How can I protect myself from Online Seller Fraud?

Since the Internet is a very large marketplace, you may eventually come in contact with a few bad folks.  There are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

If possible, use your credit card

Most online retailers have standard credit card merchant accounts, operating on the web just as they do in a brick-and-mortar store.  If you buy an item using your credit card you can often use the clout of your credit card company to resolve disputes with the retailer that accepted your payment.

When buying from auction sites, be aware that this is not always the case.  Some sellers are retailers and some are not, so paying by credit card isn’t always an option.  Instead, non-retailers will typically accept checks, money orders, or credit card payment through eBay’s PayPal service.

For non-credit card purchases you’ll need to be more vigilant and rely on Square Trade or other dispute resolution services.

Scrutinize the seller and ask questions

A good piece of advice – and one that’s especially true when it comes to shopping on the web is “when in doubt, ask.”  If product specifications, shipping cost or return policies aren’t crystal clear, ask the merchant to clarify.  Browse through the site and you’re bound to find an email address and/or customer service phone number.  Don’t hesitate to use them to ask questions until you’re comfortable with the seller.  A merchant that doesn’t respond or continues to be vague probably isn’t someone you want to do business with anyway.

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