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.

Savvy sellers can avoid getting ensnared by selling fake goods by taking advantage of eBay Authenticate. If your item is eligible for eBay Authenticity Guarantee, it will be automatically added to the program at no cost.

The certification service includes fulfillment to the buyer and is available to select brands of handbags, watches, and sneakers. The service is free to buyers and covered by eBay's Money Back Guarantee.

Prohibited Items

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

  • Adult items
  • Alcohol
  • Animals and wildlife products
  • Selling art
  • Artifacts, cultural heritage, and grave-related items
  • Autographed items
  • Catalytic converter and test pipes
  • Used clothing 
  • Credit and debit cards 
  • Digitally delivered goods 
  • Drugs and drug paraphernalia 
  • Electrical and electronic equipment 
  • Embargoed goods and prohibited countries 
  • Encouraging illegal activity 
  • Firearms, weapons, and knives 
  • Food 
  • Gift cards 
  • Government, transit, and shipping-related items 
  • Government documents, IDs and licenses 
  • Hazardous, restricted, or regulated materials 
  • Human remains and body parts 
  • Lock picking devices 
  • Chance listings 
  • Mailing lists and personal information 
  • Managed payments restricted items 
  • Coupons 
  • Medical devices 
  • Personal relationships and services 
  • Police-related items 
  • Prescription and over-the-counter drugs 
  • Real estate 
  • Product safety 
  • Event ticket 
  • Slot machines 
  • Stamps, currency and coins 
  • Stocks and  other securities  
  • Stolen property 
  • Travel 
  • Used cosmetics 

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.