The Checkout

Going, Going, Gone!

Now's your chance to win a solar-powered flashlight!

Continuing its campaign to teach consumers about online safety with a big dose of humor and creativity, the Federal Trade Commission has a quiz to test your knowledge about using Internet auctions. Some of the questions are downright simple (for example "True or False: The term Internet auction refers to the sale of computers online." That's false, of course). But that, along with the solar-powered flashlight, will get you laughing while you learn such things as not to use a wire transfer to pay for items won in online auctions. In fact, the quiz says you should be suspicious of someone who will only accept payment by wire. What's more, there's no recourse if you have a problem. Credit cards, on the other hand, are a good alternative, especially because the credit-card issuer will often refund the money if the product is never delivered or isn't what you ordered.

As for returns, sellers are not required by law to accept them. So, before you buy online (auction or no auction), you should check the seller's policy--and also find out who's responsible for postage.

In 2005, the FTC received 80,450 complaints about Internet auctions (most of the complaints are about the behavior of a particular seller or buyer, not about a particular Internet auction site). That represents about 12 percent of the total number of complaints the agency received last year, just behind the top complaint of identity theft.

The agency has a number of other games about online safety that prove learning can be fun. Check them out.

By  |  April 18, 2006; 8:00 AM ET Consumer Tips
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

As a long time eBay seller, the quiz was 4200 points. I wish they had a question like:

Once you pay for an item that you won on-line, how long should you wait to ask the seller if the item has been shipped?

1) One Day
2) Three days
3) Seven days
4) Ten days

I've had a number of customers pay for an item and less than two hours later ask if the item has been shipped. Other complain the next day if they haven't received it. I guess they think a computer is involved, things, including delivery, happen at lightspeed too.

Posted by: Alan | April 18, 2006 11:41 AM

Alan -- can you put a disclaimer on your item that you are auctioning saying that shipping will be x number of days after payment clears?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2006 5:55 PM

There's no flashlight to win :(

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2006 8:32 PM

That seemed extremely lightweight, and more glitz than substance. I wonder how much they spent on it.

Posted by: John McH | April 19, 2006 7:32 PM

Already do - auctions state that all items will be shipped within 48hrs of receiving payment.

It's the impatient ones who think that every seller is open and staffed 24 hrs a day and can't stand to wait that I have a problem with. They want instant responses and these types would probably be better visiting store fronts rather than shopping on line.

Posted by: Alan | April 20, 2006 10:37 AM

Great Link, cute idea. I really liked the quiz, format, etc. Good for the young emerging generation, and for many of the young at heart generations. Folks who are already knowledgeable will do well, those getting started in all matters financial will learn and maybe retain some useful hints and dispel some myths and myth-conceptions.

Posted by: me | April 20, 2006 11:41 AM

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