How to avoid an online auction fraud

E-commerce is big business these days. Online shopping, a significant component of e-commerce is generating increasing amounts of revenue, with people buying and selling goods from online retailers and over auction sites. According to a report by the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), a U.K based retail trade organization, the business to consumer (B2C) e-commerce trade volume will cross $1.25 tln by 2013. Moreover, the U.S remains the single largest player in the e-commerce sector till date. Unfortunately, where there’s a large amount of money involved, crime prospects increase. Fraudsters attempt to cash in the popularity of online trading, by conning buyers and sellers. In this post, SupportMart brings you the gist of online auction fraud and how you can avoid falling for one.

Online auction comprises the selling and buying of goods through the process of placing bids on items. This is different from online retailing in which, goods are bought for a pre-determined price set by the retailer. Online auction can be business to individual or between individuals. Following are the ways you can get defrauded and how you can avoid the same.

1. Wire transfer of payment, product never arrives

Sellers might insist on making payments by wire transfer, outside of the online auction site. Falling for the offer, the buyer sends payments but never receives the product. To avoid such a scam, SupportMart advises you to find a legitimate online escrow service that would hold off making payment to the seller until the buyer has received and verified the product.

2. Selling stolen items

An easy way to make some quick money, some individuals sells stolen items and refuses a transaction via credit card to avoid getting traced. Always insist on making payments via credit card. In addition to improving traceability should something goes wrong, you can also get refunded by the credit card agency if your product is not delivered.

3. Do not cash overpayments

Some fraudsters overpay for auctioned items via counterfeit money orders or checks and ask the seller to cash the same and refund the balance amount. As a seller, you dutifully send the balance and the onus falls on you for encashing a fraudulent money order or check.

4. Verify the buyer/selling before transaction

A pre-requisite for using online auction sites is to register you before buying/selling. As a buyer or seller, it is your responsibility to verify the person you are transacting with is not a con-man. Find out more info about the individual from the auction site, including items purchased/sold earlier and any positive or negative reviews from such dealings. If he/she has received say, 1 bad review out of 20 or so, you wouldn’t need to be concerned. Also note what the point of complaint was about.

5. Know the product you want to buy

If you aren’t into sports cars or gems, and would like to buy these through an online auction, do your research. An offer that sounds too good to be true very often is. As re-iterated several times by experts, you have to read reviews on products/services before making any final decision. Know what these products are worth in the market and if the prices quoted on the auction site are reasonable.

To insure against auction fraud, SupportMart also advises you to read into the fine print of the damage, return, refund or exchange policies in place.

Taking these measures will keep you safe from online auction frauds and help ensure you get what you are paying for. For tips on avoiding other forms of internet frauds, read up our SupportMart Scam Awareness and SupportMart Fraud Awareness blogs, or talk to our customer service representative. You can also send us a message at


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