eBay account-closed lesson: Don't share

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Q. I've been an eBay seller for over 12 years with a 100% feedback rating in 400 feedbacks. Last fall, my brother, who has also bought and sold from eBay over the years, asked if he could purchase a guitar though my account because he was having issues with his. I didn't think twice. The problem, though, is that he apparently owed eBay money and never paid so they closed his account. I didn't know that at the time, and when I purchased the guitar through my eBay account, I used his PayPal account to pay for it. Once they saw that his PayPal account was used on my eBay account, they suspended my account.
When I called to find out what happened, the woman I spoke with told me that the two accounts are now linked and the suspension would not be lifted until he pays off his debt. I explained that I am not a debt collector and I should not be asked to do their dirty work. When I offered to pay the balance for him I was told that the balance had to be paid by the account holder. I tried pleading with them as a reputable seller with no previous incidents over the last 10 years but it went nowhere. I have yet to convince him to [to let me] pay off his debt. Needless to say, my account remains suspended. Can you help?
Rob D.

A. I called eBay to get to the bottom of this, and a company spokesperson told me that privacy policies did not allow her to discuss your particular account specifics. However, what happened is pretty clear: When your brother told you that he was "having issues" with his account, he should have said that his account had been suspended. eBay's policy on suspended accounts says that "a suspended individual is not permitted to participate on eBay by using any existing account, or to register new accounts on eBay." So your brother broke that rule. And because you allowed him access to your account, you're also taking some heat.

The spokesperson suggested appealing your account suspension, and I agree. To do that, you can reply directly to the suspension notice you received, which will have detailed instructions on the appeals process. eBay will initially request your user ID, e-mail, name, address, phone number and date of birth, and then they may follow up for additional information. If they do, make sure to include as many specifics as you can (a note pretty close to the one you sent to us will do the trick – if you can include your brother's username, even better). They tell me that the length of the appeals process varies depending on the circumstances of each case, but in the meantime, keeping working on getting your brother to pay that bill, and – if your account is re-activated – don't let anyone use it, no matter who they are. That was your big mistake here.

Jean Chatzky is the Today Show financial advisor, a longtime financial journalist and best-selling author.
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