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How do I protect myself when making a purchase?

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

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Use our system
When communicating with sellers on, we recommend you keep your email address and phone number private, until after you feel comfortable with the seller, or until payment details have been worked out. In general, if you communicate only via the My Message page on, we'll have a complete and official record of your negotiation with the seller. Your negotiation messages on our system are an important resource for our investigation team. If you experience a problem with a seller, your messages are proof of your agreement with the seller. Some sellers may want to use email to avoid paying charges. Since our marketplace is always free for buyers, there should be little incentive to take communications off line.

Remember, it's OK to change your mind during a negotiation. To inform a seller, visit your My Messages page and click the "End" button in your conversation with the seller.

Know what you are buying
Before making an offer to a seller, ask questions to learn more about what they are selling. You can send a seller a message, then offer a price when you are comfortable with purchasing the item. We also recommend checking retail prices and other members' prices for comparison purposes. Remember, if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is. Significantly low prices may mean the item is refurbished, or the seller is running a scam.

In particular, be careful when purchasing high-tech goods, especially when prices are far below retail. Certain high-end items such as flat-panel displays, notebook computers, and cell phones are likely targets for scammers. In many cases, it's appropriate to ask for a serial number before sending payment.

Know your seller
Visit the seller's profile page to see what other members have said about them. When a buyer completes a transaction with a seller, they are able to provide a rating, informing other members of their experience. Additionally, look at the seller's other listings for a better idea of what type of seller you are dealing with. As you're negotiating on, pay attention to the seller's physical location (located on their Profile page) and the item's location (located on their ad page). If a seller asks you to send payment overseas, or to a location other than that listed on the ad, please inform us, and act cautiously. In particular, payments sent overseas are virtually impossible to track.

Use a payment method with fraud protection
We highly advise against sending payment via wire transfer. Many fraudulent sellers only accept money by wire transfer, Money Gram, or bank transfer because buyers cannot get their money back and sellers cannot be tracked. If you are within the U.S. and must pay by money order, we suggest using a postal money order. Postal money orders can be investigated, while other money orders cannot.

There are many forms of payment that provide protection for buyers. Credit cards, escrow services such as, C.O.D. shipping, and online payment services, offer varying degrees of protection. For more information about payment services that offer fraud protection, please visit What's the safest way to pay a seller?.

Track your shipment
Most major shipping companies allow people to track shipments while they are in transit. We recommended getting a tracking number from the seller, so you can monitor your item in transit. Make sure you are familiar with the seller's shipper, and be aware that there are fake shipping companies on the web which pretend to track a false shipment.

Rate the seller
Remember to rate the seller at the end of your transaction. By using our feedback system, you provide future buyers more information about your experiences with specific sellers.

Experience anything suspicious?
If you have any questions about ensuring a safe transaction, or feel a seller is acting fraudulently, please contact us.

Also See:
What kinds of buyer/seller behavior is considered suspicious?

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