Recently I received an email from eBay.
“Your eBay account has been temporarily locked because it looks like someone used it without your permission. Your email address may have also been tampered with so you might not have received any emails about the unauthorized transactions.
We went ahead and canceled those unauthorized transactions and credited the associated fees. We assure you that your credit card information has not been stolen because it’s on a secure computer that can’t be accessed by anyone.”
The email went on to tell me that I would have to change my eBay password if I wanted my account unlocked and advised me to also change the password on my gmail account.
I had received one of these three or four months earlier and dutifully changed both passwords.
This time I was less gullible.
I rang the eBay call centre [0800 358 6552] and told them that I did not believe that my account had been accessed and that I was the victim of some internal eBay screwup.
That turned out to be true.
eBay logs your IP address when you sign on. If the IP is different from your usual one it triggers account locking. I had logged on via a VPN in another country and the eBay computers had automatically locked my account and sent out the email. There had not been any ‘unauthorized transactions’ and no need to credit any fees. That was a lie. I don’t know why they didn’t tell the truth. Perhaps they could not be bothered.
I can see that all this is very convenient for eBay, but not so much for their customers. I have several computers and I have to change the password that is stored by Firefox on every one of them.
Given that VPNs are widely used I wonder how many people are being screwed by eBay? I suppose if you have a monopoly of online auctions you can afford to behave in this dishonest and cavalier way.
July 2012 – Account blocked again for the same reason, though I got the usual phoney letter from eBay. Rang the customer service number and spoke to someone somewhere in Asia. He had never heard of VPNs but managed to get me back into my account. The fuckwits running eBay should be grateful they have a monopoly and can get away with such poor customer service.
EBay reported profits of $692m (£442m) for the three months to the end of June 2012, up from the $283m the company made in the same period a year earlier. Spending on customer service was not reported.