Internet auctions

Updated: 3/31/2016

Before you participate in an Internet auction, there are things that are good to consider. 

A trader or a private person?

Find out if the seller is a trader or a private person. This is important because consumer protection only applies if you purchase from companies within the EU. When you buy something from a private person, the Sale of Goods Act applies. Find more information about purchase from a private person, go to Hallå konsument, The Swedish Consumer Agency's national information services website, to find your local consumer advisor. You find a link to the site next to this article.

Check the e-mail address of the seller

Be careful if the seller uses a free e-mail service, such as hotmail.com or yahoo.com. It is easy for a scammer to use false personal information. You can check if an email address is a free service by entering the domain name in your browser, for example, if the address is xxxx@mail.com enter www.mail.com and check the website. If the website offers free email service it means that the trader does not act on a fixed e-mail subscription. It is then more likely that the person uses false personal information. For more information on what you should consider before you buy anything online, you get through the "Checklist for E-Commerce", find the link next to this page.

Be aware of…

… scammers that performs a variety of sales to small amounts which they run perfectly. In this way, scammers can build up a good reputation in the website's "feedback" section. Then they advertise an expensive product for sale and can easily carry out the fraud because buyers believe that the advertiser is serious.

Before the purchase

The fact that an article is asked out on sale does not mean that the auction company guarantees that the product actually exists or is of the quality promised. The auction companies are not responsible for promises made by the seller.

Remember, that it is impossible to inspect the goods before you get it. Save all photographs and descriptions of the product. Ask for delivery time, return policy and warranties. If there is a warranty, check if it is valid in Sweden and where to get the item repaired.

Some auction companies offer the buyer to take out insurance for any inaccuracies. Check with the auction company if they have one.

Payment and escrow companies

Payments and deliveries can be problematic. Sellers and buyers often do not know if they can trust each other. Therefore, many prefer to use payment intermediaries, so-called escrow companies, especially in the case of expensive purchases. Unfortunately, sometimes scammers pretend to be an escrow company. You should do very careful research before you hire an escrow company.

Things to consider when hiring an escrow company:

Avoid sending money to an unknown recipient.

  • Did you receive the advice/information from the seller on how to make "secure" payments? This advice can often be wrong and you could end up being cheated out of your money! (If you are going to use Western Union Money Transfer? Then you can call the Western Union call centre on telephone number 020 - 90 10 90 to get the correct information).
  • The control number is not necessary for the recipient to know about. In most countries, you can collect the money without a control number.
  • Payment intermediary's responsibility to you as a customer is for the money transaction. Their responsibility is not to ensure that you get the product or service you ordered.

If something goes wrong

  • It does not need to be a case of premeditated fraud each time a transaction goes wrong. Sometimes misunderstandings occur even when dealing with reputable traders. Always start with a complaint to the trader when you are dissatisfied. 
  • If you and the trader does not agree or if you cannot get in contact with the trader, contact the auction company. The auction company may act as a mediator in a conflict or convey contact with neutral mediators. 
  • If the trader is a business based within the EU, you can also contact the European Consumer Centre Sweden for advice. 

To avoid being scammed

Since there have been many fraudulent payment intermediaries you have to be attentive. Sometimes it works fraudulent intermediaries along with a fraudulent seller and sometimes both buyers and sellers deceived.

Fraud often starts with the seller suggesting make the deal outside of the auction company. The reason is usually for you to avoid paying commission to the auction company, which makes the product cheaper. But if you make the deal outside of the auction there is no way to report any inaccuracies to the auction company. You do not have the possibility to write a negative review about the seller on the auction site's feedback section. Skilled fraudsters often see to that they have a good reputation in the feedback section.

  • Never use a payment intermediary that the seller recommends. Always select a company yourself.
  • Select a payment intermediary that the auction company recommends or cooperates with. Some large Internet auction companies have their own payment intermediaries.
  • Never let the seller initiate communication with the payment intermediary. There have been cases of scammers pretending to represent a serious company in a very credible way. Contact the payment intermediary of the auction company guidelines yourself.
  • Do not use American payment intermediaries that say that they comply with "U.S. Financial and Business Code." There is nothing of that sort!
  • Do not use payment intermediaries who have amateur websites. There are frequent spelling and grammatical errors on deceptive company websites.
  • Do not use payment intermediaries who do not have information on their physical address and phone number. Without that information, you can never check if it really exists.
  • Do not use payment intermediaries that are using information that resembles a well-known company. Fraudulent payment intermediaries often have copied the information from a well-known company. They have also often improperly copied known trustmarks as "Verisign" and "Trust-e" and put them on their websites. Check with the Trustmark organization if the company really is certified.

Police Report Fraud

If you become a victim of fraud, you should report it to the police. Have you been betrayed by an American trader, you can also notify the Internet Fraud Watch operated by American "National Consumer League." Have you been betrayed by a British trader you can notify the “Consumer Fraud Reporting”. You will find links to the both of them next to this page.