BOSTON — *Spend time viewing sites to get comfortable with the process and the prices before bidding on anything.
*Read and use the auction companies' rating system for buyers and sellers. Know who is rating sellers. Positive ratings from actual buyers mean more than those the sellers' friends can offer.
*Call sellers on the phone to make sure they are who and where they say they are and to see if you're comfortable buying something from them.
*If possible, buy from a seller who can take a credit card. Some auction houses offer credit-card services to individual (noncorporate) sellers.
*Don't enter your credit-card number online unless you first see a message on screen telling you you're entering a secure site.
*If you're buying from a company rather than an individual, ask family and friends that have done business with the company for recommendations.
*Take advantage of any security measures auction sites offer - such as escrow services - especially for large purchases.
*Never respond to e-mail messages offering to sell you products that you bid for online and lost. Such offers are usually scams.
*If you encounter fraud, report it to the auction company, the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov), and the local police where the seller lives.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society