Audiogon Recommends PayPal and Stripe Connect payments only, unless a credit card is accepted by the seller.
Payment methods vary dramatically in the level of safety, and some methods are not as safe as they might appear. One should use great care in evaluating each situation, and assume the worst when considering the options. It is up to each member to evaluate the risk vs. cost of each method, for every transaction. Beware of any seller asking you to do a wire transfer, send a check, money order or cashiers check. Audiogon recommends keeping all communication on-site and utilizing paypal or Stripe Connect as the payment method.
This is an independent service that allows electronic payment between two parties. Buyers can pay even private parties with a credit card, but they are NOT afforded the same protection when purchasing from a merchant who can accept credit cards. However, this service can be useful for a majority of private party transactions. Audiogon recommends Paypal for most transactions, and it is generally the safest way to buy and sell online, when their guidelines are followed. It is important to note that Basic listings require Paypal as the payment method. More about PayPal
Stripe Connect gives the Seller another secure option of accepting payments. This is a great solution for Sellers who would like to accept payment via credit card, but still keep the transaction through the Audiogon checkout service. A small processing fee of under 3% will be charged. Stripe Radar will be used to provide additional vetting of potential buyer, but ultimate responsibility to accept legitimate payment from good buyers rests on the Seller. Sellers will be held liable for any fraudulent charges and feedbacks made against them. Be very careful from where you receive payment.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to transact via cash unless you actually meet your trading partner. UPS and other shippers have limits on how much cash they will accept on a COD ($1000 for UPS), so very few transactions qualify for cash payment.
One should be extremely comfortable with someone before accepting a personal check. You can call the check writer's bank, and verify that there are enough funds in that particular account (have the check in hand when calling). This determines the availability of funds at that moment only, NOT necessarily by the time the check clears. After depositing a personal check, your bank may still withdraw the deposit for several days after. You should learn the exact policy of your bank, regarding the clearing of out of state personal checks.
Certified or Cashier's checks
In theory, a certified check is being guaranteed by the bank that issued it. The funds are withdrawn from the buyer's account before issuing the check. However, some certified checks can be cancelled by the account holder. Most of the above mentioned steps can be applied to both certified and personal checks.
There are many companies that issue money orders, including the Post Office. Money orders are generally safe vehicles of payment, but even they can be faked with modern home computers. Each issuer's money order will be different, so it is unlikely that you would know what a "real" one should look like. Postal (US) money orders are the closest to a standard that one could learn about how a real one looks and feels.
This is not recommended, or condoned by Audiogon due to the rampant fraud that is associated with this payment method, and the fact that there is no recourse to recover your payment in the event the transaction is fraudulent.
Some sellers can accept credit card payment, in which case the buyer is very well protected. Fraudulent charges are certainly possible, but most banks will refund all but $50 if you can prove a charge was fraudulent. However, these protections apply only if the seller is directly authorized to accept payment (as opposed to credit card payment via a third party as below). Credit card information should be exchanged ONLY via phone or fax. Do NOT email credit card numbers.
Unless you are extremely comfortable with your trading partner, you should consider the use of an "escrow service". These third party services, such as Escrow.com, guarantee a safe transaction for both parties. The buyer sends payment to the escrow company instead of the seller. The payment is cleared and held in escrow until the seller has delivered the item. Once the buyer receives and inspects the item, the escrow company will release the funds to the seller. However, even this method has some potential problems, such as a buyer claiming the item was not as described, and requesting a return. Generally speaking, if a seller will accept escrow, then the buyer should definitely consider the option.