Sidebar: How to protect yourself against crooks at online auctions

Scripps Howard News Service

WASHINGTON - How to guard against crooks at Internet auction sites.

- Check out the seller starting with name, address and telephone number. Beware of sellers you can't identify, and know that a forged e-mail auction address can make follow-ups impossible.

- Check to see how other buyers were treated. Big auction sites offer feedback from other buyers, but it's not ironclad: ''Shill'' testimonials are not unheard of.

- Pay by credit card if possible so you're not out money if the merchandise never arrives. Decide if it's worth it to do business with sellers who accept only cashier's checks or money orders before delivering the goods.

- Nail down shipping costs and return policies to avoid nasty surprises.

- Don't place a bid until all of your questions have been answered.

If you're the one doing the selling at auction:

-Provide an accurate description of what you're offering including all terms of the sale, who pays shipping costs and your return policies.

- Respond quickly to questions bidders raise during the auction.

-Contact the highest bidder as soon as the auction closes to confirm sale details.

- Ship the merchandise as soon as you receive payment.

(Mary Deibel is a reporter for Scripps Howard News Service.)


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