What to Do If You Bought Fake Stuff on eBay

How to Recognize Imitation Items

Image shows a watch, a broken nintendo, an autograph, a cassette, a purse, and a harddrive. Text reads: "Items prohibited by ebay: bootleg recordings of concerts or live shows; counterfeit electronics or software; fake autographs; pirated copies of things like movies or music; counterfeits of brand-name items; backup or archival copies of software"

Image by Jo Zixuan Zhou © The Balance 2020

Counterfeit goods are not allowed on eBay. Nonetheless, the site is saturated with imitation merchandise. Millions of items are listed each day, and while eBay takes active measures to protect buyers, fake stuff still manages to make it through.

How Fake Stuff Ends Up on eBay

Some sellers simply may not know their items are not real, while others knowingly list inauthentic items and don't think they will get caught.

In either case, both sellers face sanctions from eBay if their items are found to be counterfeits or replicas. Penalties range from having their listings removed to a ban from selling on the platform altogether.

Expensive handbags are one of the most counterfeited items on eBay. Savvy sellers can avoid getting ensnared by selling fake goods by taking advantage of eBay Authenticate. For a fee paid from a percentage of their profits, sellers can send their bags to experts who can certify the authenticity of their merchandise.

The certification service includes fulfillment to the buyer and is currently only available to select brands of handbags. According to eBay, it may be expanded in the future to include other high-end items. The service is free to buyers and covered by eBay's Money Back Guarantee.

Prohibited Items

On its policy page, eBay points out which items are prohibited from their listings:

  • Backup or archival copies of software
  • Bootleg recordings from concerts or other live shows
  • Counterfeits, fakes, or replicas of brand name items (for example, a purse bearing the Chanel name or logo that wasn't made by Chanel)
  • Counterfeit electronics or software
  • Counterfeit replacement parts that weren't made by the manufacturer
  • Digital copy only discs or codes (originally sold as part of a Blu-ray or DVD combo package)
  • Fake autographs
  • Media (such as CDs, DVDs, flash drives or any other recordable media) containing scanned pages from a book, magazine, manual, or other copyrighted materials that you didn't create
  • Unauthorized or pirated copies of things like:
    • Movies or videos
    • Audiobooks and ebooks
    • Music CDs, MP3s, MP4s
    • Photos
    • Software
    • TV programs (including CDs or DVDs containing shows that were taped from television)
    • Video games

How to Tell if an Item Is Real or Fake

To identify an imitation item, look at all the pictures. Ask the seller if the images they have uploaded to eBay are of the actual bag you’re buying, for instance. If so, look closer. Do the seams and patterns on the item match up perfectly? In the case of handbags or apparel, the seams will be well done with no gaps, puckers, or breaks.

Next, look at where the item was manufactured. While some legitimate designer items are made in China, do your research to determine which ones. Does True Religion Jeans have a factory in China? Are all Louis Vuitton bags made in France?

You can also ask the seller to show you proof of authenticity. They should be able to show you a copy of their receipt or similar paperwork. If the receipt does not come from a reputable dealer, like a Coach store, Nordstrom, or Bloomingdales, it may be fake. Always do your research on the seller by reviewing their feedback and selling history.

Restitution for Fake eBay Goods

If the merchandise is fake, report the listing to eBay and let them take action to enforce their policies. Then reach out to the seller by opening up a return and requesting a refund. Your purchase is covered by the eBay Guarantee, which entitles you to receive your money back if the item you receive doesn't match what is listed.

The seller has three days to respond. Whether they know if the item they sold you is real or not, when it's pointed out, they should respond and offer you a full refund. If you don't hear back from the seller in that time, ask eBay to get involved. You should receive a response from eBay within 48 hours, and ultimately receive a refund of the purchase price, plus shipping, if applicable.