Attorney General Headshot

Attorney General Jason R. Ravnsborg

Attorney General Seal

Attorney General Long Urges Consumers to Use Caution on Internet Auction Sites

Attorney General Long Urges Consumers to Use Caution on Internet Auction Sites 

PIERRE, S.D. - Attorney General Larry Long is warning South Dakota consumers to use caution when taking part in Internet auctions. Internet auction sites offer consumers a unique way to buy and sell merchandise worldwide, but some consumers get scammed by Internet auction sellers. The Division of Consumer Protection reports recent consumer complaints where individuals have wired money for what they thought were legitimate online auction transactions and then never received the purchased item. 

Here are some tips to consider before starting your online auction adventure: Before bidding:

  • Know the auction site. Never assume that the rules for one auction site apply to another.  
  • Find out what protections the auction site offers buyers.   
  • Know exactly what you are bidding on. Read the seller’s description of the item or service and review any pictures closely. Understand the actual condition such as "refurbished," or "used".  
  • Determine the relative value of the item before you bid.  
  • Find out everything you can about the seller. Review feedback ratings.  
  • Read the fine print and understand the seller’s return policy and determine the shipping costs-this can significantly add to the total cost of the item.

When bidding:

  • Determine what your top price will be and do not go above that price.   
  • Retain all transaction information. Keep copies of all the seller’s information, item description and the time, date and price of item that you had bid on. In addition, keep copies of any email correspondences that might have been exchanged during bidding process.


  • Pay with a credit card whenever possible. Then, if necessary, you can seek a credit from the card issuer if the merchandise is not delivered or is misrepresented. Ask to pay by using an escrow agent if you must pay by certified check or money order.   
  • Never give out your social security number, credit card numbers or bank account information until you have adequately checked out the seller and the online payment service they are using.   
  • Before you decide to use any online payment service, know the terms and conditions of their agreement.  
  • Do not wire money and be suspicious of sellers who insist on wire transfers as the only method of payment. There is no protection for this type of transaction.

It is also important to avoid doing business with sellers you can’t identify, especially those who try to lure you off the auction site with promises of a better deal. By going off-site, buyers lose any protections they originally had such as insurance and feedback. Con artist will also try to lure you with "second chance" offers. At the close of an auction the seller offers the buyer a second chance to purchase the item they just bid on. Again the buyer will lose any protection the original auction site might provide if they go offsite to buy. 

Also beware of "phishing" emails sent directly to you asking for your password or other personal information. These emails have the appearance of a legitimate auction sites right down to the logo and language, but by clicking on the link you will be redirected to a scam site. If you are suspicious of an email you have received contact the auction site by phone or logging on directly to their website. 

If you need additional information about Internet auctions or would like to file a complaint regarding an internet shopping experience, contact the South Dakota Division of Consumer Protection at 1-800-300-1986 or