Tips for shopping online auctions

November 22, 2010

Tom Lane, founder of online auction site, says the reasons are simple.

"It will be a good deal for the consumer and you don't have to leave your house," he explains. But to get the deals, like the ones Property Room and eBay offer, shoppers need to be aware of the risks... Like not getting too caught up in the competition on those auction sites.

Lane says, "Usually you set in your mind what you're willing to pay for something and you should just bid up to that. There's an advantage to using proxy bidding, it controls what you spend and it also allows you to bid on the stuff even if you're not there."

Penny Auction sites were big a couple of years ago, but have dropped in popularity as people realized they were spending dollars to buy penny bids... And often ending up with nothing, when someone else won the auction.

Lane explains, "A lot of them are going out of business. People are realizing that you're buying the bids, you can spend $20 to $30 dollars and never win anything. And people say no matter how much of a good deal it is at the end of the day, if I bid on 6 or 8 items and I bid on each of them, I'm out 100 or $120 and I haven't won anything for it. "

Lane suggests only using auction and shopping sites that are well-known -- and that provide you an easy way to contact them.

"If you can't contact someone via email or via an 800 number, and get a response within 24 hours, I'd be very suspect," Lane says. "You have to deal with a company that has a good problem resolution desk."

And he says you should avoid online companies based outside the United States.

"How do you check those companies out? They don't have Better Business Bureaus. You can't tell if they've been in business for ten to 15 years like the Amazons, eBays and Property Rooms of the world. It's hard to check them out, so again, common sense. If you don't know who these people are, you haven't been recommended by one of your friends who's dealt with them, and has had successful dealings with them over a long period of time, I would be very hesitant about giving those people my credit card number or anything."

Here are some more of Lane's tips for avoiding fraud while shopping online this holiday season:
Store. Be sure that you know you are purchasing from a legitimate store. Check to make sure they have verifiable contract information, that their site is professional and updated, and that they have a clear return policy and a good reputation.
Policy. Familiarize yourself with the store's policy regarding exchanges and returns before you finalize any purchase. You will want to know the terms of the sale, any guarantees, etc.
Merchandise. Always read the product description carefully. If you have questions about the product, contact the store to get answers, before you place the order.
Purchase. Try to make your purchases with a credit card, as that offers the most protection against fraud. Also, check to make sure it is a secure transaction before entering your credit card information. You can check this by looking for the 'closed lock' icon at the bottom of your browser.
Documents. The store should send you an e-mail confirmation of your transaction. Save that in your e-mail, in case you need to refer back to the information.
Receiving. Anything purchased online will need to be delivered, and many times is left right on the front doorstep if you are not home. Try to have someone present to accept deliveries, so that packages are not sitting out for thieves. Once you get the merchandise, immediately inspect it to make sure it is what you ordered. If you have concerns, contact the store immediately. If there are problems the store cannot solve, contact your credit card company for solutions.

And click here for more tips on Safe Online Shopping from Bargain Babe.

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