Buying resale bags online is terrifying. I’ve been there, done that more than a dozen times, and sending a thousand dollars or more to a stranger in exchange for a bag which I have not yet seen in person does not get any less nerve-racking after repeated attempts. In fact, I’m feeling a bit of residual anxiety just thinking about it.

If you’re thinking about taking the eBay or Bonanzle plunge for the first time in search of your one true bag love, the number of hurdles that stand in the way of a successful purchase can seem daunting. Let my past experiences be your guide – we’ve got five ways to get yourself started on the path toward resale shopping success.

1. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. This is the first and most important rule of online resale shopping. An Hermes Birkin for $100? Don’t do it, honey. The seller has a dozen Balenciaga bags, all in the same hard-to-find 2005 color, listed at the same time? Run the other way. If you find your dream bag on eBay or Bonanzle and it’s going for a fraction of the original price, it’s probably fake. If you’ve got a bag in mind, look up old transactions and find out how much the real thing goes for when resold or consult the Online Deals threads in PurseForum’s brand sections for links to authentic bags that our members have found.

2. Know your payment options. PayPal, Western Union, Google Checkout, bank transfer, mailed check…which ones are safe? Are any of them safe? Never do a bank or wire transfer or mail a check unless you can trust the seller with your life (and really, even then, don’t). PayPal and Google Checkout have more safeguards in the event that your bag is damaged or fake, but no system is foolproof. Using a credit card with a liberal chargeback policy (I’d suggest American Express) through a third-party transaction partner like PayPal is probably your safest option (and the only one that is technically allowed on eBay), but make sure to read the terms and conditions of any service or credit source before you spend your money.

3. Educate yourself and consult the experts. Our PurseForum is great, and I’m not just saying that as a veteran member and moderator. The people that post over there are an absolute wealth of information about bags present and past, and most sections also have a very dedicated, knowledgeable group of volunteer authenticators that will give you their opinions on resale bags that may have caught your eye. Remember, though, they’re just opinions.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. After you’ve learned about the bag and what best indicates authenticity, make sure you get any necessary pictures that weren’t already included in the seller’s listing. If he or she expects you to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a bag, you have every right to every last photo that you want in order to assure yourself that you’re getting what you think you are. If the seller hems and haws about providing additional photos or information, it might be a good idea to walk away. Which leads us to…

5. Listen to your gut. If something seems off about the bag or the seller, don’t ignore it. Even if you can’t but your finger on exactly what’s wrong, that suspicion is likely there for a reason. Another must-have purse will always come along; don’t risk your hard-earned dollars on a purchase that might come with some, uh, baggage.

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