Can I Use Online Auction Sites Safely?

Online auction sites like eBay, OnlineAuction, OZtion, WeBidz, uBid, and others offer great options for buying items from local and international sources whether they are used items or brand new items and you get all this access when you want it and where you want it. These same auction sites also allow you to sell your new or used items in the same way.

Most people have rewarding experiences with online auction sites, and with just a few safety tips you too can experience positive and rewarding shopping and selling while avoiding the tactics criminals use to exploit consumers through these sites.

Start by understanding the common risks on auction sites. These include:

  • Buying an item or items that you never receive because the seller is a scammer or selling something and sending it to the buyer but never receiving payment.
  • Having your account taken over by cybercrooks who use it to run up massive purchases under your name and/or stealing your information to use for identity theft.
  • Oversharing information to a buyer or seller that they use for identity theft either through communications or by purchasing the item in an unsafe manner – like using a personal check with all your information on it, or a credit card.
  • Purchasing an item at an inflated price, or getting an item that is a knockoff – instead of the item you purchased.
  • Receiving phishing scam emails with messages that appear to be sent by the auction site or from the payment company you use. These typically ask for sensitive information like your passwords and bank information so scammers can exploit the information to steal your identity and money.

Once you have a good sense of the potential pitfalls, you’re ready to select a site or sites that you want to use. To find the site or sites that will work best for you, spend a little time and understand how each auction site works:

  • Watch a few items to get a feel for the bidding, the pace, and the last minute strategies in the auction process.
  • Read the site’s Terms and Conditions, or Terms of Use to understand whether the site charges fees to buyers or sellers, understand the protections they provide to consumers if something goes wrong, and what you need to do to follow any rules or tips they provide.
  • Look at the sites suggested methods of payment. Never use (or accept) a check, money order, wire transfer service, credit card, debit card, or cash – or you risk parting with not only your money but your identity and may find yourself owing money to the bank. Using PayPal or a similar service that masks your financial information when you’re the buyer and assures the money is in the account if you’re the seller, will give you the best protection.
  • Create a conservative profile. Pick an anonymous screen name that says nothing about yourself, and don’t share unnecessary details; just stick to the basic information required.
  • Create a strong, unique password. This is a critical step. Your password needs to have at least 10 characters (even if the site requires fewer), needs to have a mix of capital and small letters, and include numbers and symbols. This doesn’t have to be hard to remember, just hard to guess – for example, 1likeuz’nAuctionz:-). Never use information in a password that is associated with you – like your name, age, birth year, etc. And never use the same password for multiple sites because if it gets hacked on one site you’d be in trouble on many sites.

Do your research: Now it’s time to hone in on the specifics of any item you want to purchase or sell.

  • Research the seller – or buyer. Auction sites should show you the reputation of potential buyers or sellers. Sticking to people or companies with strong reputations over time is your safest bet. Never let a buyer or seller convince you to finish the deal off of the auction site. A common scam is to tell you they can save you the auction’s fee if you deal with them directly, but you want the protection the auction site has. If the other party even suggests this option walk away.
  • Research the item you want to sell or purchase. What’s the going rate for the item? Is the item new or used? Is the item the real deal or a knockoff? Comb through the fine print of any description of the product so you know exactly what you may be purchasing. If you’re a buyer, you may want to print off the exact description and fine print for reference if there is an issue later. If you’re a seller, this information is an excellent way to compare your product against what others are selling.

Let the bidding begin!

Find the right cybersecurity solution for you.