Fraud is a terrifying monster looming over all online transactions. Those who have little confidence in internet shopping will warn you of people out to get your money, take your identity, and leave you with no product and no funds in your bank account. The thing is, online fraud is easier to avoid than you might think, and when it comes to safely participating in auctions, if you follow these tips, you should be securely browsing for items you'd like to buy without need to fear virtual retribution from that hovering fraud monster.
When you find an item you're interested in, contact the seller. Ask them a question via email or other contact method. If you have an actual question, that's great; go ahead and ask them that. But even if you're confident the item is the one you want, ask them a question anyway. Establish contact so that you know that the seller is a real person and not just a bot, and connect with them so that they'll be less likely to follow through on fraudulent activities. Don't waste their time with your question, though; don't ask them something that can be answered by looking at the item page more thoroughly.
Read through the seller's feedback, even if they have mostly positive reviews. Pay close attention to the negative ones. What were the buyers' complaints? Did they ever receive their items? Are they crying foul and accusing the seller of fraud? Obviously, if there is only one review regarding fraud out of thousands, you're probably just fine, but if the buyers' consistent complaint is about a fraudulent transaction, you may want to rethink bidding.
Whether you're buying something from an online auction or some other website, use Paypal instead of a credit card to perform the transaction. Yes, there are small fees associated with using Paypal, but the pennies you tack on to the price are far overshadowed by the protection that Paypal provides. As a middle man, this service prevents your credit cards from being directly scammed and gives you fraud insurance to pay back what's taken from you should something manage to slip by.
Set up phone calls from your credit card company -- when a large purchase is made, they will give you a ring to make sure you authorized that purchase. Granted, this won't work so well for little purchases and scams, but you won't ever lose out on major money without being informed about it first (at which point you can cancel the card and [hopefully!] use your credit card's insurance policies to regain what you almost lost).
You'll never be scammed by us over at GarageSaleCow.com -- we just want to give you free stuff! Listings, advertising opportunities, and tips galore...it's all available at the low, low price of $0 on our main page. Come check us out!