Buying or selling anything brings you into contact with people that you’ve never met before. Sometimes those new people may be dishonest and trying to scam you – either for money or to obtain an item you’re selling for free. With transactions increasingly occurring online, it can be more difficult than ever to ensure the person or organisation you’re dealing with is legitimate. These tips could help.
Classified sites like Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace can be a great way to sell your unwanted items or pick up a bargain, but they can also provide opportunities for fraudsters to take advantage of you. Here’s how you can avoid losing out:
- As a buyer, it’s important to be wary of anything that looks too good to be true. Classified ad scammers will often advertise an item at a lower price than comparable items to make it seem like a great deal. Warning signs to look for include payment being requested up front, or the seller making an excuse about why they can’t meet in person. Conversations are often quickly steered away from these public websites to private email or instant messaging apps so the fraudsters can avoid being tracked. Once payment is made, it’s common for fraudulent sellers to simply disappear, making it difficult to recall your money with no goods or services ever provided. Always do your research and read reviews to be certain you are dealing with a trusted seller. For expensive items, it’s recommended to inspect the product or ask a friend that lives nearby to inspect the item for you.
- If you’re selling something, it’s possible that you may be contacted by fraudsters as well as legitimate buyers. A common scam is an ‘upfront fee’ request, where the buyers ask for help paying a fee, from regular postage to large transportation costs, and promise to reimburse you later on, before disappearing.
- Another common scam is overpayment – the scammer will pay more than the asking price for the item and then contact you to apologise for the overpayment and request that the excess money is refunded. The cheque will then bounce or the credit card payment will be cancelled. Any money paid to the scammer will be lost and if the item has already been sent then that may be lost too. Never send an item until payment has cleared in your bank account.