From a consumer’s perspective, paying for goods in advance by bank transfer carries the most amount of risk. If paying for goods in advance by bank transfer is the only method of payment accepted by the vendor, it is worth seriously considering whether you want to go ahead with the purchase. If you decide to go ahead, research the vendor carefully and find out as much as you can about them online. It is often impossible to get your money back in these circumstances if the goods never arrive.
Never use a payment service such as Western Union even if the vendor recommends it or gives you tips on how to make the transfer safely. Western Union has actually issued warnings about money transfer scams.
A credit card is a safer option than a bank transfer. If you pay by credit card and the vendor fails to deliver your goods or the goods turn out to be defective, you can complain to the vendor as well as your credit card company. According to the terms and conditions of most banks, similar principles apply to purchases made with debit cards.
Some online stores accept payments through companies that offer payment processing services. As a rule, it is better to choose a well-known operator than a small new company. Some payment processing companies also offer consumers added security for online shopping, either for free or against an extra charge.
The safest option is to pay against an invoice or with cash on delivery, as you will then only have to pay for your order once you have received the goods. However, most online stores do not accept payment against an invoice or cash on delivery on international deliveries.