For big-ticket items like computers, cars, or jewelry, buyers should consider using an escrow service or purchasing from a bonded or insured seller to protect their funds. The primary purpose of online escrow services is to protect buyers and sellers from fraud. Escrow services accept and hold payment from a buyer — often a wire transfer, check, money order or credit card — until he receives and approves the merchandise. Then, the escrow service forwards the payment to the seller. The buyer pays the fee for an online escrow service — generally a percentage of the cost of the item.
Before using an escrow service, both the buyer and the seller should verify that it is a legitimate, reputable company.
Some sellers may state that they are bonded or otherwise insured against fraud. If a buyer intends to rely on a seller's bonded status or the seller's insurance to protect against fraud, he should investigate the legitimacy of the bonding or insurance company and then make sure that the seller really is a member of — or certified by — that company. If a problem arises with a bonded seller, the buyer usually has to engage in a dispute resolution process with the seller before being able to submit a claim to the bonding or insurance company.