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Secrets for Safer Bidding

Many would-be buyers are reticent about the whole online auction process. To that end, here is some practical advice to make bidding on eBay as safe as possible.

Secret #20: Check the Feedback

Check out the seller's feedback rating. Make sure that the seller of the item you want has a good feedback rating—and avoid any sellers who don't. You should also click the seller's numerical feedback rating to display actual comments from other users who have dealt with this user before. The best way to avoid bad sellers is to find out that they're bad sellers beforehand.

Secret #21: Ask Questions

If you're unclear about any aspect of an item you're interested in, ask the seller questions via email. In addition to answering your specific questions, some sellers have additional information or pictures they can send you one-on-one. There's no excuse for ignorance; if you're not sure, ask!

Secret #22: If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is

A rare copy of Action Comics #1 for only $25? A brand-new laptop computer for only $50? There has to be a catch. That Action Comics is probably a facsimile reprint, and the brand-new laptop PC is actually a remanufactured unit with a cracked screen. Be suspicious of improbable or impossible deals; always ask questions that confirm or reject your suspicions.

Secret #23: Use a Middleman for Expensive Items

If you buy a high priced item through a person-to-person auction, consider using an escrow service. Although you'll pay for the service (in the neighborhood of 5%, typically paid by you, the buyer), it's a good safety net in case the seller doesn't ship or the item isn't what was described. In addition, you can use escrow services to accept credit card payments when the seller doesn't or can't accept credit cards directly.

Secret #24: When You Win It, Inspect It

When you receive the item you paid for, open it up and inspect it—immediately! Don't wait a month before you look at it and then expect the seller to rectify a situation that was long considered closed. Okay the item and then send the seller an email saying you got it and it's okay. If you sit on it too long, it's yours—no matter what.

Secret #25: If You Get Ripped Off, Tell eBay About It

If you have a problem with a seller, first try working it out between the two of you. If things don't get resolved, contact eBay with your grievance. And remember, if you paid via PayPal, you can use eBay's Buyer Protection Plan to file a claim and (hopefully) get reimbursed for your loss.

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