Sunday 4 September 2016

Sniping at Ebay

Sniping, in the Ebay context, is when don't bid until the last few seconds of an auction,. The theory is that you might get the item cheaper that way. The conventional way is to tell Ebay your maximum bid, and Ebay automatically bids for you up to that limit. The theory is that some people dont really know how much they're willing to spend for the item, and when they see other bids, they bid more.

Hence, sniping.

And, of course, it can be automated.

I've been sniped a few times on Ebay, It's not a big deal, I always put in a bid that's the most I'm willing to pay. After that, if it sells for more, then I didn't want it at that price. But if sniping might get me a product a bit cheaper, why not?

So I looked into it. Mostly, sniping is offered as a service, and I found that *very* surprising. You tell the service each time you want to buy an item, giving the Ebay item code.

And you give it your Ebay password.

Wait, what?

I give my Ebay password to some organisation whose sense of security is so poor that they ask for a password and expect to get it? If I give them my Ebay password, I am handing over my Ebay account to some third party that I don't know at all. And, by the way, I pay using Paypal, and my Paypal account is linked to Ebay.

Some malicious third party could bid for an expensive iPad, pay using my paypal, change the delivery address to someone convenient for the criminal, and I'm out £1000. And if he changes my Ebay password, I can't even get back into Ebay. And if I complain to Ebay, they'd say, what, you gave your password willingly? Not our problem, chum.

I would guess that the majority of companies offering this service are scrupulously honest, but I have no idea how you would distinguish the sheep from the foxes.

There's software that I could get to run on my computer, so my password stays under my control ... or does it? How do I know what that software actually does without telling me ... a quick email to a criminal consortium is easy to slip in, and there's my password gone.

So if I do any sniping, I'll do it manually; just wait for the last few seconds of the auction, and hit the "Bid" button.


  1. I've used sniping tools such as Goofbay in the past without problems. Their advantage is that they will work at a few seconds from auction end, even at inconvenient times. Password provision needs to be done each time and can then be changed. I used to have paypal account linked but didn't like it. Now have 2 facor authentication on paypal - password plus one off code texted to my phone.

  2. OK, but you're still giving your Ebay password to a third party, and changing it each time will be a nuisance. And you have to leave it the same for the duration of the snipe.