I’ve Been Scammed! What Now? A Guide for Buying on the Internet

It happens, you buy from a commissioner and something goes wrong. You don’t get your item, you get something that is horrible quality, or you are just unsure if they are trustworthy. Buying on the internet isn’t like real life because you can’t just pick it up at a store and observe the item, you can’t walk it up to the cash and make sure it goes into the bag and that you walk out the door with it.

So there is always a risk with ordering online, but don’t let that scare you away from ordering! Personally I have never had a bad experience buying online, and I buy yugioh cards, wigs, theater makeup, books, cds, and clothes.  But I know it happens, I’ve seen the stories of people where a commission just went wrong and they don’t know what to do – so this guide is here to help.

Lets start with prevention

Before buying online you should take steps to prevent scams.

1) Do research on the seller.
If you are buying on Ebay read the customer feedback, if there is anything less than 100% positive feedback do a quick read through for the negative reviews, what was the issue? Sometimes it is just something silly but if it was that bad of a situation then people will leave a lengthy negative comment to help you avoid that seller.

Next you should do a quick search of the seller’s name or shop name with “reviews”. If you find nothing they may be a new seller of they typically have good service. If they are bad, then you will know. For example LimeBarb is a commissioner I have seen both good and bad reviews for so a quick google search of  “LimeBarb Reviews” gives me an entire review on a Lulu costume that was commissioned from the seller.

It’s also worth checking out the Commissioner / Merchant Review Thread on cosplay.com, there are tons of reviews on a variety of sellers so you can see what other cosplayers have experienced with them. Make sure you leave your feedback there too, to help everyone else.

2) Use Secure Payment Methods
This is where I recommend PayPal. For one, it is most widely accepted and if a site refuses paypal then they are probably not worth trusting.  What paypal does is act as a wall between you and the seller, preventing the seller from getting your credit card or other financial information, keeping you safe from fraud or identity theft.  They also deal with other buyer protection in case you don’t receive the item or get something that was not as advertised.

It is also helpful to use your credit card, rather than cash, cheque or money order. A credit card allows you to dispute a payment with the credit card company should you not get your item.

Only buy on sites that are offering a safe web checkout process. Look for company logos like VeriSign and TrustE.  Sites with encryption display a locked padlock on the bottom of the browser.

3) Read a Seller’s Full Description, Shipping and refund policies.
What is the description of the item? An honest seller will note things like that it was previously worn, or have a small hole or whatever issue there might be with the item. They might also list information about proper size measurements (since sizes differ from north america to europe to asia) and can prevent unhappy surprises. Sometimes shipping to other countries might take a long time, make sure to note where they ship and how long it takes. Also check their refund policies, some places offer no refunds, some offer exchanges, others will fully refund. Find out now before you run into issues.

4) Contact a Seller, make sure they can reach you and you can reach them
Generally I like to ask a simple question if I am unsure of the seller or product, if they respond you know they are there. Make sure you also offer a valid email so that they can contact you too. Especially for commissioners that aren’t on ebay, you want an easy way to keep in touch!

5) Save Stuff
Print a copy of the email saying it was shipped, have a copy of the contract, have all your conversations with the seller saved until you are complete and happy with your order.  If the seller is unwilling to resolve the issue then you may need them to prove your case!

6) Order Early!
if you want something in time for a con then you will want to order early, that way if a situation occurs you can still receive your item on time.

It Happened, Now What?

Okay so you ordered from a seller and now you are unhappy lets first target the issue:

1) It never arrived
Before jumping to conclusions, lets find out what happened. Check your invoice that says it was shipped. What day was it shipped and how long did it say it would take? Usually the mail doesn’t ship on weekends, so make sure you were counting business days. If there were any recent holidays that the mail would be stopped, then it may take an extra day to ship. Make sure you waited the full length of time it said it would take before freaking out. If you have tracking (which is worth paying for if you are buying something like a full costume) then you can also check it to see where your package is currently.

Have you waited the full-time and it still hasn’t arrived? First contact your post office, if it was sent in a package and nobody was home to sign for the delivery then it will be there. They usually leave a note on your door or mailbox but you may not have gotten it, so check first. Remember the delivery name will be under the shipping address’ name!

Still nothing? Contact the seller about the issue, they may be able to resolve the issue. Sometimes there are just mistakes, and what makes a great seller is their customer service. Try to resolve the issue with them and it can work out for the best for you. If they don’t respond to your emails or refuse to help with the situation then start the next steps:

If you paid through paypal you can report the situation through the Paypal Dispute Resolution Page

If you paid through your credit card you can contact your credit card company, most offer online protection.

If you bought through eBay then you can go to the Resolution Center and after reviewing your case you can be eligible for a full refund. Also, keep in mind there are deadlines for opening a case—usually within 45 days of making payment on an item

1b) It went to the wrong address!
First is this your fault or their fault? If you imputed the wrong address and it ships then note that you are the one who should be doing all the chasing and while the seller can help, if they have already shipped it then it can end up being your loss.

First send a message to the seller as soon as possible. If you can catch them before they ship the item then there shouldn’t be an issue. If the item has already been shipped then you should still talk to the seller so you can get them to track it down, if they go to the post office they can recall the package and it will be returned to them. If it was your mistake you may have to pay additional shipping fees for it to be resent. This method is more successful if you have a tracking number associated with your package.

If your seller will not help you or is not responding, contact the shipping service! If the issue is because you have recently moved you can set up mail forwarding so anything sent to your old address that is addressed to you will go to your new address. The united states postal service has this option online, and other postal services should have it available online as well. Otherwise your postal service may help redirecting the package to get to you, or your closest post office.

Otherwise, hope that the mail is sent to a non-existing address and is returned to sender, or that the person who receives the package returns to sender. If you are at fault for the mishap  you may have to pay the delivery fee a second time.

2) It wasn’t as advertised
So you order your item and it isn’t as advertised, that sucks because you are not getting what you paid for! Lets start by observing the item. How bad is it? If it is something small and fixable (ex. a wig is a bit messy) than you are probably better off doing the touch up yourself. If it is not something you can fix, or is not something you want to fix (ex. size measurements off) then your first step should be to check the seller’s return policy. Some sellers will only take an item in its original packaging or unworn, you want to make sure that you don’t do anything that will prevent you from being able to return it!

Next, contact the seller. Make sure to include all the information about the issue and what you want the next steps to be. Lets say something came in the wrong size, explain the size issue and then say if you want a refund, if you want to exchange it for a proper size, or possibly a partial refund for you to take it to a tailor near you. Keep in mind their return policy, if they say absolutely no refunds in there then you should aim for an exchange.

So was the seller unreasonable, or they didn’t respond at all?
If you bought the item through ebay then you can contact them about the situation and they should help you deal with the seller. If you bought through a different auction or store site (such as etsy.com) then you can contact the site for help.

After Steps

Okay so you did what you could and it was hopefully resolved well, but you may still be upset with the seller – especially if they decided to ignore your emails or just offer bad customer service after the mishap. So what can you do now?

Write a review! If you have a blog or website write a review there, or throw one in your deviantart journal or somewhere on cosplay.com, and definitely put one in the Commissioner / Merchant Review thread. This will help more reviews become available for other people looking to buy from that seller, and it may help the same situation from being repeated!

Leave Feedback. If you bought from ebay then you can leave it on the ebay feedback but you may also leave it on the commissioner/seller’s website or shop if they have a space for it. It might help the seller notice their bad ways and reform or avoid similar issues in the future.

Feel free to share your own tips and experiences in the comments

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One Comment on “I’ve Been Scammed! What Now? A Guide for Buying on the Internet”

  1. Pete Parsons says:

    One piece of advice I have always found useful is to always pay for stuff with your credit card, that way if a dispute occurs, your credit card company will fight on your behalf


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