Online auction shoppers can protect themselves
Now that Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, holiday shoppers may turn to online auction sites to track down hard-to-find and unique gifts.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving central, northern and western Arizona shares six ways holiday shoppers can verify the credibility of sellers.
BBB recommends shoppers follow six critical steps to ensure purchases arrive on time — or at all — this holiday season as they shop online auction sites:
• Find out how the auction site protects buyers and sellers from fraud. Know what actions the auction site will take if you or a seller becomes the victim of a fraudulent transaction.
• Compare the cost of items elsewhere. Scammers will often price items lower than the competition to lure in buyers. A lowball minimum bid for an item should be considered a red flag.
• Research the seller. Online auction sites often provide the opportunity for buyers to rate sellers and offer feedback on the transaction. These reviews are a great way to determine the seller's track record, but keep in mind that reviews are typically not authenticated and some sellers will pay for flattering reviews in order to mislead buyers.
• Ask questions. When in doubt, don't be afraid to ask the seller questions about the item, including how they came to own it, its condition and if you can return it if you're not satisfied.
• Don't be lured away from auction sites. In some cases, scammers will try to convince bidders to complete a transaction outside of the auction site. Keep in mind that leaving the website means you are no longer covered by the protections and guarantees offered by the auction company.
• Use a secure form of payment. Use a credit card or a secure payment service, such as PayPal, when purchasing items through an online auction. If the seller insists on using an escrow service, always research that business fully with BBB. Never wire payment — such as through MoneyGram or Western Union — to someone you don't know.
For more holiday shopping tips, scam alerts or to download BBB's iPhone App, visit arizonabbb.org.
“It is important for holiday shoppers not to get so caught up in the excitement of finding the perfect gift that they forget to verify the credibility of the seller,” BBB president/CEO Matthew Fehling said.
Better Business Bureau has a Yuma office at 350 W. 16th St., Suite 205. Yuma County director Janet Torricellas can be reached at 919-7940 or firstname.lastname@example.org.