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What's the safest way to pay a seller?

Help Topics & F.A.Q.    Safety and Security

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Don't send payment by bank or money transfer
When sending payment, note that bank and money transfers such as Western Union MoneyGrams, offer no form of fraud protection or seller accountability. Many fraudulent sellers prefer these forms of payment because once payment is sent, there is practically no way for a buyer to get a refund, or track who received the payment.

Never send your bank or checking account information to anyone. This information may provide a way for someone to take money directly from your account. Normally, banks do not offer protection if money is properly transferred out of your account.

If you have to send a money order, send a Postal Money Order
Money orders are another form of payment which offer very little protection for a buyer. If you are within the U.S., the best money order to send is a Postal Money Order. These money orders are issued by the U.S. Postal Service and can be purchased at your local post office. Because these money orders are issued by the U.S. Postal Service, any fraudulent activity can be investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. However, while inspectors may have the ability to investigate and prosecute, they do not have the ability to provide a refund for your loss.

Although most payment by money order is sent to the seller's address, it's easy for a seller to receive mail at a temporary address. If someone asks you to send payment to an overseas address, or if they insist you not use a US Postal Money Order, report them to immediately.

Credit card is probably the safest
When it comes to buyer protection and seller convenience, credit cards are one of the best methods to do business over the Internet. Many credit cards offer a 60-day protection on each sale, while others offer even more protection for online purchases.

If you wish to protect your credit card number, many services (such as VISA, Discover, and AmericanExpress) offer temporary numbers to make one-time purchases online. These temporary numbers may expire after one use or may hold limited funds. Please contact your credit card company to find out how they can protect you with online purchases.

If using a payment service (such as PayPal) protection is limited
Many sellers and buyers use payment services like PayPal. These services allow sellers to accept credit cards, checks, and money orders online, making it convenient for buyers to keep their payment information private. Each payment service has different regulations regarding fraud protection. We suggest contacting your preferred payment service to learn what forms of protection they offer.

Escrow and C.O.D. offer you the most protection
Using an escrow service is the safest way for a buyer and seller to complete a transaction. recommends for all transactions above $500, and for all situations where you feel uncertain about a seller. In general, escrow services receive and validate payment from the buyer, and then prompt the seller to send the item to the buyer. When the buyer receives the item, the escrow service sends the seller payment after the buyer has inspected the item.

Some shipping services offer Cash On Delivery (C.O.D.), providing buyers the ability to pay when they receive the item from the seller. The buyer pays the shipping company at the time of delivery, then that payment is sent to the seller. COD is slightly less desirable than escrow because the buyer typically has no means to inspect the item before paying.

Both escrow and COD will add costs to a transaction (typically under 10%), and may increase the time it takes you to receive your good, but they provide an additional level of protection.

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