Image: Woman with computer © Don Mason-Blend Images-Corbis
A new scam targeting eBay users who were losing bidders has victims and intended victims abuzz about whether the online auction giant has been hacked.

Suspicions have been fueled by the amount of information the scammer -- or scammers -- has about the failed bidders. eBay would not directly address the question of hacking, but the company acknowledged it is looking into reports of the latest version of what is known as a "Second Chance" scam.

"eBay is investigating this matter, working directly with users who have reported fraudulent second chance offers to us," the company said in a statement.

The scammer emails the losing bidder with a note like this:

"The seller (Username) is making this Second Chance Offer because the high bidder was either unable to complete the transaction or the seller has a duplicate item for sale. The selling of this item through Second Chance Offer is in compliance with eBay policy; you will be able to exchange Feedback with the seller and will be eligible for all eBay services associated with a transaction, such as fraud protection."

Targets appear to be those who have gone after relatively costly auction items, from collectibles to cars to artwork to jewelry. Some who have fallen prey report losing thousands of dollars. The email address jrengineer@gmail.com​ has been associated with numerous complaints. An email to that address asking for a comment was not returned.

The scam emails appear to be from eBay and seems to be from a legitimate seller. However, rather than providing for the normal payment methods -- namely PayPal -- the targets are asked to send their money directly to an overseas bank account.

"These scams occur through personal email, off the eBay site. Always start and end your transaction on eBay," eBay said in its statement, noting that a Second Chance offer can be legitimate. "Consumers should keep in mind that legitimate Second Chance Offers are facilitated through eBay and will appear in the 'Messages' section of 'My eBay.'

"If you're suspicious about an email that claims to be from eBay, sign in to 'My eBay' and click the 'Messages' tab. If you don't see the same message there, the email is fake."

An internet security expert said he doubts this round of scams is the result of eBay being hacked. The most likely scenario, according to McAfee Online Security Expert Robert Siciliano is that the scammer is also a seller and, therefore, can see bidders IDs and has matched those IDs to email addresses.


The key to avoiding the scam, which is a form of phishing, is to recognize it, he said. "It works so well because unless you really know what to look for in the code of an email, you aren't going to recognize a phish. The only way to thwart a scammy eBay phish is to discipline yourself to only correspond with eBayers via your eBay inbox."


It isn't often that those running these scams are caught, Siciliano said, and money that's lost usually can't be returned. "Catching the bad guys generally isn't cost effective for eBay or for law enforcement," he said.

"There's potentially thousands of scammers out there and unless it is determined that a significant amount of them are organized and working together then law enforcement won't chase them. Plus, how are the feds going to arrest a guy in a hut in Ghana? Its only when the law stumbles upon and existing ring and determines that eBay is part of their operation will they dig deeper."

eBay recommends users "forward suspicious emails to spoof@ebay.com." They also urged that "Consumers should never pay for purchases with instant cash transfer services. These payment methods are unsafe when paying someone you do not know."

Here is additional information about avoiding scams on eBay and a guide for how to know you're dealing with a legitimate second-chance offer.


More from MSN Money: