Before sending anyone a significant amount of money (in other words an amount you can't just shrug off and say 'oh well' over) -
In fact, before you BID or BUY - check the seller's feedback!!! (not just the percentages or numbers but the actual comments) See if they have been habitually selling what you are interested in buying. If they have been selling socks and are suddenly selling Plasma TVs at great prices, the alarm bells should be ringing. If they have never sold a single item and the first thing they are selling is a high priced item, proceed, but with caution.
Pull the sellers contact information and call them. Get their full name address and phone number, no matter what method you are using to pay them. If they have a bricks and mortar business, get all their contact info. Look the seller/business up in the white/yellow pages online and see if their information in the phone book matches with what they gave you and what is on the auction/trading site they are using. If the place they want you to send payment to is different than the place the auction says is their location, do not proceed and report the account immediately to whatever site you are using to make this transaction. If they insist on a Western Union wire transfer there is a 100% guarantee that the deal is fraudulent - do not proceed - and turn them in immediately.
If the person is a seller who offers PayPal, go to the PayPal site and try to send the seller a mock payment to see if the email address matches the one in the end of auction notice. If their past auctions show a PayPal logo, but PayPal does not show the email address you have as being a current PayPal account, do not proceed - and turn them in immediately, as the account has probably been hijacked.
Your caution should increase with the price of the item and the insecurity of the payment accepted.
Credit Card - A credit card is the safest for the buyer, as it usually has charge back protection no matter what (check with your charge card company first if you are unsure about the terms of your particular charge card), and is the only way to insure you can recover your funds. This is true if the seller has a merchant account, or if you use your charge card to fund the payment to the seller through an online payment system such as PayPal or Google Checkout. Most credit card companies will still give you charge back rights, except Discover and American Express, but check before you buy.
Check or Money Order - A check or money order is generally an indication that the seller is legitimate, as the person needs a valid bank account and valid ID to cash such instruments. Since the persons /banks/organizations who cash out these items are at risk of losing their money if they don't validate the authenticity of the seller, the persons /banks/organizations who cash out these items them are likely to take thorough precautions. Combined with the steps in authenticating the seller, it will provide you with a trail to the seller that law enforcement can follow. Because of this, outright scammers will usually not accept payment via check or money order.
Escrow - This is usually a very expensive way of doing business, but on high priced items might be worth the buyer spending extra to get peace of mind when there are some doubts still in the buyers mind. The biggest risk lies in the fact that there are MANY fraudulent escrow companies, so the buyer must carefully investigate the escrow service (or contact us to do the research for them) to insure it is legitimate, solvent and bonded. Do not pay an escrow company with a Western Union wire transfer under any circumstances. If you are requested to do so it is a sure sign it is a scam. Check the Better Business Bureau site, and other business verification services before you use any escrow company.
Email/Online Payment Systems - An online payment system has more risk for recoverability of your funds, so carefully check both the protections that these totally unregulated services offer to buyers, and the sellers information as to previous transactions, verified information, etc. A system affiliated with a bank is safer that one such as PayPal, as it is will fall under banking regulations. These payment systems are more likely to be used by good sellers gone bad, if they have decided to take the money and run. Though this has very rarely happened, it is something that has happened in a few highly publicized cases. As mentioned above, using a charge card to fund such a transaction will give you charge back protection even when the online payment service can't or wont return your money. In general though, sellers with verified information and good records are very likely to be legitimate, making these systems useable.
Bank Wire Transfer or Cahiers Check - A bank wire transfer is usually a fairly insecure way to pay and a cashier's check only slightly better. Recovering money is unlikely on either, though a seller with a legitimate bank account with all other information verified as suggested above should be an ok risk. Buyers should proceed with great caution though, and make sure they are completely satisfied with the legitimacy of the seller before using these methods of payment. If there are doubts and inconsistencies on other issues, do not proceed. If the seller requests you wire payment to a location other than the one in the auction/listing, do not proceed. For example if the according to the listing the seller is located in the US, don't wire payment to Italy or England, no matter how legitimate the reason (read that excuse) the seller comes up with.
Western Union Wire Transfer - This is the method of payment that is 100% guaranteed to be a scam. WU Wire Transfer is NOT meant for purchasing items, it is designed to send money to friends and family, people you know personally. Let me repeat that, WU wire transfer is not for buying items from any seller, no matter how legitimate they sound or appear, no matter where they say they are located, no matter how many ways they give you to allegedly 'secure' the payment with secret passwords, changed names etc. No matter what a Western Union agent might say about there being secure methods to send a WU wire transfer, it is also a lie, as no such security exists. WU Wire Transfer transactions are 100% guaranteed to be fraudulent. If you are asked or required to pay via a Western Union wire transfer, STOP, do not proceed, do NOT send money or it WILL be stolen and will never be recovered. If you can afford to give away money, please send it to our organization, as we will put it to much better use than the scammers will.
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TAG will research any proposed deal or escrow company for you and inform you of what we find. Our fee for this service is $10.00. For more information go to our RESEARCH PAGE
For buyers, our research can save you from losing hundreds or thousands of dollars. As a seller, we can help prevent you from losing your merchandise and your money. To receive immediate service, just email us the details and pay our $10. fee, and we will get back to you quickly with the results of our research, information about the deal or site and it's legitimacy or lack thereoff.
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