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Avoiding the Pitfalls of e-Commerce

You’re browsing Craigslist for a pair of hard-to-find concert tickets. You locate a seller who’s offering a couple passes at an incredible price. You contact him, and he responds that he’s currently out of the state, but he’ll gladly sell you the tickets. However, he wants you to mail him half the cash up front. You’re suspicious, but it’s your favorite band. So, against your better judgment, you stuff some money into an envelope, drop it into the mailbox, and never hear from the seller again.

This scenario is all too common on community retail and auction sites, such as Craigslist and eBay, which often can feature deals that are too good to be true. In fact, there is an entire black- market industry devoted to scamming trusting people out of their hard-earned money using these sites.

Finding good deals on products and services online can pay off, but make sure you do so safely. Here are some general practices you should incorporate into your online buying and selling habits to help prevent you from falling victim to a scam.

5 Do’s for Using eBay

  • Research your buyers and sellers. EBay makes it very easy to search users’ history, ratings, and feedback.
  • Use a secure method for online payments . EBay specifically recommends PayPal, which is known for its high degree of security.
  • Pay by credit card whenever possible. If you use a check, money order, or debit card, you may be exposing your bank account to would-be thieves.
  • Take advantage of eBay’s buyer protection program, which covers items purchased on eBay that do not arrive or arrive differently than how they are described in the listing.
  • Read the fine print on all purchases to make sure you’re buying what you think you are buying, and can return it if you’re unsatisfied.

For additional tips for ensuring a successful and safe online purchasing experience, visit this eBay tutorial.

4 Don’ts for Using Craigslist

  • Don’t be duped by sellers who claim that Craigslist will guarantee a transaction . The truth is Craigslist doesn’t have any role in the actual transaction at all.
  • Don’t sell to someone who lives far away and offers to pay via cashier’s check . These checks often are fraudulent, and you’ll be on the hook for the money if it fails to clear.
  • Don’t deal with sellers who request that you use a wire service, offer to use an online escrow service, or want partial payment up front.
  • Don’t forget to stay safe. Meet the buyer or seller in a well-lit, public place, like in front of a bank or coffee shop during business hours, and take a friend with you for extra security.

For more tips on spotting and reporting scams, including real- life examples, visit Craigslist’s resource page.

(Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by CashCourse or the National Endowment for Financial Education. These courses and related resources may be used only for nonprofit, noncommercial educational purposes. CashCourse makes every effort to keep the information in these courses current, but, over time, new developments as well as legislative and regulatory changes may date this material. If you discover inaccurate information, please contact us.)

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