Understand these common auction scams before you bid:

Shilling

The most frequent scam. The sellers and their cohorts bidding the price of an item higher so that the winning buyer (you) ends up paying for the item at a higher price.

Bid Shielding

A buyer places a low bid and is then followed by other buyers (partners) who take the bidding up very high compared to the real value of the item. At the last moment the high bidders withdraw their bids and leave only the initial low bid remaining. Basically you end up selling the item for a lower than expected price and no one else has bid because of the high bids that have been withdrawn.

Faked Photos

It’s so easy to make something look good or even replace it entirely and take a picture. Once the image is digitized further enhancements can be made. Look at the picture carefully. Does it look like a stock shot? Does it have any areas of blur or fuzziness? (a sure sign it has been tampered with) Does it match the description? Print it out and also save it to disk, you may need it later.

Untrue/Misleading Descriptions

Again anything can be written about anything. When you last bought a car, was that dent, rust, bad paint job in the description of the ad? Of course not. Sellers may fail to mention things they see as minor but you see as major faults and of course the same goes for auctions. Does the description match the picture? Is it a detailed description or just the make and model? Sellers should give detailed descriptions and even point out faults. If you contact a seller before bidding and find that faults have have been left out of the description, ask yourself whether you want to do business with this person.

Failure to Deliver Merchandise

Usually, online auctions require the buyer pay for the merchandise before receiving the goods. So if you have paid, the cheque has been cashed and you have not received your goods, first contact the seller. If you get no response contact the site hosting the auction. Inform them of the situation and request any details they may be able to provide. Be sure to keep a record of all conversations, correspondence and cancelled cheques. Many auction sites now require sellers to give credit card details for identification before they can sell. For obvious reasons choose your auction site carefully. If the item is expensive use an Escrow service. Does the auction site provide insurance, if so it can save you money.

False Feedback

Visit the online auction’s buyer feedback page. Sellers are rated by past buyers. The feedback systems can be easily manipulated by the seller using false user accounts and/or by their partners. If a seller has a perfect feedback rating, this can mean they are either totally honest and timely with their sales or they are dishonestly posting false feedback. There is no easy way to spot false feedback, although an average rating is probably a good thing – after all very few people are perfect. If you get burned be sure to let others know by using the feedback sections.

Switch and Return

You as a seller have sent your goods to the buyer. The buyer then switches your goods for older, copied or broken goods of the same nature and contacts you saying they are not satisfied with the goods and demanding a refund. You do not know this until the goods have been returned to you, so what do you do? Do not give refunds until you have the goods back. Before sending the goods take photos of them, describe them and note any model numbers, serial numbers or unique identifying marks. Contact the buyer and let them know you know and the evidence you have, then offer to return the goods to them when you receive payment for re-shipping.

Pirated or Stolen goods

If you think the goods may be pirated or stolen, contact the seller and ask for details of where and how they acquired the goods. Then contact the original supplier to confirm. Software is particularly susceptible to this.

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