Beware eBay Bid Retractions and Sniper Programs

One of the risks bidding on eBay rather than portals with more vigilant customer service and rules, such as Proxibid, is the lethal combination of bid retractions and sniper programs. These computer applications bid at the final seconds of an auction, often just a few dollars more than the maximum of the underbidder.

Sniper applications are not free. They get a fee or a percentage of the winning bid for every coin they snare in your name. One of the most popular on eBay is EZSniper.

Let's make a clear distinction between fair use of sniper programs and unfair use. All a sniper program does is place a maximum bid at an opportune time. That means you don't have to be present to do this yourself from a computer or smartphone. Some eBay auctions end in the middle of the night, for instance. Your sniper will be there at 3:01 a.m. to do your bidding.

But there is an unfair way to use snipers. The cheating buyer bids up a desired coin until he exceeds the maximum of the underbidder and becomes the high bidder. Now he knows the maximum bid of the underbidder, previously hidden from view.

He turns to the sniper program and typically places a maximum that exceeds your formerly hidden high bid by a modest amount.  

As you can see, unfair use of snipers involves a bid retraction. Then the cheating bidder lies to eBay about the retraction, usually stating that he put in the wrong amount. This is one of the ways that eBay allows retractions. 

You often can tell if you are dealing with a cheat. When a retraction occurs, eBay provides you with data concerning how many bid retractions the person has had in the recent past. If you see many, you are probably a target and should retract.

You can retract your high bid on eBay as long as the auction is more than 12 hours from conclusion.

Real cheats retract seconds close to the 12th hour, which gives them one more advantage: By the time you are informed of the retraction, 12 hours before the end of the sale will have elapsed. Now you cannot change your bid, according to eBay rules.

To discern that you're really a victim, wait until the auction ends and see who won the coin. If it is the same person who retracted, and you'll be able to tell that from his eBay handle disclosed with the earlier bid retraction, then you've been had.

Another tactic, if you really want the coin before the auction ends, is to place another maximum bid and take your chances that your new bid is higher than the sniper's maximum.

There is little can be done if you are a victim of a bid retraction and sniper program. You can call up eBay and complain and, if the buyer's tactics are frequent and egregious enough, the person's bidding might be restricted. But he can always re-register under a different email account and name. In the computer age, there often is a way around any digital rule.

That's why it is important to know how the game is played, both fairly and unfairly. You'll learn about that here.