As a buyer, it’s important to ensure your personally identifiable information remains safe, including at auctions.

Is your personal information safe with an auction company? To participate in an auction, whether bidding online or in person, most auction companies require personally identifiable information. This information ranges from your name, address, and home phone number to email address and cell phone number. Some companies go as far as asking for the last four digits of your social security number, or a copy of your government-issued photo identification. 

How to tell if an auction is legitimate

Why does an auction company need such information? To understand the answer to this question, we need to understand how auctions work. In most auctions, companies provide prospective buyers (registered bidders) an unlimited line of credit. To maintain the integrity of the auction, all parties (buyers, sellers, and auction companies) require a great deal of trust. The company typically knows a lot about the seller. To level the playing field, they require a similar amount of information about prospective buyers. 

How can you be sure your personally identifiable information is safe with an auction company in today’s world of cyber attacks, data breaches, and stolen identities?

Here are a few tips to ensure your personally identifiable information is safe with an auction company: 

Website security

Check to make sure the auction company’s website is secure. Look for HTTPS to start the website address. The “s” indicates the connection from you to the website is a secure encrypted connection. If you see HTTP, the connection is not secure, and any information transmitted to the website is not encrypted. Be careful providing any information you wouldn’t want leaking to the world on sites that use HTTP rather than HTTPS.

Privacy policy

Does the website have terms of service and a privacy policy? If so, review both documents. Generally found when you create an account, also look for links prominently displayed on the website (usually at the bottom of the page). These documents provide valuable information on how the company handles information shared with them. They also give you insight into your rights and recourse if there is a data breach. 

Terms and conditions

When you attend a live auction and receive a bidder number, pay attention to the terms and conditions you sign. They should include information about how they protect your personally identifiable information. If they don’t, you may wish to ask them how they protect your data. However, the person registering you may not know, so step out of line to get that answered by the auctioneer. 

Quantity of information

Watch the amount of information asked for by the auction company. The more personally identifiable information you give, the higher the risk to you in the event of a data breach. More information doesn’t necessarily mean the company is doing less to protect you. Still, it might be something when coupled with other factors that creates a red flag for you. You might not be able to bid with confidence or perhaps not even register to bid with the company. 

This list includes a small amount of tips to ensure your personally identifiable information is safe with an auction company. If you feel uncomfortable, be sure to call the company and discuss how they safeguard your information. If the company doesn’t have a plan in place, weigh the pros and cons of working with that auction company. 

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