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Money Helps: Recovering money after an auction gone bad.
July 14, 2005: 11:29 AM EDT
By Ellen McGirt, MONEY Magazine.
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NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) - I bought a camera on eBay and it didn't work. The seller shrugged, so I filed a claim with PayPal's buyer-protection program. I was told to get a repair quote (which cost $50) and return the camera ($15). Then they denied the claim! Now no one answers my calls.

-- Jacqueline Evans, Villanova, Pa.

ANSWER First of all, answer your phone, PayPal!

As for the buyer-protection program, PayPal protects you only if you bought from a seller who has at least 50 feedback points and a 98 percent approval rating on eBay (which you did).

The company doesn't simply cut you a check if you cry foul. If there's a problem, PayPal first contacts both parties to investigate the claim and work out a solution. In this case, they asked you to get a repair quote and to prove that you returned the product. You did all this.

Then came the glitch: PayPal's computer system didn't recognize the tracking number of your package, and because it cyber-seemed you hadn't complied, it closed the case and left you hanging. And calling. And calling.

"It was our mistake," says PayPal rep Amanda Pires, "so we made her whole." Within a week of our call, you had been reimbursed for the camera (but alas, not for your time).

Q. My wife's sister asked for our new daughter's Social Security number to buy her a savings bond online. I'm wary of giving it out -- not to my sister-in-law, but to any group. Should I be?

-- John Diddams, Marquette, Mich.

ANSWER A timely question, given the increase in identity theft. The Treasury Department's web site confirms that a Social Security number is required for the purchase of a bond.

But because it's only used for tracking, as opposed to taxation, it doesn't have to be your daughter's number. (Incidentally, you can't use another tracking mechanism -- a driver's license number, say -- even though federal taxes on EE bonds are deferred until redemption.)

You have two options: Ask your sister-in-law to buy the bond using her own SSN, which is less in need of protection than your daughter's, and put it in an online "gift box" for safekeeping, or have her put the bond in an account using your name and number (you must be 18 to have an account).

You'll be able to hold on to it and then transfer it to your daughter when she's old enough to cash it in.

Click here for more Money Helps.

Got a question about money? Have a financial or red tape nightmare? Need an advocate or some good advice? E-mail Ellen McGirt at  Top of page


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