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From the author of More Tips for Shopping Safely on eBay

More Tips for Shopping Safely on eBay

Fear mongering aside, eBay is a fairly safe environment to conduct person-to-person transactions. The vast majority of eBay users are honest individuals, and you'll no doubt enjoy hundreds of good transactions before you hit your first bad one.

That said, here are some tips on how to better protect yourself when you're shopping on eBay:

  • Realize that, in many cases, you're dealing with individuals, not businesses. Keep that in mind if things don't go quite as smoothly as they would if you ordered from Amazon.com or L.L. Bean. Most folks don't have automated shipping systems installed in their living rooms!
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. An item listed at a price significantly below market value likely has something wrong with it. Maybe it's used instead of new, damaged in some way, or perhaps it isn't even the item you think it is. Look more closely at the item listing (and the item pictures) to see if you can spot what's missing.
  • If you have questions about an item for sale or about any part of the transaction, ask! Contact the seller if you're not sure about payment or shipping terms. Good communication eliminates surprises and misinterpretations; don't assume anything.
  • Always pay via credit card, even (and especially) when you're using PayPal. Don't let PayPal take funds out of your checking account; switch to a credit card payment instead. That's because your credit card company offers additional protections against fraudulent transactions. If, for some reason, eBay's Buyer Protection plan doesn't protect you, your credit card company probably will.
  • When the item you purchased arrives, inspect it thoroughly and confirm that it is as described. If you feel you were misled, contact the seller immediately, explain the situation, and see what you can work out. (You'd be surprised how many sellers will go out of their way to make their customers happy.)
  • If the merchandise doesn't arrive in a timely fashion, contact the seller immediately. If the item appears to be lost in transit, track down the letter/package via the shipping service. If the item never arrives, it's the seller's responsibility to file an insurance claim with the carrier (if the item was insured), and you should receive a refund from the seller.

If you do everything right and still get stuck, then it's time to use eBay's Buyer Protection plan. Remember, eBay wants sellers to be happy—they're on your side. Don't give up; let eBay take care of you.

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