Spoofing plague forces eBay to phones

Plagued by a growing epidemic of spoofers, spammers and phishers hijacking its brand name, online auctioneer eBay has dumped its e-mail-only support model to keep wary enterprise customers happy.

So bad is the fake eBay e-mail problem that larger and more lucrative players - predominantly retailers and resellers - are now being offered the costly option of phone support to keep them happy.

Thousands of businesses currently use eBay and other online auction sites to clear superceded or discounted stock, excess inventory and supply lines - with products ranging from laptops to cricket memorabilia.

The phone concession was revealed by eBay Australia's managing director Simon Smith at the launch of a new safety handbook for e-commerce consumers in Sydney last week.

Smith said eBay in the US had already introduced call centres to deal with its volume customers in recognition of the fact that many customers felt they needed a secondary form of contact with the auction site's staff over and above e-mail.

While the US phone service for merchants and enterprise customers is already up and running, Smith would not give details as to when Australian phone support would start.

However, he conceded eBay is definitely considering extending phone support locally.

"We will make an announcement when we make an announcement," Smith said.

He also ruled out verifying customer or merchant identity credentials over and above the identity checks currently offered by credit card providers and online payments broker PayPal.

A wholly owned subsidiary of eBay, PayPal currently charges customers a refundable $US1.95 fee to verify identity details, subject to authentication. Meanwhile, non-enterprise eBay customers are being issued a user-friendly guide on how to stay safe online including a bevy of tips on avoiding fraud.

Launching the guide, Attorney General Philip Ruddock commended eBay's commitment to educating Australians on electronic security - but added he generally preferred to shop at Westfield Hornsby (a Sydney suburb).

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Julian Bajkowski

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