Do you trust eBay with your Social Security number?

In order to sell anything on eBay, you will need to provide your social security number. Is it safe?

Image of the eBay logo
Image by Simon from Pixabay

Auctioning my PS5

Just before the holiday season last year, I was able to get my hands on a PS5. You would have to be living under a rock to not know that those consoles were selling for 2.5x to 4x times their original price on eBay. It is no secret anyone with some luck and an eBay account was able to profit last season. Let’s be real, I only managed to wrangle one console from Best Buy. I was not by any definition a scalper. It just so happened I was an Xbox fan who owned a PS5. I essentially wanted to sell my PS5 so that I could purchase the new Xbox Series X.

Shill bidding

The final winning bid reached $1,835.00. Excited, I read eBay’s email and did as they suggested. I sent the winning bidder an invoice. Later that evening, I couldn’t help myself, who was this anonymous bidder? My mind went on to assume that some corporate executive really wanted to get his or her son/daughter a PS5 for the holidays. That was the only rationale explanation I could think of.

Déjà vu — relisting

I decided it was a fluke and relisted the item. Just over 24 hours into the auction I received another bid for what was only $150 over market value. Only this time I noticed, it was by another user with zero feedback. I immediately contacted eBay and they recommend I adjust my ‘Seller’s Preferences.’ I set my preferences to the highest standards I could set. Confusing lingo but I set my preferences to not sell to buyers who:

  • Have a primary shipping address in a location I don’t ship to
  • Have a feedback score of -1 or lower
  • Are currently winning or have bought 1 of my items in the last 10 days and have a feedback score of 0 or lower

eBay’s track record

What’s more is if you do your homework, you will find numerous successful hacking attempts on eBay specifically. In this case, their track record precedes them, and not in a positive way. How could a business with such bad ethics and little concerns for its users make billions of dollars in revenue per year? eBay was starting to have the makings of ‘too big too fail,’ which let's be real, no one truly needs eBay. Were they one of the pioneers of the internet? Sure, but the same could be said of Lehman Brothers and well, look at them…

  • Like most VC backed firms, revenue, profit and loss didn’t really matter. It was all about the ‘active’ user base.

Third time’s the charm

Out of sheer frustration, I decided to list my PS5 for a third time. I’m not sure if it was due to the settings having been set prior to the listing or if it was all the complaining I had done. The number of fraudulent bids was drastically lower this time around. I ended up selling my PS5 for a final value of over $900 which included ‘free 2-day shipping’ to a gentlemen with an intent to pay.

Selling less trending items

Fast forward a few months, I was able to get my hands on an Xbox Series X. It is a great console and worth the wait. It is now time to sell my older Xbox One X console as there is no need to keep it. Long story short, I was again taken advantage of by a user who was responsive (at least) but again had zero feedback and zero intention of buying my fully functioning console. I learned my lesson (again) and convinced myself I will only consider selling an item to someone with at least a feedback score of 3.

Seller requirement changes in 2021

It was something else holding me back. Not only do they require a checking account but they want my Social Security number. I suppose this is what they need to do in order to make Uncle Sam happy. That part is fine and makes sense. What I cannot wrap my head around is the thought of sharing my Social Security number with a company that turns a blind eye to fraud and purposefully keeps account creation trivial to inflate their user numbers. In the eyes of the law, they should be considered an accomplice. If they take this stance with legitimate customers, how can I trust them to secure my Social Security number?

Final thoughts

Though I love the concept of online auctions, eBay has lost its way. While it is other users that have malicious intent, eBay is just as guilty by omission in protecting its legitimate users from conducting business. Through the years of changing ownership and selling off PayPal, whoever has taken over is doing an awful job. I’m sure there are some analytics somewhere that indicates eBay has a future, but as far as I am concerned, they do not deserve my business. I have to believe that I am not the only person out there who feels this way and has had a poor selling experience.

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