Avoiding Scams on Online Classified Sites

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If you have ever sold anything on Craigslist or other online classified advertising sites, you probably have dealt with a con artist at some point. This recent email points out the advantages of being an informed consumer --and the disadvantages when not.

Denise:  I was selling a TV on Craigslist for $500.00. The buyer sent me a check in the mail for 1,000 claiming he was going away and would come to get the TV when he returned. He sent me an additional $500.00 and never came to get the TV.  I deposited the money and the check bounced.  Now I am responsible for the bounced check charges. The good news is before sending him the money he wanted I did a search online and came across your blog and a warning about this scam. Thanks for saving me from taking a bigger hit than I did. This was a good lesson. D. Gleason Connecticut

Crooks work as hard at finding creative ways to steal our money or identity as we do in protecting it. Falling victim to any sort of scam sucks. Online advertising definitely has a dark side. When considering buying or selling something on Craigslist, eBay or any online advertising site, do your homework on the latest scams, and keep a few of the following tips in mind.

• Cash only.  Only deal in cash if you are the seller.  Checks can be forged or bounce.  Credit cards, even through Paypal, can be stolen.   By the time Paypal finds out and takes back the money they paid you from the fraudulent transaction, your item is long gone.  As an added precaution, for a few dollars you can invest in a counterfeit pen that you can use to check bills to see if they are real or not.

• Utilize Starbucks. If the item is easily portable, meet prospective buyers (or sellers) in a public place.  As a seller, doing this doesn't reveal your address to someone you don't know.

• Common Sense.  If someone offers to pay more money than you are asking, it is probably a scam.  Why would someone possibly want to pay more money for an item than you were asking?  They are trying to play on your greed because once greed kicks in, it can squelch the little alarm bells that would otherwise be going off in the back of your head.

•Bad English.  Poorly written emails concerning the listed item can mean scammers, especially if grammar, spelling or punctuation is absent.  A lot of the scammers are based out of this country and don't have good  written English.  (For example - Dear seller, your item, I would like to pay for it as soon as possible, Regards (without a name)

Even if you plainly state in your ad that you only accept cash and you won't ship, the scammers still start swarming, especially if the item is small and valuable.

One of the more popular scam attempts occurs when the scammer makes initial contact than follows up with an offer to buy the item, if you will ship it.  They may use an array of excuses that range from being out of town at the moment to buying your item for a relative of a friend in another country who is off to university.

They will go on to offer to pay you via Paypal (or some other online site) and tout its virtues as being the safest and most reliable online payment processor.  But see above to understand what can go wrong with that option.  

Finally, they will play on human greed and offer to pay you considerably more than you are asking for doing them such a favor.  Don't fall for it.  

Remember, the bad guys are very good at what they do. They are savvy and educated on scamming techniques, so you need to be too.  

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I had a similar situation. You are right about one thing for sure, these scums will cover every angle. In my case it was a woman who claimed the extra money was so her husband didn't wouldn't know it was as "cheap" as it was. yeah, right.

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