methods instead:

  • eBay's mobile app.

  • Search your tracking number on Google.

  • If it ends with NL (eg.: AA123456NL), try this site:

  • If it ends with YN, try this site:

You can try to find other tracking sites on Google, but it's a tedious process to do. There are dozens of them, and most won't actually be able to find your parcel.


Whoa, that came out longer than I expected, but I'm hoping I've covered all the bases so you may confidently make your first purchase. If you already have some experience, I hope that somehow I was able to add any helpful knowledge.

If you found any helpful tips, would you please share this guide with your friends? If you still have any doubts, additional tips or suggestions, sound off in the comments below or send me an email.

Happy shopping!

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