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Tips for Sizing Up the Invisible Seller

Ask the seller for a phone number and call it.

Use an escrow service, which holds your payment until you inspect the item.

Check the seller's feedback carefully. Scrutinize the users who have provided feedback on the seller and what they say they purchased.

Be wary of sellers who ask you to wire money overseas, especially to Eastern Europe, and of those who request that payment be mailed to post office boxes.

Use a credit card. It can be safer to pay this way because of the extra protection many credit card companies offer. Some online payment services also provide such coverage.

Be wary of a combination of suspicious elements, like several short simultaneous auctions of expensive items by one seller who does not list reserve prices; opening prices that seem irregularly low; offers to pay shipping; and little or no feedback.

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