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Online buying and selling safety tips

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According to, 96% of Americans have made at least one online purchase in their lifetime and 80% have done so in the past month. Internet marketplaces provide many advantages to sellers looking for potential customers and buyers searching for deals on hard-to-find products.

You can take advantage of buying and selling on online marketplaces by following these safety tips.

Know the platform

The platform you choose for your online buying or selling matters. For individuals looking to sell products online for the first time, check out our guide to online marketplace platforms (link to article).

Sellers should know that different marketplaces have varying levels of security when it comes to payment platforms. Make sure you know the marketplace’s policies on fraud and on accepting online payments. For example, a platform such as Etsy has great seller ratings and will help moderate seller/buyer disputes. Conversely, if you are listing your items on Craigslist, it is your responsibility to collect payment and deliver products. No matter what platform you use, honesty is the best policy. To avoid disputes, disclose any and all damage to the item you are selling.

When looking to shop online, you should take steps to avoid fake or scam websites. Use only sites with which you are familiar. It’s always best to stick to major sites such as or eBay when making online purchases. In addition, familiarize yourself with the return policy or payment dispute policy.  Knowing where you stand before making purchases can help you avoid future conflicts. 

Use safe payment methods

Similar to the marketplace you use, payment methods vary in the safety they provide. For both sellers and buyers, secure methods of payment include credit, debit or online services such as PayPal. Smaller transactions can also be completed in cash. These methods are safer for the buyer because they are not attached directly to your bank account and for the seller because they cannot easily be faked.

Avoid using wire transfer platforms such as Western Union and MoneyGram as your payment platform because they cannot be cancelled or reversed and are not easily trackable. Sellers and buyers should also avoid personal checks or bank accounts as they can provide unnecessary personal information to sellers and also might bounce before the transaction is complete.

Meet in public

If you plan to meet a buyer or seller in person to discuss an item, always set the meeting in a public place. This will reduce stress on everyone and ensure that the deal goes according to plan. If you are selling or purchasing something that cannot be moved into a public space, take a friend with you or alert others about where you are going and when to expect your return.

Don’t give too much information

When posting anything online, it’s best to provide as little personal information as possible. When posting or responding to a product listing, for example, avoid giving out your home address or phone number. When possible, conduct business through your email address and give out identifying information only when necessary. You should never give out your social security number or date of birth to make or complete online purchases.

With millions of transactions occurring online every day, there is typically little risk to individuals. However, there’s no reason to take risks. Safety should always come first when buying and selling items online. Check out our additional posts on the best platforms for online sellers and how to avoid online shopping scams.

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