Every day we hear reports of people successfully selling stuff on our websites. And while we take active measures to combat them, online scammers are commonplace on the internet. The best defense is a little common sense. Here’s how to stay safe:
Safe Buying & Selling Tips:
- Buy and sell locally. There’s no substitute for dealing with someone who lives and works in your hometown.
- Beware of text messages. Scammers commonly use text messaging to contact sellers and initiate scams. NEVER provide a “verification code” for Google, Apple, Amazon, etc. These codes are used to create fake identities online using your information. (Learn more here.)
- Don’t buy an item that you have not seen and touched.
- Don’t accept checks, money orders, cashier’s checks, or postal checks — especially from distant buyers.
- Do not send money by Western Union or wire transfer to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
- Don’t give out personal info such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, verification codes, etc.
- If something is too good to be true, it probably is.
Common Types of Scams:
Counterfeit Checks & Wire Transfers: The most common type of scam starts when an overseas or out-of-area buyer pays by check (usually for more than the amount of the item) and then requests the balance of the funds via wire transfer. The checks are counterfeit. When the check is deposited in the seller’s account, it may take the bank days or weeks to discover it is bogus. Meanwhile, the unsuspecting seller may have wired hundreds or thousands of dollars to Nigeria or some other distant land, far beyond the reach of local law enforcement.
Verification Code Scams: These begin with a scammer contacting a seller by text message and requesting a verification code so that the buyer can confirm the seller is legitimate. What’s really going on is that the scammer is creating a fake account on Google, Apple, Amazon, or other platform and attempting to use the seller’s phone number as verification. Read more about this here.
Job Scams. According to Consumer.Gov, most job scams have several things in common. They promise you a job, guarantee you will make money, frequently say they are offering government jobs, and allow you to work at home. Typically the scammer will then request payment to get the job, get certified, or for supplies. Click for more information.
Is it a Scam? Here Are Common Warning Signs:
- The buyer or seller comes from Nigeria, Cameroon, or other parts of Africa or Europe and they want to ship something to you or have something shipped to them.
- They have a very complicated story about why they can’t simply pay in cash in person.
- They are willing to pay more than a seller’s asking price.
- They are a “barrister,” government minister, royalty, or have a wealthy relative who died and left them money they need to smuggle out of the country.
- The phone number is incorrect, out of service, or goes to a voicemail that has not been set up or is full.
- The buyer or seller uses an Internet Relay Call. Click for Details.
- The buyer or seller either uses broken English or very formal “British” English.
- The buyer or seller changes email addresses or phone numbers in the middle of an attempted transaction.
- The person wants you to use Western Union or other wire transfer service.
- The buyer wants to pay by cashier’s check, money order, or postal check.
- The buyer or seller is more interested in the financial transaction than the merchandise.
How to Report a Scammer
- Report it to our Help Desk or flag the ad.
- Do not respond to suspicious emails or SMS text messages.
- Forward email from suspected scammers to their email providers using [email protected] and the provider’s domain. For instance, a scammer using [email protected] should be forwarded to [email protected]
- Contact the Internet Fraud Complaint Center.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission: 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357) or online at www.ftc.gov.
- If you have lost money in a Nigerian scam, contact the U.S. Secret Service at 202-406-5572. If you have received a letter, but have not lost any monies to this scheme, you may fax a copy of that letter to 202-406-5031.