Online iron buying security tips

Buying and selling machinery online has become more secure, but you still need to avoid these risks. Let the buyer beware. That also applies to online auctions due to internet trolls and hsysters. Minimize your exposure by following these security steps.

  1. Do business only with reputable online auctions.
  2. Research items before bidding. Call the auctioneer and ask about the item you are interested in buying. “We welcome such calls and encourage folks to investigate,” says Scott Steffes. The more transparent and detailed a listing is the more secure you can feel in buying it, adds Mark Stock. “We want a seller [listing at our site] to tell everything about a machine, both the good and the bad. Buyers appreciate such honesty because it gives them peace of mind.”
  3. Check out the seller. The auction house holding the sale should be able to give you the seller’s contact information if it isn’t already listed on the site. Call the seller and ask about the equipment’s background, such as its use and maintenance. This call can reveal much, particularly if the seller is very knowledgeable about the machine: For example, a call could expose that the seller owned and operated it as opposed to having bought it at another auction and are now jockeying it online. Ask to receive the service records if they haven’t already been provided to the auction house.
  4. Set a bidding limit. Sometimes “shill bidders” (working with the seller or on their own) bid on an item to intentionally drive up its price. Research the value of equipment and then set a bid limit. Doing so can alert you to shill bidding. “We also show the bid history at BigIron.com sales so you can check to see if the seller is jacking up the price,” Stock adds. “A lot of online auctions don’t do that.”
  5. Pay only with credit cards, a secure online payment system, or an escrow service recommended by the auction site. Don’t do business with anyone who takes only wire transfers, cash, money orders, or reloadable cards (those cards that you “top off” by adding money). Paying with those methods is like sending cash to the seller – once it’s gone, you won’t be able to get it back. Also pay for items within the auction site using your credit card, a secure online payment system, or an escrow service that the site recommends.
  6. Print or save copies of the item description and final price if you are the winning bidder.
  7. Never work outside the auction site you are bidding in. Auction scammers will ask buyers to email them outside the site by offering “a second chance” to buy an item you didn’t get at auction, claiming the “highest bidder backed out.” Or they may say they’ll give you a great price on a similar item. The hitch? The scammer wants to close the deal privately, off the auction site, and tells you to pay with a wire transfer, money order, or other cash equivalent.

    Another scammer ploy occurs after you placed the highest bid. The scamming seller pleads with you to pay outside the auction’s payment system, claiming the online system isn’t working or money is needed quickly for an emergency. That’s a danger sign. If you pay outside the secure online auction system, you’ll end up losing money – and the item you wanted to buy.
  8. Don’t hit “reply” or click on links in an email message, even if it looks like a message from the auction site or online payment system. You might end up on a “spoof” site that imitates a legitimate site but is actually a scam set up to steal your information, or you could be tricked into downloading malware onto your computer. 

For more information about online auction buying, go to the Federal Trade Commission site: consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0522-online-auctions-buyers.

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