Trying to get rid of that old lawnmower? Maybe you’re finally ready to say goodbye to your favorite recliner. Now the hard part, how will you sell it?
There’s no need for a garage sale, these days most folks turn to online tools to find the right buyer or seller. Cyber marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist are a great resource and offer you a chance to connect with people you likely wouldn’t have found before.
But with these conveniences come some risks. Better Business Bureau Serving the Northwest knows scammers are constantly using these websites to rip off unsuspecting consumers. What’s more, these schemes can even turn dangerous as we’ve seen in many cases over the years. After all, to complete the deal, you often have to meet that buyer or seller in person. How do you know you can trust them? How do you protect yourself from fraud or danger?
There are many different scams used on sites like these, but con artists always seem to use a few proven methods.
How the Scam Works:
You are selling an item through an online service. A buyer contacts you, claiming to be interested in purchasing the item. They may offer you more money for the item if you accept a cashier’s check or money order rather than following the site’s usual checkout process. When the payment arrives, it is for more than the agreed upon purchase amount. The buyer claims to have made a mistake and asks you to return the difference by some untraceable method such as a wire transfer. The payment turns out to be a fake, and you’re out the money.
If you’re the buyer in an online purchase scam, the basic ploy is a simple one —you will not receive the items you paid for. The listing or website might be selling anything from a puppy to a used car. The seller may attempt to convince you to go outside the site’s usual payment methods or to complete a purchase for a big-ticket item, such as a car, sight unseen. The details and photos—often copied from a real seller’s listing—will look very real, but the low price may seem too good to be true —because it is!
Tips to Avoid This Scam:
Be aware that even though you’re able to cash a check or see funds recorded on your account statement, it may still be a fake. Your bank may even tell you a check has “cleared,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are in the clear—it can take several weeks to find out that a check has bounced.
When buying or selling on a site that offers protections to their customers, take advantage of them. If a buyer or seller tries to persuade you to go outside the site’s usual process or payment methods, that’s a big red flag.
Completing the deal:
If you have to meet the buyer or seller in person to complete the deal, be extra careful. BBB encourages you to meet in a safe, well-lit, public place to complete the transaction. Avoid going to the person’s home, and don’t let them come to your home either. Keep your personal information, like your home address, to yourself.
We also encourage you to check with your local law enforcement agency. Many are now offering safe pickup locations. Most times these are in an area under video surveillance, adding an extra layer of security. Most scammers will think twice about trying to rip you off if they have to go to a location like this.