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Online auctions can be a lot of fun and can help you find good deals, but they also attract cybercriminals.

A common auction scam is when cybercriminals claim the winner of an auction that you bid on has pulled out, and offer the item to you for payment outside the auction site. Once you've paid, you won’t hear from them again and the auction site won’t be able to help you.

Here are some tips to help protect yourself:

  • Always make your transaction within the auction website and avoid private contact with buyers or sellers.
  • Keep printed and/or electronic records of all bids, item descriptions, emails to and from the seller, and transaction records or receipts.
  • If making an expensive purchase, consider using a reputable third-party escrow service to hold the funds until you receive your goods.
  • If the website uses a feedback rating system, check reviews and rating scores left by previous buyers.
  • Read the terms and conditions before using an online auction site or entering into any contracts. Established marketplaces like eBay, Etsy and CarSales offer dispute resolution processes if customers have concerns.