If it looks too good to be true it probably is.

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We all love a bargain, and that's what makes ebay so popular, but how can you protect yourself from unscrupulous sellers in an internet auction? Simple, just a few careful checks and precautions can see you trade safely on ebay without stress. It's not foolproof, but it's worked for me.

That computer you would love to have and been drooling over in the shop suddenly appears on ebay starting at $1. Now you know it's worth at least $4000 and has only been released a couple of weeks. What do you do?

Well, some buyers go WOW, what a bargain! and bid straight away.

Not you. You are going to learn how to be a careful ebayer by learning a few simple tips:

1. Always look at the feedback if the item looks too good to be true. It's good practice to check all seller feedback.

2. Look at some of the items that have been sold, have their been similiar items in the past? This could indicate genuine transactions but not always.

3. When looking at previous sales check out the bidders lists, often items are 'bid up' to make the sales look good. This is called SHILL bidding and is prohibited on ebay. If you see a bidder on too many items to be considered reasonable steer away.

4. Does the listing ask you to contact the seller via an email address in the item description? This is a sure sign of something 'not quite right' and could indicate a hijacked account. Good ebayers always use the correct procedures and will always use the 'contact the seller' option in the upper right hand corner of the item. There may be exceptions to this where a listing might have an additional contact email, but not the main.

5. Does the seller ask you to contact them for a 'buy it now' price rather than using ebays correct buy it now listing feature? A sure sign of something else 'not quite right.'

6. Does your heart tell you YES but your head say 'hold on, it's too good to be true?' If it does, steer away from this item.

So, you've gone through all the steps and you think you have a suspicious item in front of you. What do you do now? Leave it for someone else to deal with or hope that ebay will somehow find it?

Every item on ebay now has a 'report this item' option at the bottom of the listing. This option gives you the ability to report the item to ebay and help crack down on fraud, stolen goods, shonky sellers and all the other myriad of shady deals that go down on the internet.

As part of the ebay community, it is our responsibility to help create a safe trading environment in which to buy and sell.

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