These tips can help protect your privacy and security when you sell items in online auctions.
- Understand how online auctions work. Before you sign up to sell something, read the site's Help files and participate in an auction as a buyer.
- Check out the buyer's reputation. Many auction sites have a built-in system that allows sellers to rate other customers. It's wise to be wary of a buyer who has negative ratings.
- Before your auction closes, cancel bids from buyers who are known to submit phony bids. If you believe one of your buyers has made a bid he does not intend to keep if he wins the auction, you might be able to cancel his bid (depending on the auction service's policies), but only before the auction closes. Some auction sites even allow you to restrict an auction to pre-approved bidders or buyers only.
- Consider using a third-party payment service. Third-party payment services allow you to transfer money into an online account and make payments from that account without exposing your credit card or bank account information. Many buyers and sellers prefer using these services over personal checks.
- Consider using an online escrow service for high-priced items. An escrow service (e.g. Alipay) acts as a go-between that holds the buyer's money until the buyer receives and approves of the seller's item. Both sides should agree upon the terms of escrow; you might want to require that bidders accept these terms before you allow them to participate in your auction.
- Research any third-party payment or online escrow service a buyer wants to use before you agree. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has received reports of fraudulent buyers who will insist that the seller use a third-party payment service or an escrow service that turns out to be fraudulent. The seller ships the item to the escrow service, but never receives payment or the return of goods.
- Call the credit card company. If you choose to accept credit cards, contact the company that issues the card to verify that the name on the card matches both the shipping information and the contact information you've received.
- Use tracking services when shipping. It is usually the buyer's responsibility to pay for shipping an auction item, but the seller typically chooses the shipping method. To help ensure that your item arrives in a timely manner, and to help prevent fraudulent buyers from claiming that they never received an item (when, in fact, they did), use a shipping service that includes tracking, or consider paying or charging extra for tracking services.
- Never respond to unsolicited requests to update your account information. These could be scams that can lead to identity theft. Most legitimate companies never send unsolicited e-mail or instant message requests for a password or other personal information. If you receive a request that you think is legitimate, contact the company directly (not through the message you received) and ask for confirmation.