Online Buying Safety Tips?
September 27, 2007 11:26 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to protect myself from seller fraud on eBay when using alternate forms of payment besides PayPal?

After reading the horror stories on, I'm appalled at PayPal's deceptive and unfair business practices, and I've decided to curtail my use of their service. However, I enjoy buying on eBay and I don't want to lose the ability to shop there, but I plan to buy primarily from sellers who accept other forms of payment besides PayPal. Thus, what's the best way to protect myself when paying in some other way?

Also, I heard that buying a cashiers check or money order with a credit card gives the same protections simply paying with a credit card would. If this is true, how does that work?
posted by snowleopard to Shopping (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've been using Paypal as a buyer and seller for more than five years now on eBay and on my own website. I have had zero issues, but I always follow the guidelines for safe transactions. You have to realize that only the unhappy people post at paypalsucks - you don't hear about all the satisfied customers.

Anyway, I don't know of any place that will sell you a money order using a credit card and a cashier's check comes directly from your bank account, so no protection there either.
posted by moosedogtoo at 11:29 AM on September 27, 2007

Google Checkout?
posted by UMDirector at 11:39 AM on September 27, 2007

I've done about 30 transactions using paypal, and it's painless as a buyer. I also set up our sailing club as a merchant to receive Paypal payments, and that went OK and so far no issues either.

I consider it to be a fairly safe system. You do know that Ebay owns Paypal, right?
posted by Artful Codger at 11:44 AM on September 27, 2007

Most places will not take a credit card for a money order. I've read big grocery stores with some sort of full-service customer service counter are most likely to do so (no idea if this is really true).

Your credit card company determines the conditions of its buyer protection policies, you'll have to look at your terms or contact them. I've never heard of a credit card company providing protection for purchases made with a credit card purchased money order before, I'd be sort of dubious of that assertion.

Otherwise AFAIK you don't have any recourse besides eBay's buyer protection policies and the usual caution of paying attention to feedback etc.
posted by nanojath at 11:46 AM on September 27, 2007

(No recourses as refers to money orders, that is - for buyers who offer straight credit card transactions, of course, you can take advantage of CC companies' purchase protection. I have to agree also that supporting eBay while avoiding PayPal is sort of pointless. Bad PayPal transactions really are the anomoly... though you wouldn't catch me using it for any really large transaction or leaving any significant amount of money in my account with them. I view it as a necessary evil of using eBay).
posted by nanojath at 11:50 AM on September 27, 2007

At the risk of also not answering the question, I similarly have been a happy Paypal buyer and seller for half a decade or more. A lot of the complaints I see written down are entirely reasonable things to be concerned about, however I think you'd be hard-pressed to find any financial institution that wouldn't have similar skeletons in their closet.

The remainder of the issues are a result of Paypal not being an actual bank, and therefor you don' t have the regulatory or legal recourses you would. Personally I simply accept these realities and remain cognizant of them, the same way I accept the quality of meat from McDs vs Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

I think it's worth noting that a lot of the complaints on paypalsucks are from people upset with the problems and lack of protections for you as a seller, not a buyer. If you want to cover your ass a little and intend to ever be a seller then you can buy with Paypal and sell with a more traditional merchant account.

I can recommend ProPay as a merchant account source, though they may not have any self-service options for your buyers and they may not want to share their CC with you. We use them to allow us to take credit cards at art shows and while their discount rate isn't great they also don't have a minimum, something that would kill you if you were only a once in a while seller.
posted by phearlez at 12:02 PM on September 27, 2007

I have been using Paypal and Ebay for more than four years both as buyer and seller. There are a few things I do consistently:

1. I ALWAYS pay with PayPal and only accept payments through PayPal
2. I will only buy from sellers with a feedback score of 99.5% or higher and have over 50 transactions
3. I keep ALL email correspondence with all buyers and sellers. I have had 2 disputes; one as buyer and one as seller. Because of the documentation I was able to support my case and PayPal honored the errors in my favor in both instances.

I hope this helps! Ebay is a lot of fun and I have found some GREAT deals on there!
posted by me_just_me at 12:08 PM on September 27, 2007

Open a PayPal account linked only to a credit card, not a bank account (I assume this is still an option). If PayPal tries to screw you over, you can dispute the charge with the credit card company, and have no worries about PayPal making unwanted withdrawals from your bank.
posted by exogenous at 12:21 PM on September 27, 2007

Never had a problem with Paypal and have been using them for 4 years+. Of course it sucks to lose your money but the people starting these websites are a tiny minority shouting very loudly.
posted by fire&wings at 12:25 PM on September 27, 2007

Apparently Postal Money Orders issued by the Postal Service have more legal teeth behind them, as they are issued by a department of the US Government with its own law enforcement division, the Postal Inspection Service. I have heard that they take the Money Orders seriously.
posted by marionnette en chaussette at 1:23 PM on September 27, 2007

I know my visa card just recently asked me if I wanted to add a password protection to it every time it was used online. Regardless of where it was used a menu would pop up I believe. I would send you the link but I'm having trouble finding it.
posted by thetenthstory at 1:25 PM on September 27, 2007

Any business has loud unhappy customers -- and I wouldn't be too sure that you can trust their version of events. In any case, PayPal's terms of service are pretty much the same as any other method of credit card payment, with a few minor perks (for both buyer and seller).

As I understand it, the people complaining on that web site are sellers complaining how easy it is for buyers to get their money back (which again, is the same as any other method of credit card payment, and most of the stories seem like people didn't pay attention to the terms they agreed to) so I don't think that should discourage you as a buyer.

Anyway, to more directly answer your question: There isn't much. Your best bet is paying with credit cards directly but that limits you to professional sellers who have their own merchant account.

You can find a list of payment services on this page (under "Some Examples") but few, if any, of those offer the same protection as using PayPal or paying directly with credit cards.
posted by winston at 8:41 PM on September 27, 2007

99+% of people have no issues. Just don't link(or add a cc and unlink) your paypal account to your bank account.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 8:13 AM on September 28, 2007

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