The Federal Trade Commission recently issued a warning about buying from on-line auctions. “Some on-line sellers have put items up for auction, taken the highest bidder’s money and never delivered the merchandise,” it said. It gave consumers the following tips before bidding on an on-line auction:
* Try to pay by credit card. If you don’t get the merchandise, you can challenge the charges with your credit card issuer.
* Ask about an escrow agent, or paying by C.O.D. Be aware that most escrow agents charge a fee.
* Verify the seller’s identity. If you can’t, consider this a red flag and avoid doing business with the seller. Some sellers may use a forged e-mail header, making it impossible to contact them if you need to.
* Ask how you’ll get follow up service, if you need it. Many sellers don’t have the expertise or facilities to provide service for the goods they sell. Is this important to you?
* Avoid impulse buys and purchases. On-line auctions may be enticing, but are you really getting the best prices?
* Ask about return policies. Returning merchandise to an unidentified on-line seller may be difficult.