Relatively speaking, yes, eBay is safe to use. Most people who sell items on eBay do so honestly. Also, eBay protects the use of your credit card through its online transaction service (PayPal), as well as money back guarantees. eBay wouldn't be one of the oldest and most popular online marketplaces if it had too much of a reputation for things going wrong.
With that said, eBay is like most other e-commerce websites where you pay third parties in advance in exchange for goods, and that is to say that there is always the potential for people looking to cheat the system. You should take similar precautions to the ones that you do when ordering items through the mail, as well as in other places on the Internet where you have to enter personal information such as your credit card number.
1. Research the item and its seller.
Before you buy, bid on, or make an offer for an item that someone is selling, take some time to do some research. See what kind of condition the item is in, what parts it does or does not include, and so on. More importantly, though, do some research on the seller. See how highly they're rated, and check what people who have bought items from the seller have specifically said about them.
Most importantly, check the fine print of the seller's various policies. Some sellers may give you a refund if you cancel or return a purchase, but they may only give you a limited time to do so, or may force you to pay return shipping. Others may have a "no refunds" policy. In addition, some sellers may only ship to certain countries, or may only accept certain forms of payment.
Knowing this information ahead of time can help you avoid problems and disappointments with your item or its seller; it can even help you avoid doing business with someone who's actively looking to scam you.
2. Make sure that you really want an item before submitting a bid or offer for it.
eBay's legal policies appear rather slanted towards protecting sellers, so make sure that your buying intentions are pure. While it is possible to cancel purchases, bids, and offers for items, it is more difficult to do so on eBay than it is on other e-commerce websites, often requiring you to contact either eBay's customer service department or the seller directly.
In addition, bids and offers for items on eBay are considered legally-binding contracts between buyers and sellers. This means that if you win an auction for an item or a seller accepts an offer you made them on an item, very rarely will a seller be under any obligation to let you cancel your purchase. This can lead to you receiving penalties on your account for refusing to pay for items, which can eventually lead to your account being restricted or suspended.
3. Never respond to emails that ask for your personal information, even if they appear to be from eBay.
eBay will never ask you to provide or input information such as your credit card number, social security number, or account password via email. Nor will they put a link directly inside an email to a web page where you must enter this information.
If you are unsure whether an email regarding your eBay account is really from eBay, you can cross-check it against eBay's internal email system by logging into eBay, moving your mouse cursor over My eBay, and clicking Messages. If an important message about your eBay account shows up in your regular email but not there, it's probably a fake, and you should delete it.
4. Never offer or agree to complete a transaction outside of eBay.
Always complete a transaction for an item being sold on eBay through eBay itself and its electronic transaction service, PayPal.com. Buying an item on eBay from outside the website may help you avoid things like tax and shipping charges, but more likely than not, you will be walking right into a scam.
In addition, people who sell items outside of eBay (if they aren't trying to outright scam people) are often trying to cheat eBay out of selling fees. So by agreeing to buy from them, you're helping them break eBay's rules. It is better to simply refuse any offer like this, and perhaps also report any seller who tries this to eBay.
5. If all else fails, contact the authorities.
If you have a problem with a seller or an item that they sold you that you can't resolve by contacting the seller directly, then contact eBay's customer service department. (See our eBay Customer Service article for instructions on how to do so.) If you think you've been the victim of a scam, it would also be a good idea to contact your bank, credit card company, and/or local law enforcement.
Usually, yes, eBay is a reliable place to buy things over the Internet. But, again, the important thing is to do your homework regarding the item you're buying and who you're buying it from. Ask yourself questions like: where is the seller shipping from? Where does the seller ship to? What does the item look like? Has the seller indicated that the condition is less than stellar, or the item is missing parts? How happy have other people been with purchases from this seller? How much is the seller charging for shipping, or is it free?
Finding answers to these questions by checking out the details page of an item or its seller will go a long way towards helping you reliably get good-quality items promptly at a reasonable cost.
Now that you know how to stay safe on eBay, click here to start your eBay shopping experience!
Learn how to use
Was something in this tutorial missing, confusing, or out of date? Or did it give you all the information you needed, and you just want to say "thanks"? We'd love to hear what you thought!