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Building Trust in Transactions (tm)



How to Avoid Online Auction Fraud
by Dave Bromley

The popularity of online auctions is growing at a phenomenal rate. Ebay, the market leader has over 60 million registered users and in the USA over 155,000 people claim that selling on Ebay auctions is their main source of income. However, the great fear that many people is that if they buy or sell through online auctions they are leaving themselves open to be defrauded.

In realty the chances of being scammed on Ebay are quite low, in fact Ebay claim that only 0.01% of all transactions can be considered fraudulent. In fact for most people any problems that do arise can usually be put down to misunderstandings rather than deliberate fraud.

If you are a buyer the starting point is to check out the sellers feedback record. This is the self-regulating system whereby buyers and sellers give each other either positive, neutral or negative feedback after each transaction. The higher the positive feedback the better but don’t just take it at face value because it is possible to build up a high feedback by buying low cost items. Recently in the USA a woman quickly built up a good feedback this way and then listed a great number of high ticket priced items and then disappeared with the cash. The good news is that she did get caught but I do not know whether the money was refunded or not.

Many problems arise because we do not read the listing correctly. The other day I though I was bidding for an audio tape program on Ebay.co.uk which I won but when it arrived it turned out note to be an audio tape but a soft back book. But when I re read the listing it became obvious what was being sold. You have to be particularly careful when you are buying things such as cameras and electrical equipment. Research the item and model numbers and if possible go to the shops and inspect a similar item in a shop.

There have been many cases when having won the auction the buyer finds that the seller has asked for an extortionate amount for postage and shipping. Some sellers set a low minimum price, this way they get away with a low listing fee and load the profit into their postage costs. What can appear a bargain can become an expensive purchase when you add £7 or £8 on for shipping.

There is nothing stopping you contacting the seller before placing a bid, in fact Ebay’s

“Question for Seller” system makes this very easy. Make sure you understand what if any guarantees or return policies are in place. Check which payment methods the seller will accept. Avoid electronic transfers and if it is an expensive item you might consider using an escrow service. This is where a third party holds the money until both buyer and seller declare themselves happy with the transaction. You will have to pay for this service but it can be worth it just for the piece of mind. For most purchases I like to use Paypal as this allows an instant transfer of funds.

Other common sense precautions you should take are to make sure that you do not disclose any unnecessary personal information. Never tell anyone passwords, credit card details and the like. Also get into the habit of printing out all relevant documents

and keeping them in case of any dispute over the transaction.

As I said in the opening paragraph the occurrences of deliberate fraud are low and most online auction companies take very positive steps to combat it. If you ever feel that someone has attempted to “rip you off” then report it immediately. But if you follow the guide lines laid down in this article the chances of you being defrauded is pretty low, so if you have not tried online auctions yet, why not give them a try because they are a great way to dispose of any surplus items that you may have and there are also a lot of bargains that you can buy.


Dave Bromley is the author of “How to make Big Money on Ebay Auctions” and is one of the leading UK writers on the subject of On line Auctions.

You can sign up for his free twice monthly newsletter and 6 part mini course on his website at www.ukauctionline.co.uk.

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