I have begun to notice people winning bids without ever having appeared in the lists until the coup de grace but with bids dated days earlier. Is there some software available to do this? It rather does make bidding futile or am I erring on the hysterical as usual?
You're erring, but I wouldn't call it hysterical. It's a very common mistake. There are two things you should be aware of:
1) eBay's bid history is sorted by date, not amount, so someone can bid the winning amount on Day 1 and they will "float" on the top of competing (lower) bids.
2) eBay, in its infinite wisdom, chose to highlight the leading bidder with a yellow background on the bid history page. This has proved to be a highly effective camouflage that prevents many viewers from seeing the actual leader's name.
The fact that the date stamps on the bids are days before the end of the auction proves that it isn't a "sniper".
Under normal - well advertised- rules, I would expect to see the ultimate & pre-emptive bidders name appear at least once before the end when it then floats gracefully to the top. If it were the first bid then it should appear and then always be the top dog thereafter surely - or can it be masked as some "private" lists are?
As Peter has stated, the date stamp on the bid was DAYS before the end of the auction. That's not sniping.
Yes, the early bidder's name will be in the history immediately after they bid (remember the yellow highlighting I mentioned). And if they are the eventual winner, they will be listed as the current high bidder on the auction page from the moment they bid.
Another possibility is that your browser is not refreshing the page, so you're looking at old data that was cached on your computer.
There's no way to place an early bid and hide it until the end. You can schedule a bid with a sniping service, but that's not what's happening here if Peter is correct about the dates.
The latest example (yesterday) showed myself as the highest bidder for some 3 mins just before the end time. In the dying seconds a bid beat me by a smidgeon - dated 3 days before but never having appeared before. A 3 day old pre-emptive would surely not have allowed me to be the highest bidder at that point.
As far as I can make out that shouldn't have happened. If your bid is beaten by an earlier bid you would get an 'outbid' result with an invitation to have another go. The bid you made, however, would appear in the bid history, coming below the eventual winner, even if his was made days earlier.
Without a screen snapshot showing you as the leader, you won't get very far with eBay. Posting this to the discussion boards will get you the same answer you've received here (though you're welcome to try :)
aBay's central server is notoriously unreliable these days. I get demands for fees already paid and messages about items I have nothing to with all the time. I suspect this is just a server error on eBay's part.
Some could be scam emails from crooks trying to get you to log in to a spurious cloned eBay website so they can steal your password and then get control of your real account.
I've had several from sellers threatening to report me to eBay for non-payment on items which I've never viewed let alone bid on. I always report these to their abuse email address, but suspec they do little with such reports.