Payment - your money or your life?

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Hi all, hope you're well.

I've never written a guide before so I thought I'd look at a few others before doing so. In researching, I noticed nearly every guide was about an awful experience, usually ending up with poor/fake/no goods and being out of pocket.

I too have been burned a few times but thought I would set the matter to rights upon payment; bury a few myths.

With regards to Paypal, I have no comment to make on its security or buyer protection scheme. I've never had my details stolen and I've never had to rely on buyer protection, so if anyone else out there can comment on Paypal as a whole, your comment will be a welcome extra to this guide. Please note: to my knowledge, this applies to UK BANKING LAW ONLY - US buyers, I'm so sorry but your banking laws are more in the corporations' favour than the citizens' and, in your country, if you get ripped off, you've very little recourse. My sympathies. This review is based on my experience whilst working in banking and liaison with the FSA (Financial Services Authority).

One thing I will say - I live in the UK, where the laws on credit/debit card payments are truly in favour of the SELLER. Chip and PIN, anyone? How is typing in your PIN number in a store full of people EVER going to be safer than your signature? Because, if the shop accepts a dodgy transaction based on a fake signature, that's their problem, according to the banks. But if you let your PIN slip, your fault! Its all about protecting store profits. Same reason cheques are no longer being accepted.

I mention this for those with more limited budgets or, like me, a less than efficient handle on personal finance! Paypal have up to 180 days to claim payment from your account. Yes, that's right, 6 months. In all fairness, the longest they've taken with me is 4 weeks but, still, when you think you've some money and then a CD you bought last month suddenly eats your last £10, it can be a bummer, so watch out.

BUT: Fraud has one, inalienable right in the UK. Rarely published, as card providers hate having to do it, but... if you have been defrauded and have paid by CREDIT card, you can advise your card provider to freeze payment. The card provider can enter the accused fraudster's account until such time as the matter is resolved. This will require only limited proof on your part and cannot be stopped by either seller or their bank. BE WARNED: if you do this when it is not fraud - i.e. you're just a dis-gruntled buyer, your credit card provider WILL charge you. A lot. But, if it's legitimate, it's free. Note - the amount will not be recredited to your balance until the matter is resolved in your favour - i.e. you will still pay interest on it.

Now, for those clever ones who ditched their credit cards and use DEBIT cards instead, well done you and even better! You are entitled to ask the bank to make a RETENTION CLAIM. The bank will reclaim the money from the seller's account and put it back in yours - even if the seller's spent it! Their bank is legally obliged to refund you and then chase the seller for the money. Again, however, BE WARNED - if you do this as a disgruntled customer with no real argument, the bank will come down on you very hard. Worst-case scenario - the bank can claim YOU tried to defraud an honest seller and refer your account to the law (we are talking cases which stretch into the thousands here but it's useful to know the potential power the banks have).

Cheques. Same story. Yes! If you can set a good case for fraud to your bank, they can reclaim the cheque (even if cashed) via a retention claim, as above. So the buyer with the RADLEY BAG guide who lost £63 - as long as it's fairly recent (3 months I believe) you can ask your bank to run a retention claim on your cheque.

Postal Orders. KEEP YOUR RECEIPT! If you keep your receipt, which is the equivalent of the counterfoil on the old order, you can claim your money back.In disputed matters, by the way, if the buyer agrees to refund you after you've used postal orders, they are NOT obliged to refund you the commission rate you paid on the Postal Order, only the value.

Last, but not least - cash. One word of advice when it comes to posting cash - DON'T!!! Are you MAD? You have no claim, no proof and no recourse.

Thankfully, most buyers and sellers, in my experience, are pretty honest. But it never harms to be prepared. All the best and happy shopping!

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