You can buy something new, find rare collectibles or sell antiques at Internet auction websites. But scammers also use Internet auctions to try to rip off consumers.
Protect Yourself When Bidding In an Online Auction
- Study the item you plan to bid on carefully. Read the written description and look at photographs. Look for words that tell you how old the item may be or its condition.
- Find out the value to be sure you’re getting a good price. Sometimes, the price you’ll pay through an online auction is more than you’d pay at a regular store.
- Learn about the seller. Ask for the seller’s name, street address, telephone number, and email address and verify what they tell you. If they won’t give you this information, don’t buy from them.
- Ask questions about the item. Email or call the seller with your questions. If you don’t get an honest answer or don’t like the answers you get, don’t bid on it.
- Check shipping costs. Ask who pays for shipping, and if you’ll pay extra for certain delivery options.
- Set your maximum price and don’t go over it when you bid. Also, don’t bid on an item you don’t plan to buy. If your bid turns out to be a winner, you’ll have to pay for the item.
- Ask about returns. Some sellers will offer a short-term refund period, often minus shipping. In addition, shipping costs may be very expensive. Find out the terms and when you can expect your money back if dissatisfied.
- Use a credit card to pay. If you don’t get the item, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company.
- If the seller won’t take a credit card, consider using an escrow agent or paying by COD. For a fee, the escrow agent will collect both your payment and the product and handle the delivery of each. If the seller selects an unfamiliar escrow or online payment service, check it out before you use it.
- Keep records. Save and print all emails related to the auction, the description and picture of the item, the seller’s contact information, and the time, date and amount of your bid.
Protect Yourself When You Sell Online
- Watch out for counterfeit checks and money orders from buyers. Scammers will sometimes try to purchase items posted for sale on legitimate websites using very real-looking counterfeit checks.
- Never agree to wire excess money back to the buyer or to someone else. Scammers will send a counterfeit check for more than the purchase price and ask you to wire back the extra money, which will end up coming out of your bank account even after the check is discovered to be a fake.
We Can Help
If you have a complaint about an Internet auction, contact us for help or call toll free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.