Are online auctions safe?

Legitimate auction sites offer privacy, security and dispute resolution. It's important to understand that while an online auction site may be legitimate, there are unscrupulous buyers and sellers on most platforms.

Are online auctions safe?

Legitimate auction sites offer privacy, security and dispute resolution. It's important to understand that while an online auction site may be legitimate, there are unscrupulous buyers and sellers on most platforms. In fact, auction fraud accounts for approximately 48% of online fraud reports to the FTC. And fraud is not only committed by sellers.

Shoppers can be just as cunning. online auctions can offer great benefits to both buyers and sellers. But as the survey shows, when a consumer pays before receiving the goods, or a seller ships the goods before the buyer's payment is settled, there is some risk. Although most people mean well, things sometimes go wrong.

And some people are irresponsible, or even frankly dishonest, in their dealings with others. Online auction sites are a very popular way to buy and sell new and second-hand products. However, there are risks associated with using auction sites, some of which are different from normal online shopping. So you need to be careful about what you are buying from and from whom, who you sell to and how you pay for your purchases or how you get paid for the items you sell.

Internet auctions have become such a big business that some people (and even shops) make a living online by buying cheap and selling high. The vast majority of those who participate in online auctions are very or somewhat certain that, if they are the winners, they will get what they pay from the seller (94 per cent). We want to mention right away that the vast majority of sellers and buyers in online auctions are honest people and keep their promises. When asked why respondents who did not participate in online auctions, most said they were simply not interested (52 percent) or didn't see anything they wanted (12 percent); few expressed concern that they wouldn't get what they paid for as buyers (six percent) or thought it would be too much trouble as sellers (three percent).

The survey was designed to find out how and why people participate in online auctions, how confident they are as buyers and sellers, how they typically conduct auction transactions, what problems they encounter and how they deal with those issues. However, dig a little deeper into the world of online auctions, and you'll start to find sites that are well suited to specific niches or ways of buying. eBay was one of the first online auction marketplaces, but in recent years, lack of quality, selection and buyer protection have compromised the platform's reputation. Beware of fakes: online auctions have been known to list fake Beanie Babies, watches and bags.

Those who sell mainly at online auctions are also cautious when they are bidders; 68 percent say they always check information about the seller's history before making an offer; 20 percent generally do so. Most people have rewarding experiences with online auction sites, and with just a few safety tips, you too can experience positive and rewarding purchases and sales while avoiding the tactics criminals use to exploit consumers through these sites. While auction sites struggle to combat fraud, the nature of online commerce makes it virtually impossible to eliminate it altogether. Stay away from transactions with minors if you can spot them (called “child bids” in online auction jargon).

Don't assume you'll get a great deal, or even a good one, just because an item will be auctioned online. .

Belinda Moskovitz
Belinda Moskovitz

Belinda writes posts for retail, ecommerce, and online auction sites. She's also a music, travel and technology lover. You might find her secretly watching zombie movies.