Why I Won’t Sell an iPhone on eBay Any More

For many years, I have bought new iPhones and sold the previous models. As a tech journalist, it’s useful for me to have the latest technology – even though I don’t do this every year – and I don’t want to accumulate old devices, like many of my friends who have “boxes of phones.”

I used to do this on eBay, but, when I tried to sell my iPhone 8+ recently, the experience was so bad that I will never do it again.

The first problem is that scammers hone in on iPhone sales pretty quickly. Each time I listed it – I’ll explain in a bit why I had to do this several times – I got emails like this:

hi i was wondering if you iphone 8 has been sold or not as I might be interested
my contact number is XXXX XXX XXX

Often, the messages would give an email address, in the form username @ outlook dot com, so eBay’s filters wouldn’t catch them. And many of them used the same story, saying they needed to get one for their daughter’s birthday that week.

eBay seems to be very slow catching up to this. Generally it took a day or so before I got an email from eBay saying:

Our records show that you recently contacted or received messages from XXXXXXXX through eBay’s messaging system. We’re writing to let you know that an unauthorized third party may have compromised this member’s account security. It’s important to note that we’re unaware of any problems with your account. We recommend the following precautions to help keep you safe:

  • Don’t respond to offers to buy or sell an item from this user. The offer may be fraudulent, and the transaction won’t be covered by eBay.
  • Don’t respond to any messages you received from this user that appear to be a Second Chance Offer for an item you recently bid on.
  • Never pay for eBay items using instant cash wire-transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram. It’s against eBay’s Safe Payments Policy for a seller to request payment with these methods.

Most of these are new accounts – they weren’t “compromised” – which you can see by the low or zero feedback, and the join date on their pages. (Some may have feedback; scammers just buy a few cheap items to get some feedback on their accounts.)

I can understand how some people may fall for this scam, where the buyer pays you via PayPal, then claims that they never received the item, or, if you have sent it with a signature required, that it was broken. (And they’ll have photos of a broken iPhone to show.)

Another issue I had was people paying, then sending a strange looking address. In these cases, I just cancelled the order and refunded the person.

I’ve sold other items of value on eBay; I recently sold a Mac mini, and last year I sold an iMac, and never get this kind of email. I think it’s too much of a hassle for the scammers to try this for things bigger than a smartphone.

So when I bought the new iPhone XS Max last year, I moved over to Apple’s upgrade program. I won’t have to worry about selling old iPhones any more. As for the iPhone 8+, I traded it in to Apple; I got less than I would have from eBay (even after their fees), but there’s no hassle involved.

But that’s it. eBay has made itself far too dangerous to sell items like this. Knowing that in disputes they tend to side with the buyer automatically means I simply cannot trust the company to protect me.

9 thoughts on “Why I Won’t Sell an iPhone on eBay Any More

  1. “Another issue I had was people paying, then sending a strange looking address. In these cases, I just cancelled the order and refunded the person.”

    What reason did you give for canceling the order? Is PayPal your only payment method?

    • There’s an option to cancel fo a strange looking address (I don’t recall the actual term that is used). And I only use PayPal; that offers security, and I’m not sure how it would work with, say, a direct bank payment.

  2. I used to get rid of old iPhones through Gazelle. Worked pretty well. Now I also am in the Apple exchange program, so no old phones to get rid of.

  3. The iPhone Upgrade Program is the direction I went as well. Selling on eBay was bad enough but even craigslist, 5mile, letgo, and the other garage sale apps became a hassle with scammers and crooks. sad reality.

  4. PayPal ASSISTED in the scam that caused me to lose $300 AND my iPhone that I was selling on eBay. This was years ago. PayPal believed the scammers, and took my money away with no appeal.

    I’m still angry.

  5. My last experience selling an iPhone on eBay also ended unpleasantly, and that was several years ago. Fortunately my kids are now old enough for hand-me down phones…

  6. Kirk, I’m sorry to hear about your iPhone bad experience on eBay. Unfortunately, scammers and hackers seem to move into everything. I’ve never sold anything on eBay, but have bought items many times. Fortunately, I’ve not been scammed yet. I, too, trade in my iPhone to Apple.

    I was surprised — but pleased– to read another of your weekly blogs. I thought last week you said you were retiring the blog. Anyway, good to hear from you again, and the best of luck going forward. I’ve learned a lot from you over the years…Jim

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