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eBay Turns Up the Heat on Fraudsters

Special cookies will help online marketplace separate legitimate sellers from identity thieves

eBay has begun matching computers with member account holders to help prevent fraud on its site: The online marketplace said this month that it will prevent fraudsters from stealing access to member accounts by authenticating sellers with special cookies it stores in the computers they use for buying or selling items on the site.

Each seller now gets a unique Flash or permanent cookie from eBay that serves as his or her ID to confirm the member using the account. eBay encrypts the ID, and it doesn’t include sensitive data like email address, transaction history, or contact information.

“Some criminals attempt to defraud people on eBay by illegally gaining access to member accounts and setting up fraudulent listings in that person’s name. Most often they obtain the member's user ID and password using a 'phishing' email,” eBay says on its site. “By checking whether a seller is using one of their usual computers, we can better identify and stop this kind of fraudulent activity.”

That’s the first phase of this security measure. “So at first we will be noting all the computers you use for buying and selling on eBay without requiring additional verification for different computers,” eBay says on its site.

Next, eBay will verify other computers sellers use. “Later this year, we'll begin checking the computer you use to list an item to see whether it's one of the computers you regularly use. To confirm that it's really you when you list an item using a different computer (e.g. at a friend's house, in a hotel, at the library), we'll lead you through a simple automated process where we call a phone number on your account. We might also prompt you to verify your identity in other ways,” eBay says.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading