What Is Shill Bidding on eBay?

Unfortunately, the world of sports cards is full of scammers and dishonest people. Auctions sites like eBay are a breeding ground for these folks. That’s not to say that you can’t find legitimate deals on eBay. In fact, I do most of my sports card purchases for my PC on eBay and so do a lot of others. One of the common issues collectors have to deal with on eBay is shill bidding / shill bidders.

What is shill bidding in sports cards? Shill bidding on eBay, or any other auction site for that matter, is when a seller has another account (whether it be his own or a family member or friend) and has that account bid on the seller’s auction to drive up the final price. Sadly enough, there used to be people selling shill bidding services on fiverr before fiverr got wise and cracked down. Their goal is to bid the auction up as high as possible without actually winning it. That way, the seller maximizes his profit and you don’t get a great deal as a buyer.

Suspiciously high amount of bid retractions

How To Spot Shill Bidding on eBay

If you believe that you have been a victim of shill bidders on eBay there are a few indicators that you can look into. Here are some of the common ones:

  • Bidder has low feedback – typically shill bidder accounts are new accounts with little to no feedback.
  • High bidding percentage with seller – you can see this info by clicking on the item’s bid history, then clicking on the suspected shill bidders blocked out username. This will take you to a page full of stats about the bidder.
  • Bid retractions – on the same page mentioned in the previous bullet, you can see the amount of bid retractions for the bidder in question.
  • Seller relists same item shortly after auction ends – This is a tell tale sign that the seller was taking part in shill bidding and the bidder accidentally won.
Example of user information page showing bid percentage, bid retractions, etc.

How To Avoid Being Shilled on eBay

One way to avoid it is to google the name of the eBay seller you are dealing with. If they are known for shilling their own auctions oftentimes they will have been previously called out in forums. For instance, seller BigBoydSportscards3 was called out for shill bidding on blowout and other forums.

The best technique that I have personally found to avoid being bid up on eBay is to never bid on auctions until the last second. I always wait until the last 5-10 seconds of an auction and then bid the absolute most I am willing to pay for an item. People often call this “sniping”.

Of course when using this method it is still possible that shill bidders will also throw in a last ditch shill bid to slightly under whatever they anticipate your max bid to be. Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do about that.

One thing I would suggest though is to never bid a predictable max bid. For example, if you are willing to pay $150 and that is a fair/reasonable number to assume a card or lot of cards would go for, then bid $145 or $148. The reason why is because a shill bidder is going to assume someone will be willing to pay $150 and they will bid slightly less. Granted, using this technique you may end up losing out on items you want. You have to decide whether or not you are willing to pay more and deal with the shilling, or risk losing out on the card(s) you want to fight to avoid it.

Example of being bid up to a predictable amount.

Have you been a victim of shill bidding in sports card auctions on eBay? Or maybe you suspect it? Do you know of a better bidding technique to avoid being shilled? Share your experience and knowledge in the comments!

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