smartconsumer: Buying and Selling Safely Online - Know

Buying and Selling Safely Online

{What to Know} {What to Do}


There is a world of shopping available online. But some shopping websites are better than others. Some are fake. You could end up sending money for items that will never arrive. Even worse, someone could take your financial information and use it without your permission.

Online sellers can be well-known mass marketers. Or they can be tiny specialty shops. Online classified sites like Craigslist, Backpage, and Oodle are popular places to shop. These sites sell items from individuals. Online auctions such as eBay, eBid and OnlineAuction sell items to the highest bidder. Both individuals and small retailers put items up for bid on the auctions.

While online shopping can provide a great variety and reasonable prices, you must be cautious. It is very easy to be scammed online. Here are things to know.

Know who you're dealing with.

Anyone can set up an online store under almost any name. Unless itís a well-known company that you have used before, always check the seller's physical address and phone number. If there is a toll-free number, call it and see who answers. If you get an email or pop-up that asks for financial information while you are browsing the site, don't reply and donít follow the link. Find another online seller. Honest companies don't pressure shoppers for information that way.

Know what you're buying.

Read the seller's description of the product closely, especially the fine print. Words like "refurbished," "vintage," or "close-out" indicate that the product is used and may be in less-than-perfect condition. Name-brand items with bargain basement prices could be fake.

Know what it will cost.

Check out websites that offer price comparisons. Make sure you compare "apples to apples." For example, only compare prices for the exact same camera with the exact same accessories. Be sure to factor shipping and handling costs into the total cost of your purchase.

Check out the terms of the deal, like refund policies and delivery dates.

Can you return the item for a full refund if you're not satisfied?  If you return it, who pays the shipping costs? When will you get your order? Online sellers must ship items as promised, or within 30 days after the order date. Many sites offer tracking options, so you can see exactly where your purchase is and estimate when youíll get it.

Be extra careful with online classifieds.

For a scammer, there is little downside to posting fake ads on free online classified websites. The ads cost nothing. It can be difficult to trace the person who posted the ad if they donít want to be found. Scammers can communicate with their victims using a fake email address and stay anonymous. And there are dozens of ways to work the scams and millions of potential victims looking to buy. For example, scams have been found on Craigslist for apartment rentals, car purchases and jobs, to name just a few.

Content Last Modified on 2/13/2013 9:30:35 AM