How to Buy and Sell on eBay Scam-Free

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Protect Yourself From Payment and Bidding Fraud

Revealing feedback: At first glance, this seller specializing in used Dell laptops seems to have great feedback, but reading the negative comments reveals that a fair number of buyers report bad batteries, which the seller specifically excludes from his 30-day warranty.
Again, vet the seller carefully. Read all negative or neutral feedback comments. Consider the length of time the seller has been in business on eBay, and how long he or she has been selling items like the one you are interested in buying.

Never bid until the last second. Use auction sniping services like to place your maximum bid in the last seconds of the auction. This will prevent you from being the victim of shill bidding or bid retractions designed to make you reveal your maximum bid. You'll also likely pay less, while relieving yourself of the burden of watching the auction.

Accept second-chance offers only through My eBay. Legitimate second-chance offers come through the eBay mail system, and will be displayed on My eBay as special Buy-It-Now auctions for you only.

As a seller, don't allow returns. Unless you are making your living selling on eBay and can develop safeguards, allowing returns can set you up for trouble. Make this clear clear up front in your auction listings.

Wait a day or two before sending your merchandise to see if PayPal reverses the buyer's payment or eBay cancels the auction, as happened to PC World's James Martin.

Always use  a credit card through PayPal . Never use bank debit cards. Credit card protections are much stronger and easier to fall back on than PayPal's. A simple phone call to your credit card company is a lot easier than jumping through PayPal's hoops, which can be difficult to get through. (And the best you can hope for is $2000 protection under very specific conditions).

Avoid sending checks. If the seller does not accept payment through PayPal, think twice about bidding. For small items from vendors with good and recent feedback, it's probably fine to send a check or money order. Do not send checks or money orders for big-ticket items or if you have any doubt at all about the seller. And never pay by Western Union or other nonbank wire transfer--eBay does not permit sellers to ask for this, but scammers still do it.

Wait for the buyer's check to clear. It's okay to accept checks and money orders for goods you are selling, but only do this if you are prepared to wait a full two weeks before shipping, and be sure to make this policy clear in your listing.

Send only to verified addresses. PayPal's address confirmation system is a good way to ensure you are sending to the owner of the account, rather than to a hijacker.

Leave feedback only after you are satisfied. If you're a buyer, never leave feedback until the transaction is completed to your satisfaction. Once you have left feedback, you lose leverage with the seller. If you're a seller, note that eBay has just changed its feedback policies so that you cannot leave negative feedback on a buyer. To resolve problems with payment, you'll need to file a complaint with PayPal, or a nonpaying bidder notice with eBay.

Where to Report Auction Fraud

If you are scammed on eBay, report it to both eBay and outside agencies--see the links listed below. The more that fraud is reported, the more likely it is that something will be done about it. The IC3 and USPS may refer your complaint to law enforcement. The other agencies compile statistics that help in making laws and setting enforcement policies.



USPS (if shipped or paid for via U.S. mail)

National Consumers League

Better Business Bureau

eBay Security Center

PayPal Security Center 

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