Internet Frauds and Scams - Part XV How to Protect Yourself from Auction Scams

Auction fraud is among the top Internet scams that has defrauded many surfers. Overwhelming urge for that "unbelievable deal" or plain inexperience are main reasons for defrauding oneself.

Here are a few safeguards to help you protect against on-line auction scams

Look before you Leap

Always read the product description carefully. Watch out for "trade words" or phrases that give you a clue to veracity of seller's claim. Fraudsters use catchy but meaningless or misleading words and phrases to fool unsuspecting buyers. For example, if a ring is sold with the description "2 carat diamond simulant," don't bid unless you know what "simulant" means. (It means basically "anything that looks like a diamond.") If description contains words that makes no sense or makes you wonder - check with the seller before bidding.

All that Glitters are not Gold

Lot of capital letters and/or exclamation marks in title could point towards a greenhorn or fraud. Sometimes, sellers use hype and lots of adjectives to fool buyers. However, as I said, it could also mean a greenhorn who is over-enthusiastic about his/her products. I addition, if the price is also high - be wary of the product.

True but Confusing Quotes

Sometimes, in their over eagerness, buyers confuse themselves with valid but misleading price quote. For example, if someone quotes a price based on a guide (listed at $99 in the 1990 price guide of ...) - find out more about the guide. Is it a wholesale price or retail price ? Has the price remained same or gone down ? It is wrong to assume that price of all collectibles go up with time. Never accept price quotes, even verifiable ones, as indicator of true value of a product. Find the current value and decide for yourself what should be market price. Remember, you are the market...

Research Your Product

Do some background work on what you're bidding on, or get help from someone who knows. This is especially important when buying anything on which you expect to make a profit/ investment return. For example, you can find sellers on eBay offering "2000 Carats Of Emerald Rough For $20." To most people, that would sound absolutely too good to be true. However, it's not. Though the statement is technically correct, the product is not exactly what you thought. There's a significant difference between "emerald rough" and "rough emeralds."

A Little check always helps

Always search through past auction records of similar items, specially note the price it was sold for. If same product was sold by different sellers at around the same price, you can reasonably expect that to be the market price. Do not bid higher unless the product is unusual in some significant way. Also, search past auction records by the seller. If you find lot of unsold auctions by the seller, there may be some good reason. Be especially wary, if other sellers successfully sold same product in the same period.

Reality vs. Virtual Reality

Check picture quality and dimensions of actual product. Scale of image could be quite misleading. Ideally, the product should have images from multiple angles with full specifications, material and conditions of sale.

Learn from the past

One of the most important source of information is feedback from other sellers and buyers. However, one should be careful while evaluating a seller as few negative ratings against overwhelming positive ones may not mean much. Sometimes, people use threat of negative feedback to extort some advantage and there are some people who always complain.

Happy and Safe Surfing


Related Links:


Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol: 4, Issue 04 Jun 3' 2003

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at )

� All Rights Reserved. Limited permission is granted to publish this article in a web-site or printed in a journal/ newspaper/ magazine provided the publisher takes prior permission from author, do not make any change in the article (i.e. keep it exactly same as displayed above) and cite the Source of this article as The Great Indian Bazaar with a link to this page.