$22 iPad Really Costs $1,300

With the holiday shopping season well under way, many people may be tempted by an offer of brand name goods at ridiculously low prices.
Penny Auction Spam
Of course, something seems to good to be true, it’s almost certainly false, especially if it’s promoted in a spam email. In this case clicking on the image in the email takes you to a Penny auction web site, where every bid you make costs you money, even if you don’t end up winning the auction.

Penny auction sites have been around for a while. The Better Business Bureau warned consumers about them in 2011. The BBB has received over five hundred complaints about this particular site, QuiBids.com, and has this to say about them:

Better Business Bureau has processed a large volume of complaints from consumers questioning a $60.00 debit charged to their accounts after signing up for the company’s services. On the same web page in which users enter credit or debit card data, the sign-up form shows three times that the initial starter package includes $60 of bids. By completing the sign-up form, the user is purchasing those bids and whatever card is listed is authorized to be debited that amount.

So don’t be taken in by the low prices in the QuiBids spam. You will be charged sixty dollars just to start bidding, and if you make a lot of bits to win an auction, you may end up paying far more than the actual cost of the item. Worse still, if you don’t win the auction, you will have paid for bids with nothing to show for it at all.

Let’s do the math. The QuiBids spam email lists an iPad Air2 64Gb selling for $21.82. Bidding starts at zero and bids only go up one penny at a time, so there were 2,182 bids. Each bid costs the bidder 60 cents, win or lose, so that iPad really sold for over $1,300. That’s over twice the retail price, and some of the people paying for it didn’t get anything at all. Any company that sells things for twice retail price is not one you want to do business with.

The spam emails promoting QuiBids use a number of techniques to try and avoid filtering: multiple and invalid Content-Transfer-Encoding headers, huge numbers of random and meaningless HTML tags in the body, call to action and unsubscribe links in images rather than text, and the use of disposable domains for links. This is identical in style to the some of the spam used to promote RewardZoneUSA’s gift card scam mentioned in a previous blog post so this is almost certainly the same spammer.

QuiBids might claim that they are a legitimate business that provides entertainment as well as overpriced goods, and there is a (slim) chance of being a winner after just a few bids and picking up a genuine bargain. Well fine, I’ll stop writing about what a bad idea penny auctions are when penny auction companies stop paying spammers to promote their websites.


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