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how-to block ads

Protect your identity. -- Never provide your Social Security number or driver's license number to a seller. Don't provide your credit card number or bank account information until you check out the seller and the online payment or escrow service, if you're using one, and ensure their legitimacy. Examine the online payment and escrow service's privacy policy and security measures. Never disclose financial or personal information unless you know why it's being collected, how it will be used, and how it will be safeguarded.

Protect your funds. -- Know what form of payment the seller accepts. If the seller accepts only cashier's checks or money orders, decide whether you're willing to risk sending your payment before you receive the product. Never wire money to a person you don't know or whose identity you can't verify. If the seller insists on using a particular escrow or online payment service you've never heard of, check it out. Visit its website. Be suspicious of any site that is generally of poor quality with misspelled words or claims that it is affiliated with the government. Call the customer service line. If there isn't one or if you call and can't reach someone don't use the service. Before you agree to use any online payment or escrow service, read the service's terms of agreement. If it's an online payment service, find out whether it offers buyers any recourse if sellers don't keep their end of the bargain, whether it prevents sellers from accessing their funds if buyers are not satisfied with the product, and who is responsible for paying for credit card charge backs or transaction reversal requests. If the online payment service cannot recover the loss from the seller, it might try to recover its loss from you, using the credit card or bank account information in its file. To limit your exposure, consider reserving a separate credit card, stored-value card, or bank account to use just for your online transactions. Be suspicious of an online escrow service that cannot process its own transactions and requires you to set up accounts with online payment services. Legitimate escrow services never do this.

Check with the Better Business Bureau, state attorney general, or consumer protection agency where you live and where the online payment or escrow service is based to see whether there are any unresolved complaints against the service. A lack of complaints doesn't mean that a service doesn't have any problems. Many scammers change their company names often.

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last modified: 2006-10-06 22:50:28