Recently eBay has gone on a marketing offensive, with a slick TV ad showing the huge range of things that can be bought outright or bid for at auction on its site. This latest push for custom ties in neatly with its flotation as a public company. Perhaps eBay’s hoping for an even higher profile, thereby upping interest in its shares.

But the online auction site has been in the public eye of late for a rather less healthy reason: fraud is rife. Its customers are routinely being conned out of their cash by unscrupulous traders who contact them to say that they placed the winning bid for that totally unnecessary but irresistibly cheap item.

Great. But if they then go ahead and transfer the readies, no questions asked, the buyer may be in for a nasty shock. They part with their cash, wait for weeks on end and eventually cotton on that the mink coat, retro 1950s soda siphon or other longed-for item is not going to materialise.

But hang on – didn’t they buy from an eBay trader with an outstanding rating from fellow auction devotees? Even if they did, there’s no reason to suggest the rating is genuine – canny traders are auctioning off their ‘positive feedback’, and it’s selling like hot cakes.

Though it has a wildly successful business model, eBay’s traders and the goods they flog aren’t vetted. If you fall prey to a con artist, the only way to get recompense is if you used PayPal to complete your electronic purchase and the seller has covered the item with its Purchase Protection scheme. Even then, compensation is usually capped at £105.

The people getting caught out are generally victims of the ‘I can’t believe they’re selling this for so little’ variety. As we’ve said many times before, what sounds too good to be true, probably is. But that doesn’t deter many a bargain hunter from transferring cash or sending cheques nonetheless.

The principles you apply to other things in life shouldn’t go out the window the second you log on. There are enough malicious people out there trying to gain access to our PCs, our financial details and our identities. Why encourage fraudulent behaviour by acting stupidly?