Skip to main content

Nigerian eBay Scams: How They Get Your Item for Free and Get You to Send Them Money!

Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.

Avoid Nigerian Scams on eBay

Avoid Nigerian Scams on eBay

Nigerian Scams on eBay

There are Nigerian scams on eBay where the scammers get your item for free and then get you to send them money! How does that work? And how can you avoid getting scammed?

I was Targeted for the Nigerian eBay Scam...

Yesterday I listed my BlackBerry Cell Phone for sale on eBay after getting low offers from some on-line cell phone buy back services, local shops, and ecoATM. I started the auction at $51 and added a Buy It Now price of $100. I was excited when the item sold for the Buy It Now price within a couple hours. I got a request from the buyer to send an invoice right away so he could pay with PayPal. I was ready to hit send on the invoice when I noticed something: the shipping address was in Nigeria.

My first concern was with the shipping cost. I listed the item with shipping in the U.S. included for $5.60. I figured shipping to Africa would be way more expensive, so I didn’t want to do that.

My second concern was that Nigeria is famous for scams. I did some research and found that I had just been targeted for the Nigerian eBay scam.

Nigerian eBay Scams- How it Starts

Here’s how the Nigerian eBay scam works:

A buyer from Nigeria buys your item for sale on eBay. This is usually a buyer with a new eBay account and no feedback scores from eBay. The buyer may send you a message asking for an invoice. This is what happened in my case. I did not send an invoice, but here is what happens next if you do…

Soon, the buyer claims to have paid PayPal in Nigeria for the item. You’ll also get an e-mail from or similar e-mail address that claims to have received payment for the sold item. This will look like an e-mail from PayPal, but it is not actually from The e-mail that looks like it is from PayPal claims that they need a tracking number for the item before they can release payment to you. In other words, you are being asked to ship your item before receiving payment. Don’t do it!

Let’s say you fall for this and ship your item. You’ll never receive payment, and the scammer will get your item for free with you paying for the shipping. Adding insult to injury, they will try to get money from you next. Here’s how that part works.

How they get your money in the Nigerian eBay Scams

You’ll receive another email from or similar e-mail address that says that there was a mix-up on the currency conversion from Nigerian currency to U.S. dollars. The buyer overpaid. For example, if the item was $100, they will claim that the buyer paid $300. They will ask you to pay $200 before they issue your payment of $300, or something along these lines. It will appear as though PayPal needs to balance the books- they assure you that you'll get your payment for the item after you send money to account for the over-payment from the buyer. Since it is a request from PayPal (or at least you are led to believe it is), you may actually think it is legitimate request.

They may ask you to wire the money using Western Union. You will be receiving e-mail from both the buyer and from stating that the buyer overpaid and you need to wire some money to straighten this out so you can get paid for the item you already shipped. Some sellers end up falling for this part of the scam out of desperation to get paid.

If you are played in this scam to its conclusion, you are out the value of your eBay item, plus shipping, plus any money you wired to try to straighten things out with PayPal so you can receive your payment.

Protect yourself from scams

How to Avoid the Nigerian eBay Scam

Never ship an eBay item until payment is received. This is a good practice for any shipping address. If you ship your item before you receive payment, what will you do if the payment doesn't come through for some reason? I accept payment by PayPal. You can check your PayPal account to make sure payment has been submitted before you ship sold items.

If a buyer from a country you don’t ship to wins an item, you can cancel the transaction. The process to follow in eBay is known as opening a case. You may lose the eBay fee on the auction, but this is better than losing your item. When you cancel a transaction after an item has sold, the buyer will be asked by eBay to agree to cancel the transaction. If the buyer either agrees or does not respond after 7 days, you will get your eBay auction fee returned.

You can restrict potential buyers from selected countries from bidding on your items. This is in the Exclude Shipping Locations menu in eBay. I had to search a bit to find this. Click the Customer Service menu in eBay and search for the help topic “The buyer or winning bidder is in a country that I don't ship to”. This should lead you to the Exclude Shipping Locations menu where you can select the countries you don’t ship to. This will block buyers with primary address in these countries from bidding.

After my experience, I decided to exclude all countries except the United States for now. I thought that since the shipping terms in my auction were U.S. only, that only U.S. buyers would bid, but this wasn't the case. The listing for my cell phone listed U.S. shipment only, but my restrictions did not block buyers outside the U.S. from bidding. I changed my settings in eBay so now only bidders with primary addresses in the U.S. can bid on my items. This should avoid Nigerian eBay scam attempts on my eBay auctions.

Recommended Reading:

How to Ship Sold eBay Items

Scroll to Continue

© 2013 Dr Penny Pincher


J Zod from Nairobi on May 23, 2019:

This is a very useful article Pincher.Thanks for the info.

Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on August 07, 2015:

Good question- I don't know why so many scams originate from Nigeria. I traced the scammer that tried to take advantage of me to that country. I guess scammers could come from anywhere. Be careful dealing with requests like this from any country...

Jackson on August 07, 2015:

Why does it have to be nigeria?

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on July 20, 2013:

You are right to be cautious! And thanks again for this article to warn the rest of us of people who have do not hesitate to steal from honest people!

Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on July 20, 2013:

kidscrafts, I do plan to open my eBay auctions to more countries soon- including Canada. I just wanted to take things slowly after being targeted once for the Nigerian scam. A scam like this could be run from anywhere, really- you just need to be careful dealing with people you don't know. Thanks for your comment!

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on July 20, 2013:

Very interesting! Don't you think you could open also to Canada or are you afraid that some Nigerian scammers might use Canadian addresses?

Thank you again for taking the time to develop this subject with all the details! I am not selling things on eBay yet.... but I intend to!

Enjoy your weekend!

Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on July 20, 2013:

soulfully, thanks for sharing your experience with eBay/PayPal scams. Once you understand how these scams operate, you can make life difficult for scammers as you suggest...

soulfully on July 20, 2013:

I only ship my items to the U.K when I use eBay. With all the postage prices that have gone up I have no choice but to only sell to my own country. It's no surprise to me that Nigerian scam artists are targeting big companies like eBay, but I am surprised at their recent advancements in online manipulation.

I received a scam Paypal email that led me to join an online scam baiting community. I clicked the link in the email and nearly entered my personal details, the only reason I hesitated was because of the first sentence which read "dear customer" instead of my actual name. I had the biggest panic attack of my life, which turned into pure rage. Now in my spare time I have fun making online scammers jump through my hoops just to waste as much time of theirs as I can. I love creating temporary email accounts and pretending to be a rich 80 year old pensioner with alzheimers to any scammers who emails me. Scam baiting is so much fun. :)

Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on July 19, 2013:

Seigfried23, thanks for your comment. This type of scam is easy to get pulled into. It's sad that scams like this have given Nigerians a bad reputation.

Related Articles