Shoestring Theory

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eBay officially expanding anonymous bidding policy

March 4, 2008 at 2:29 pm by thetheorist

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I had known this was coming, but eBay sent out a notification to buyers today announcing that complete user IDs will no longer be displayed on any auction format listings.

Soon we will no longer display the complete user IDs of people bidding on any auction-style listing. Instead, we’ll use asterisks such as x***y to protect our members’ identities. Sellers will continue to see complete user IDs on their listings and the winning bidder’s ID will be visible to everyone after the auction ends.

We haven’t provided this information on listings of $200 or higher for some time and it’s been a very effective fraud deterrent for those items. For safety reasons, we’re now expanding this protection to all auction-style listings.
We know many of you like to see who you’re bidding against. But displaying this information makes it too easy for scammers to send out fake offers that include convincing details of your actual bidding activity on a specific listing, such as the item number, description and exact amount you bid.

In recent weeks fraudulent email offers targeting listings under $200 has surged unacceptably. To keep eBay a top shopping destination we must choose safety over visibility and nip this in the bud. We recognize for some of you this may be an unwelcome limitation but we hope you’ll support our putting more muscle into fraud prevention.

The prevalence of fake Second Chance offers has basically gutted that program. No one has any faith in it and almost all sellers I know have stopped using it (you routinely see auctions that announce that the seller does not use Second Chance offers). eBay certainly needed to do something about these scams.

While I know some change was needed, I do lament this as another loss to the community aspect of eBay though. I buy in the same categories over and over. I often find myself bidding against the same set of buyers (there are maybe 10 of us who commonly target one particular item). Even though I’ve never met any of these people, I feel I know them. I know what they bid on, whether they snipe or put in a big opening bid, and what their threshold for a particular item is. It makes bidding more fun and interesting for me.

Unless eBay changes this program, you can still figure out who is bidding. So far, the two letters used to identify a bidder are always the same (ex: user ID probidder would always be scrambled as something like d****r). So, many times I can still figure out who I’m bidding against if it is someone I see often. Who knows if that will remain though or if they will go over to a consistently random model.

There have also been concerns that this program makes it easier for dishonest sellers to use shill bidding on their own items (driving up the price). eBay has included some tools to allow people to see what percentage of a particular bidders activity is with one seller, but it’s not as handy of a tool as being able to review a bidders history over the last several weeks.

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  • 1 gene Mar 28, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    I wasn’t sure why ebay did this, but I’m kind of glad to be an anonymous bidder (to other bidders). I’ve decided to only bid by sniping, since I don’t want to wait around to see if I won with a bid earlier in an auction.

    But, I can understand if competing bidders would get angry at being sniped. It’s happened to me, and it really bugged me, until I learned about sniping and decided it was a good strategy. Having other bidders not know my user ID keeps them from sending hate mail my way or stalking my bids.