Ways to spot fake bidders on your auction site (shill bidding)
Erin Thompson Erin Thompson
Shill bidding is the act of exploiting bids in an online auction to unnaturally inflate the item’s worth, therefore not making it fair for legitimate bidders.  Presently there's very little to no established defence against shills. The agent incrementally will increase the auction’s worth, forcing legitimate bidders to submit higher bids to win the item, but there are some known tactics to look out for.

#1 - Bidding Patterns - If an event starts at $1.00 and the next bid is $5 then there might be something sketchy, unless bid increments are in place to act accordingly.  Most people at auctions are looking for the best price and they are going to bid as low as possible, in most cases bidders are not going to bid 100% of the lowest bid.

#2 - Bidding Time - The typical bidder will watch an event and then bid closer to the end of the auction. You will notice a pattern and influx of bids toward the end of an auction rather than the start. Keep an eye on the bidding pattern toward the end of the auction. If a large group of people are interested in the event then it should show a pattern of lower bids, but a lot more bids. Most buyers are at an auction to save money, not pay as much as they can.

Example: $1 - $5 - $5.50 - $10.00  NOT  $1.00 - $50 - $250 - $500 - $1000 

#3 - Feedback - A majority of bidders will have received feedback, watch for bidders who have no feedback but entering bids multiple times with increasing bids.

#4 - New Bidder Accounts - Keep an eye out for multiple bids on one item from multiple new accounts. For example a bidding pattern like this:  new user - new user - established user  - new user - new user - the next bid is what they may be waiting for.

#5 - Buyer Research -  Keep an eye on what you’re bidding on - for example, if you’re bidding on a website - and only research a little and find out its a fresh newly established site, and has no real value or revenue other than you really like the look of the site, the bidding patterns may look out of sorts -- $1 - $500 - $1000 - and the seller might just be setting up the scene for the next bid which might lock you in...be careful!

#6 - Seller Feedback - Review the seller feedback and see what others have commented about the seller. If all checks out, then you shouldn't be concerned, but if the seller has more negative comments then be very aware or don't bid at all.  Review all the sellers feedback to see if the same buyer has bid multiple times on the same sellers items.  Some people do often buy from the same sellers, but if the person is buying multiples of the same thing, multiple times, this might be a shill bidding account. For instance - wall poster - $5 -- and the feedback has 30 from the same buyer for the same item, this might be a sign to consider.

#7 - Check the Negative  - Even though a negative feedback comment might be relevant, check out what the comment reads. Some negative feedback can actually be a buyer that was angry at the seller - for instance if the comment says something similar to "This seller is a total jerk" and the sellers response is “I gave you a  full refund and you still left me negative feedback" you could actually be dealing with an honest seller, but a spiteful buyer with no good intentions.

#8 - Bidding Pattern - Cannot stress this enough,  watch the bidding pattern, even if the event only has 1 bid and time is ending, check the bidding pattern. Nobody is going to spend a a lot of money on something that is not worth the selling price.

#9 - Low Price, High Shipping - Low prices and high shipping cost - always look to see what the shipping fee is. This is another method that can suck a buyer in. A very low priced item and super high shipping fee  is not realistic. Example: $5 item with a $35.00 shipping feee.

Shill bidding is something that every online shopper needs to be aware of and take careful steps to avoid, this practice lowers consumer confidence and can make even the easiiest  online marketplace more challenging to use so be aware and protect yourself by keeping these points in mind but still enjoy the convenience of online shopping. 

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