eBay is a popular auction and shopping site that has been around since 1995. Individuals and companies all over the world can buy and sell from eBay. The diversity of the people that go on eBay mean that you can find plenty of unique items to buy. However, because anyone can sell on eBay, it is not a hundred percent safe even though there are several safety features that the site puts in place to protect its buyers.

Is eBay Safe to Buy From - Auction HammerCredit: http://vectorain.com/files/wooden-hammer.html

This is not to say that it cannot be safe to buy from eBay. Making a purchase online on eBay or anywhere else has its risks and there things that a buyer can do to make buying anywhere safer for themselves and this is what this guide is about. We'll discuss the features on eBay that make it less likely for you to fall prey to unscrupulous sellers and how to make sure you buy safely on eBay.

eBay For Dummies
Amazon Price: $24.99 $7.91 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 29, 2016)
Whether you are looking to buy or sell on eBay, there's no better introductory book than eBay for dummies. The book will take you through the steps of signing up, finding bargains with eBay's search engine, getting the best deals, and finding out more about the seller.

Use eBay's feedback system

eBay has a feedback system that lets buyers and sellers rate one another for the transaction. Is eBay safe to buy from if you use its feedback system as a guide? It can be if you know how to scrutinize a seller's feedback to look for red flags.

What to look for in a seller's feedback:

The number of ratings for the past 1, 6, and 12 months
Sellers have a number beside that name that shows the total number of feedbacks. However, this feedback also includes feedback that they receive as a buyer and the total feedback they have received for the lifetime of the account. To get an accurate picture of how reliable a seller is, you'll need to check their feedback profile and pay attention to the 1 month, 6 months and 12 months feedback. A seller with a lower feedback who has been consistently receiving seller feedback may be more reliable than one who has a high feedback number but only a few of which are recent.

Look out for sudden increases in negative or neutral feedback
Even if a seller has a high total positive feedback, a sudden increase in negative feedback can signal a decrease in quality of product or shipping.

Read the negative and neutral feedbacks 
It is almost impossible for a seller to get 100% positive feedback on eBay because there will be one or two people who are exceptionally fussy and will leave a negative feedback for a perfectly fine transaction. Don't write off a seller because he's not 100% positive, read the negatives and neutrals to see what buyers are saying. Are they valid negative feedbacks or just one word feedbacks like "Bad" with no explanation? Pay close attention to whether many people are saying the same negative things about the seller or if it's just one or two people with multiple item purchases leaving all the negatives.

Read seller's response to the negative and neutral feedbacks 
Sellers are able to reply to feedback received and you can sometimes get a better idea of what's going on through their replies. Does the seller sound reasonable? Did he reply to the feedback with an explanation or has he gotten into a virtual shouting match with the buyer who left the negative? Did the seller even reply? I find it impressive when sellers respond to baseless negative feedback in a rational and proper manner. On the other hand, when sellers provide no explanation but poke fun of the buyer or leave an angry reply, it makes me think twice about buying from them.

Look at the prices of items being sold if available
Recent listings will usually show the title and price of the item. This is an important detail to pay attention to if you are buying an expensive item. Even if all the ratings are positive, are they for many cheap items or are they for items that are similarly priced? I say this because I've seen listings from China sellers that put up electronic products at impossibly cheap prices (e.g. something that usually goes for $500 gets listed at $100 and is not an auction). On examining their feedback, it shows that they've been selling thousands of $0.99 products but have no feedback for the newer, more expensive items.

Look at the detailed seller ratings (the numbers too, not just the stars)
The detailed selling ratings show the average rating for a seller's item description, communication, shipping time, and shipping charges. Lowest ratings are 1 star and highest are 5 stars. However, just looking at the stars alone do not give a full picture. Some buyers do not know that the lowest rating you can give is 1 star or do not rate all of the components so the ratings end up skewed. To get a better picture of the ratings, you should also look at the numbers for each component. For example, in the screenshot below, you can see that the ratings for item as described, communication, and shipping time have lower numbers than shipping and handling charges. You could probably assume that buyers were happy with how much they were charged for shipping and handling but not as many agreed with the other three even though the ratings are all high. This does not mean that you have a bad seller, just that you might want to pay more attention to reading the description and the estimated delivery time or expect the seller to be a little slower in replying messages.

seller feedback

Other ways to buy safely from eBay

In many cases, looking at the feedback alone will tell you a lot about a seller. However, feedback if not the only thing you can look at to decide whether a transaction with a seller would be safe. You can and should also examine the item listing as well as learn about the payment methods available and what buyer protection you can get from eBay.


Further reading for buying on eBay

eBay Hacks, 2nd Edition: Tips & Tools for Bidding, Buying, and Selling
Amazon Price: $24.95 $4.95 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 29, 2016)
This is another excellent book on buying on eBay. Most eBay books are written for the seller or complete beginners but this one has plenty of useful tips for both new and intermediate buyers (as well as sellers). Learn how to snipe and use other bidding strategies to get you the best price in auctions, filter out the bad sellers from the good ones, and if necessary, get a refund for transactions gone wrong.