Mac Daniel's Advice

Dealing with Internet Fraud

Evan Kleiman - 2001.12.26

Q. Help! I got burned on eBay! I bought something, then I paid for it and got nothing at all! What do I do? Thanks!

A. You found it on eBay, that perfect model of a 1998 Pontiac Firebird. You paid for it, and you think it all went well - until three-and-a-half weeks later you realize you have no Firebird whatsoever in your mailbox. You've been e-gipped. So now what do you do?

Well it's not as hard to get some help as you think. First, let's review what you're options are:

Case One: You were the high bidder on something, you contacted the seller, got a response, sent out the money, and never got your item. Communication has ceased with the seller, and it is more than thirty days after your winning bid.

This is a big problem to handle with eBay. In fact, even I have gotten scammed out of money on eBay. However, it is thankfully not occurring often. Basically what happened in this case is you bought something (real or not), and the seller either legitimately had a real problem and never told you about it (not likely) or just decided to steal your money.

If this has happened, you're probably going to want to take some some action. The first step should always be to try to contact the seller once again, maybe from a different email address or by other means. (It's always a good idea to get the phone number of the seller when buying something). But if this doesn't work, you need to report the seller to eBay. You can do this at eBay's fraud protection center.

Case Two: You were the high bidder and got your item, but it was either broken or not what you asked for.

Thankfully, this problem is on the decline on eBay, but it still happens. First, try to contact the seller. If this doesn't work (i.e., he does not respond), then once again, you should probably go to eBay's fraud protection center and report it.

However, what happens if the seller answers the email saying that the product which you bought is complete and what you asked for. This is time for a mediator to decide who's really right, and SquareTrade is the place to do it. Think of it as an Internet Judge Judy.

Case Three: You bought something on the a, such as a cell phone, from a non-eBay website, and paid using PayPal - but got nothing.

Thankfully, once again, this is a rare case, but it does happen. Since this is not eBay, and you are pretty much on your own here, there really isn't a whole lot of options. However, PayPal does offer fraud protection programs.

As I said before, you should try to contact the seller by all means possible, but if this does not work, you will then need to report them to PayPal. You can do this at the Buyer Complaint Center.

In the end, Internet buying might not sound safe, but it generally is, as long as you always make sure you know what you're getting and trust the seller. LEM

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