This baby boomer is DONE with digital fraud!

Early this year, Forbes Magazine ran an article that was like a warning. The author told the story of three items that he had purchased from different merchants that were never shipped; “the sellers took my money and vanished.” It’s yet another example of the many things in the lives of baby boomers that have changed: how we buy and how we sell. BoomerCafé publisher and co-founder David Henderson has recently been down that road himself. It made him feel like a stranger in a strange land.

Buying and selling on Craigslist or eBay and using PayPal to receive and make payments has today become risky business. I don’t believe it’s because of age — we as baby boomers generally have good common sense — but rather the times we live in. Yet having been defrauded twice in the digital environment, I’m done.

David Henderson

While Craigslist and eBay are, in principle, effective ways to buy and sell – usually between individuals – I believe they’ve also become the territory of slight-of-hand artists. Both eBay and Craigslist are ancient digital platforms by today’s standards. We can call the bad guys, digital thieves. Let me explain …

A couple of years ago, my then-teenaged daughter no longer liked a still-new pair of Oakley sunglasses and asked me to help sell them on eBay. We took photos and created the listing, and, bingo! Right away, there was a buyer. After confirming that PayPal was escrowing the payment, we shipped off the sunglasses.

But the buyer cried foul, claiming that we had shipped a beat-up pair of sunglasses, which we hadn’t. But so as not to make waves, I asked the buyer to simply return the sunglasses. But what was returned was something we’d never seen – a scratched, bent, broken pair of sunglasses … someone else’s … not what we had advertised or shipped. Also, by the time we received the bogus sunglasses, he had demanded back his escrowed money from PayPal which PayPal readily handed over to him. There was little for us to do but chalk it up to someone being dishonest.

Just recently though, not wanting to judge the book by its cover, I tried eBay again, this time listing an unused LG smartphone. Within a few days there was a buyer. I checked with PayPal and my account there showed “Payment Received.” Good.

So with clearance from eBay, I shipped the phone to the buyer in Miami. Four days later though, I received an email from eBay warning me that the buyer was “suspicious” and advising me not to ship.

Huh?! Wait! EBay had given me a green light on the transaction. After more than a week, PayPal voided the payment, saying the “eCheck” used by the so-called buyer in Miami had not cleared.

I called both PayPal and eBay but it seems all of their customer support is handled by third party outfits abroad which have no authority and are not coached on resolution for a customer. My impression is that both services — PayPal and eBay — have run on automatic for so many years with little enhancement of security or fraud protection to make them safer for users, like you and me.  And, all the while, their owners and investors have amassed fortunes.

If PayPal were judged on the professional level of its website — with all its misspelled words and grammatical errors — I would not entrust PayPal with a dime of my money.

And, then, there is It’s gotten to be so dangerous to use in my Washington DC metro area that local police actually caution Craigslist buyers and sellers to handle transactions in the safety of the police station. There are too many stories of theft, violence, and guns being drawn.

On one hand, maybe I am just too trusting when it comes to doing business online. On the other hand, the digital world has spawned a widespread corrupt culture that’s far more insidious than I can imagine. It’s like those strange spam emails we’ve all gotten from some guy in Nigeria who wanted to share his millions of dollars if only I’d just share details of my bank account.

Not going there! This baby boomer is DONE dealing with digital thieves.


  1. Have never used eBay or Craigslist and never will…PayPal, we have used sparingly to pay for schtuff and have had no problems…never have sold anything on an on-line, digital platform…have considered selling some items on the aforementioned platforms but have never taken the plunge but after reading this piece, never will…thanking you for the article

  2. I have never bought or sold anything on eBay or Craigslist. Nor will I. I have used PayPal a time or two with no problem. I Have also purchased a number of things on Amazon and each time to date the product arrived in a timely manner and was of good quality. I am with you David, I will never use Ebay or Craigslist. Thanks for the article!

  3. I have had a few successful transactions but am always wary–no need to put ourselves at risk for a few dollars.

  4. I have bought and sold many things on eBay but after one bad experience with a buyer, I stopped years ago. Other than that it was OK. It’s not that any longer, it’s the Wild West. No problems with Paypal ever or DC/MD/VA Craigslist ever but I could be lucky there. Now, I only use Paypal to accept or send money to friends and family when it’s not possible to handle cash. BTW, eBay and Paypal are the same company I believe…

    1. ebay and PayPal are now separate companies. But PayPal is the preferred method of payment by ebay sellers. It’s very safe.

  5. I buy things on eBay when I need them – from sellers who will ship to me and are obvious eBay merchants. I use Paypal to SEND them money.

    The person-to-person ones – sounds like asking for trouble. And I wouldn’t venture onto Craigslist – again, person-to-person. Maybe they are hugely convenient for some people, but I’m too cagey. The concept has no built-in protection, as you have found out. No enforcement, no proof, no police.

    “On the internet no one knows you’re a dog.”

  6. I agree do not like PayPal they charged me $20.00 which I wanted to pay an cancel the service. It wasn’t easy

  7. I am a full time seller online. And have been for many years. I use ebay/Amazon and other venues regularly, with ebay being number 1 for me. I use PayPal all the time. Most of my buyers payments come via PayPal . I network daily with thousands of other sellers. And I am sorry to say that this article does not ring true of most buyers/sellers experiences. Ebay, Amazon and PayPal are all very safe places to buy and sell. I am sorry that the author of this article had bad experiences, but it bothers me that this is now being read by many people because this is just not the reality of most peoples experience. Ebay alone has 171 million active users. That should tell you something.

    1. Thank you for commenting. I wonder whether you can provide a source for the claim of eBay having 171 million active users. I cannot find that number, and while eBay is worldwide it is mostly in the U.S. 171 million represents more than 52% of the total population of America.

  8. I sell all the time on ebay and often buy. It is super rare that I have a problem, and eBay backs me up if I can’t resolve it myself. I too am a baby boomer. There are some scammers out there, but on the most part, all is above board. Just make sure as a buyer or seller, you are taking excellent pictures, shipping properly and providing good customer service.

  9. I started selling on eBay over 15 years ago. 99 9/10 of the people are honest. When I get a bad one, it is infuriating but I remind myself that if I had a brick and mortar shop I would probably have a lot more theft. With the craziness these days I would fear for my life as well, working in a small shop and mostly alone. Selling on eBay and now Amazon has kept a roof over our heads and food on the table. I do not know what we would have done without them.

  10. I’ve been buying and selling on eBay since 1998. At one point 4 generations taking part, my mother, myself, my daughter and my grandson. This baby boomer loves o buy and sell on eBay and Craigslist. This didn’t happen overnight and I was always reading and gathering information on how these platforms work. Now there are You Tube videos, Facebook groups and a internet EBay Radio show available to help buyers and sellers. Before you say never again I would invite you to take a look at videos made by sellers that have been very successful selling on these platforms.

  11. I’m very sorry you had this experience. I sure hope you give it another try and have an excellent outcome! If you do, please report back and let us know about it.

    I have been buying and selling on eBay for nearly 16 years. My experiences have been the opposite. I would say out of every 500 transactions, I will get a complaint. But I have worked with my buyer, eBay or PayPal to work things out. I have had just a couple of buyers try and be sneaky – but eBay or PayPal has had my back each time.
    Again, I am sorry this happened to you, but this is simply not the norm. Not in my 15+ year experience.

  12. As a Boomer myself I understand the frustration when a purchase goes awry.
    I don’think the platform (eBay, PayPal, etc.) should be blamed. The fault is what has become of our society. The lack of morals that seem to be rampant is the root cause.
    There are things one can do to avoid problems, mostly common sense. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Checking the seller’s feedback can give you a good indication of how responsible they are, and above all try to avoid buying from China.
    I have been selling on eBay for over 18 years with only one problem buyer, maintaining 100% positive feedback. I have been with Paypal since they started without one problem.

  13. I quit Ebay years ago, when after opening an account, it was immediately hacked and customer service was not helpful.

    While I have used Paypal, I am wary of it and use it sparingly. I agree their customer service is essentially non-existent.

    Where I live, getting packages from Amazon has proven troublesome, so if I do buy something, I have the item shipped to a family member´s address to insure delivery.

    I use Craigslist locally and meet people in public places, so far, no problem.

    I am wary of shopping online and do it as little as possible. Have had to cancel several credit cards after shopping online because others used it to buy things right after I had made a purchase. Also, had to cancel credit cards just to close an account because the vendor would not stop debiting my account.

    Scamming is big business.

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