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The ultimate guide to eBay safety

Buy and sell safely on the web's auction house

Not a day goes by without someone falling victim to fraud or scams on eBay. A few simple steps can ensure you are fully protected when buying and selling on the auction site.

Protect yourself from payment and bidding fraud

The following simple steps will ensure you won't fall foul to fraud or scams when your bidding and paying for goods:

  • 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 AuctionStealer.com 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 This gives you a chance to see if PayPal reverses the buyer's payment or eBay cancels the auction.
  • 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 will only offer up to $2,000 (£1,000) under very specific conditions.
  • Avoid sending cheques 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 cheques 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 cheques 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.

Most importantly, if you are scammed on eBay make sure you report it. The more that fraud is reported, the more likely it is that something will be done about it.

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