Ways to Spot a Bogus Online Auction

E-bay, and other online auction companies, have created a fabulous way to get rid of extra items in your house and pick up gently used and hand-made items for what are usually very reasonable prices. However, along with that has come a whole new world of scam artists. And like the cons of days long past, these hucksters have an ample bag of tricks designed to take your hard-earned money and leave you nothing in return.

One of the favored methods for luring in the buyer is to offer a very low “buy it now” price. However, if you aren’t careful, you may find yourself paying an inflated shipping price. Recently, I purchased some soccer shoes this way and was stunned to find a $20 shipping fee attached! Luckily, I was paying attention before I confirmed my bid or I would have spend far more than I would have in our local athletic goods store. In order to not get scammed on high shipping while shopping on an online auction site, always check the shipping and confirm the shipping before you bid.

Another clue to finding the con behind the deal is the wording with the listing. Words such as “like”, “compatible” or “similar” mean the item is not a genuine, manufacturer’s piece of work. It may be a knock-off or it may simply be junk. Once in a while, it will even be an item that simply does not exist. A friend purchased a pair of very high-end designed shoes for a virtual steal, but when the shoes arrived, they were cheap imitations with the stitching already coming undone. When she went back to check the online auction description – sure enough: “Just likeâÂ?¦” was in the fine print of the item’s description. A dirty trick to use; but my friend’s fault for not reading closely.

Some online auctions request the buyer contact the seller before bidding. E-bay, especially, warns all buyers to never purchase outside of the system. Once the money is sent, there is no record a purchase was made and there is almost no recourse for getting your money back. The safest way to transfer money is through one of the approved sites, such as PayPal, or using a cashier’s check. As a seller, sometimes unscrupulous purchasers will also request an “off-site” sale. Proceed with caution.

Untested items have long been the subject of scorn among auction-goers. Sometimes the seller truly doesn’t know if the item works (although you have to wonder why they didn’t try it), but most often it is “untested” because it just plain doesn’t work. Another friend recently purchased a computer that hadn’t been tested, but claimed only the keyboard was broken. When it arrived, it didn’t work at all, and wouldn’t even turn on. Hand-in-hand with this scam are the auctions that seem to have been peeled directly from the item’s manufacturer’s website, complete with glossy picture. If you can’t tell the use history of the item, or any other important details, it is not a good risk.

Make sure you always check a seller’s feedback and try to email questions to them about the item.

While no system is perfect, it is possible, by keeping yourself informed and checking all the information, to have a successful and fun experience shopping your favorite e-auction site. Happy Bidding!

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