From time to time, I talk to people who have spent good money on what they believed to be bullion, only to find out later that they have paid out in error.
I've seen an increase in people making contact, so I thought that I'd offer some guidance to prospective buyers of bullion, (although it can apply in most cases, to buying anything on eBay).
How can you protect yourself on eBay? A few simple steps usually work.
Buy yourself a comprehensive testing kit. For gold, it's not enough to buy acid that says "yes or no"; Go for a full kit, either acid or electronic, that will at least differentiate between 9 carat, 18 carat and 22 carat. Then, there will be less chance of falling for 9 carat gold sold as 22 carat gold scam. Learn how to test plated metal as well.
Buy yourself an electronic weighing scale that measures to TWO decimal places. Check that the item that you have bought weighs exactly (or very closely to) what it should.
Don't make a buying decision based on fuzzy photos (made by cameras where the flash or focus "doesn't work properly" or the seller "doesn't know how to use the camera properly", but has excellent photos in every other listing!). If the listing has no photo, ask for one. A genuine seller should be able to respond very quickly. Always get photos of both front and rear of coins.
Google the eBay ID of the seller or, if it's a business seller, Google the phone number or business details. You may be astounded by how much information this small action can throw up on a seller, especially if they have past "form".
Check guides and forums. You may be amazed at how much of the resulting information you will find by "Googling the ID" is actually on eBay itself, usually in guides or forums. If you're trying to be serious about protecting yourself, look for eBay guides generically related to the item you're buying - you may find information that is not obvious elsewhere.
Keep to eBay and pay by PayPal. Although some people may think that eBay advise you not to do private deals off eBay for their own revenue protection, all buyers should see the sense in keeping to the eBay deal and paying by PayPal. By doing so, all buyers will receive buyer protection, (but see my other guide). In any case, eBay fees are only incurred by sellers, so buyers have really nothing at all to gain by making a "cash" offer, only the risk of ending up with nothing.
Research the item that you're looking to buy. What does it normally sell for? Does it really exist? (I'm inclined to think of a 1910 Victorian Sovereign that I recently saw on eBay - apparently minted 9 years after the death of Queen Victoria!). Check completed eBay listings for prices recently realised. If the item you are bidding on goes significantly higher, consider the reasons for this. Legitimate reasons include a certain rarity for that particular item; illegitimate ones may include shill bidding and price ramping, much easier now that eBay hide bidders' identities.
Check seller feedback and performance ratings. Not wholly trustworthy, but they'll give you an idea of reputation. Has the seller just joined eBay or have they been around for years?
Set your price limit and stick to it. If the item evades you this time, wait for another one to come around again.
Ask other eBayers for advice. Most eBayers won't mind giving you an opinion as long as you don't pester them for years on end - after all, as time goes by, you should become more of an expert yourself and be able to assist other eBay buyers!
These are not the sole points to be taken into account when buying, but keeping to them should help you buy bullion more safely.
Enjoy eBay, but.....buy wisely, buy safely!
Some simple pointers to buying bullion safely on eBay.
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1 July 2008
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