Over 20 people have bid on the much-hyped Apple iPhone on eBay this week, with the highest bidder paid $1,125 (£608.40) for one of the six phones a seller, known as rgonzales23455, had on auction.
The problem is that the iPhone isn't scheduled to ship until June. And when it does, it will have a retail price of $499 (£254) for a 4GB model and $599 (£305) for an 8GB model.
"Please note: I have six of these phones available for immediate shipping. I accept Paypal only for this auction," rgonzales23455 said in his auction listing.
Rgonzales23455 didn't respond to emailed questions about how he came into possession of the as-yet-released iPhone. Apple also didn't respond to a request for comment. However, an eBay spokeswoman said that after eBay was alerted to the iPhones auctions, it pulled the listings.
"Thanks ... for informing us of the Apple iPhone listings," the eBay spokeswoman said. "As we understand, the Apple iPhone will not be commercially available until June. Any such listings claiming to be selling the Apple iPhone are in violation of eBay's pre-sale policy which require sellers to guarantee shipment of the item listed within 30 days from the date of purchase. As such, all postings violating eBay's pre-sale policy will be removed."
If a buyer actually paid for an iPhone and the item was not delivered, the buyer could file a claim with eBay.
In an email to Computerworld, whpub, the highest bidder of the iPhone auction, wrote that the reason behind the bid was: "Very simply: low risk, high reward." The buyer said if the item is not delivered, eBay and PayPal would back him up.
The buyer wrote of receiving many emails berating the buyer for "being taken" by a scammer. But whpub was willing to take the gamble.
"eBay insures up to $200 and PayPal up to $2,000 if the seller does not deliver," whpub said. "Besides, there are rumours of iPhones being shipped as early as early April, and there's always a chance this seller managed to get one somehow. Further, it's not unheard of for a company to pre-release high end items early and unannounced to measure market acceptance. eBay provides a perfect venue for such market testing. Consider this a form of legalized gambling. It's like buying a lottery ticket – very little cost and potential for very high reward."
An eBay spokeswoman said the buyer should file a claim with PayPal because it has a buyer protection plan. The buyer also plans to follow up with authorities if a real iPhone arrives.
"I have no doubt Apple would be interested if their supply lines were being intercepted," the buyer said. "Other listings on eBay offered iPhones, but follow up emails were off eBay and said 'My PayPal account is down so I'll need payment via Western Union' – the very thing E-bay warns about. So I avoided obvious scammers where no buyer protection was available. But not so with this seller,' whpub said.
"Not to mention that the chief executive of my company basically blessed the effort to determine the nature of the offer, and pretty much gave me $1,500 to blow finding out. He's happy I saved him $375," the buyer wrote. "The bottom line is: I knew the risks going in, so I haven't been 'taken,' per se."