15 tips to help you sell safely online -- and get paid : Internet Scambusters 1,041
When you want to raise some extra cash by offloading items you no longer need, you want to be able to sell safely and avoid scammers.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds or even thousands of these crooks actively scouring "for sale" ads online, trying to get their hands on your money, your stuff, or your personal identity information.
In this week's issue, we outline the most common online scams targeting sellers, together with 15 tips to protect yourself.
Let's get started…
How To Sell Safely Online - And Avoid Scams
You've been planning to declutter before the year is out. And the holiday season is a great time to sell your stuff online. But how can you sell safely and avoid getting scammed?
These days, there are more ways than ever to offer your unwanted items on the web - eBay, Craigslist, Facebook, local neighborhood sites, and more. But there are also more crooks than ever planning to rip you off - by tricking you into giving them money, by failing to pay, or by stealing your identity.
Here are some of the most common scams to watch for right now:
If you mail your item before receiving payment, or as soon as you receive a check, or if you believe an email that says you've been paid - for example, from PayPal - you're asking for trouble. Crooks may say they need the item immediately and urge you to mail it straightaway. Their check may be a dud. Or they fake an email from the supposed payment source - such as payment apps Venmo or Zelle - when they haven't paid at all.
Sometimes known as an advance fee scam, the crook sends a fake check or email as outlined above. They tell the seller they sent too much and ask for part of it to be wired back. Or they say they changed their mind or that the item was not what they expected and ask for the full amount to be refunded. They aim to get your money before you discover the check is a dud or your payment service never actually received the money.
3. Fake verification request
Your "buyer" says they're worried about being scammed and that they'll send a verification code for you to read back to them to prove you're legit. But the code doesn't really come from them. Pretending to be you, they may have asked your bank or cellular provider to send it. When you give it to them, they may be able to access your account.
4. Google Voice scam
A variation of the above. This time, the code comes from Google. Once you give it to the scammer, they have both your phone number and the code, which enables them to set up a Google Voice account using your phone number.
5. Requesting your bank details
This is the simplest of all identity theft tricks. The "buyer" asks for your bank account details so they can supposedly transfer the money directly. Pairing it with other stolen ID information, they can access your bank account and drain it.
6. Using stolen credit cards and accounts
Scammers pay with stolen bank account or credit card details bought on the Dark Web and have you mail your item to an address where they can pick it up or have it forwarded, usually to an overseas address. It can be tough to get compensation.
7. Bogus escrow
Escrow services are independent third parties or "middlemen" who hold payments until a deal closes. Crooks set up fake escrow companies and tell the seller they've lodged the money with them, which will be released on receipt of the item. You mail the item but simply never receive your money.
How to Protect Yourself
Follow these 15 safe selling tips to minimize your chance of being scammed.
- Never mail an item before you're 100 percent sure you've been properly paid.
- Don't accept checks, even cashiers checks or money orders as payments. They're easily faked, and it may take weeks before your bank identifies it as such.
- Ideally, you want payment in cash because crooks may use stolen mobile payment accounts.
- But if you do accept mobile payments, check your account online to ensure the money is actually there. Don't accept a confirmatory email as evidence it arrived.
- If you use money transfer apps, ensure you know and understand the protections they provide against being scammed.
- Don't accept overpayment of any sort and don't send refunds via untraceable money-wiring services.
- If you're using an escrow service, either don't use one suggested by your buyer or, if you do, check out the service's reputation online.
- Use online street maps to check the mailing address to check that it's an occupied residence.
- Sell locally if you can so you can meet the buyer (in a safe public place, such as outside a police station) and ask for cash. Experts say this eliminates nearly all potential scams. Ideally, take someone with you for the meet.
- Understand how to identify counterfeit bills and check them on receipt.
- If you meet the buyer, ask to see their driver's license or other form of identification.
- Don't share verification codes with someone you don't know. The Google Voice scam is hot right now. The nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has a page of guidance and tips.
- Don't give your account details or other confidential information to someone you don't know. And don't give your password to anyone. Legitimate organizations never ask for this.
- Check spelling and grammar of "buyers" in any communication. This isn't foolproof but scammers often make glaring errors.
- If you're selling via a site that includes feedback, check the reputation of your would-be buyer. Even if there's no feedback, such as on Facebook, look for other posts by the "buyer."
This Week's Scam Alerts
Holiday shopping: Online buying reaches a peak in the next few weeks. There are scores of scams to look out for. Check our earlier issue, Beware These Top 10 Online Holiday Shopping Scams, to learn more.
Free phones: Scammers are offering free phones to people in return for handing over their confidential information, including Social Security numbers. They've even been known to set up tables outside of businesses and events, targeting seniors and others on low income - most recently in Sullivan County, New York. The phones usually don't exist. Otherwise, they are likely cheap, old, and used devices. Harvested info is used for identity theft.
That's all for today - we'll see you next week.