Trust Seals & Escrows

Click on the Seal to Learn About Your Rights!

Some online businesses are part of "seal" or "trustmark" programs that certify that a business meets certain minimum standards. You can usually click on the seal or trustmark for more information. When you click on the seal or trustmark you may find that the program offers protections like a money-back guarantee or dispute resolution services.

Things to look for:

  • Seal Insurance Programs
    Some seal or trustmark providers offer insurance programs through which you can get your money back if you don't get the products or services you ordered. So, if you are unable to resolve a problem with a business, contact their seal or trustmark provider directly to see if they offer a money-back guarantee.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution Services
    Other seal programs offer alternative dispute resolution ("ADR") services. This means that if you are unable to resolve a dispute with a business, you may use a third party to help resolve it. If a business refuses to participate in the ADR process, it may lose its seal certification.
  • Other Protections
    Seal programs are adding new protections for consumers every day. Remember to click on the seal and/or contact the seal administrator to learn about the latest methods for resolving your complaint.

Escrow Services - Holding Payment Until You are Satisfied

In addition, some companies offer escrow services through which a third party (sometimes for a fee) can hold your money until you get the goods or services you ordered. If such service is available, you should consider using it so that payment is not made until you are satisfied with your purchase.

If you are not familiar with an escrow or online payment service (even if it is recommended by the company or auction house), use these tips to determine whether the service is legitimate or not:

  • Read the service's terms of agreement:
    • Does it offer buyers any remedy if sellers don't keep their end of the bargain?
    • Does it prevent sellers from accessing their funds if buyers are not satisfied with the product?
    • Who pays for credit card charge backs or transaction reversal requests? If the online payment service cannot recover the loss from the seller, it might try to recover the loss from you, using the credit card or bank account information on file. (Some experts say you should consider reserving a credit card, stored-value card or bank account for online transactions only.)
  • Check out the service's privacy policy and security measures.
    Don't use the service if there are no protections for your financial or personal information. You should know why information is being collected, how it will be used, and how it will be safeguarded.
  • Check out the online payment or escrow service's Web site.
    A site of poor quality - for example, uses misspelled words or claims that the service is affiliated with the government - is suspect.
  • Call the customer service line.
    If there isn't one - or if you call and can't reach someone - don't use the service.
  • Find out how the online escrow service processes transactions.
    Avoid sites that don't process their own, but instead require users to set up accounts with online payment services.

If you are concerned that an escrow or payment service may not be legitimate, report your complaint.