Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers might not be able to hold a yard sale and are looking to sell some unwanted items through other avenues. Consumers planning to sell items online should be careful so they don’t become scam victims.
The Internet offers a number of different sites where people can sell their goods. Unfortunately, there are also scammers lurking who will try to take advantage of you.
A couple from Troy, Missouri, told Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker in June 2020 about an experience they had when trying to sell some wingtips for an airplane.
“We were selling wingtips for $400 and listed it (for sale online),” the couple wrote. “Someone contacted me and said they would pay $400 plus extra and wanted our address. He said he would send his mover and we were to pay the mover (with) the extra money that the buyer was giving to us.”
The couple did not fall for the suspected ruse. Had they accepted the offer, any check sent by the seller might have looked legitimate, but might not have been. They could have lost whatever money the scammer sent and possibly their items as well. BBB has warned consumers previously about fake check scams such as these.
If someone attempts to overpay you, either purposely or ‘accidentally,’ that is the first sign that the check in your possession may be bogus. If you believe you have deposited a fake check, contact your bank immediately.
Tips on selling safely online:
- Stay in control of the communication. Avoid interacting with interested buyers who want to communicate with you outside of the official selling platform. Most online sites and apps have their own messaging services. Those resources are the safest way to engage with anyone interested in buying the items you have for sale.
- Say no to checks. Fraudulent checks are the quickest way for the seller to lose money in the transaction. If a buyer asks to pay you with a check or a money order, you’ll be held responsible by the bank if it does not clear.
- Electronic payments are best. In order to avoid losing money in the transaction, accept payments directly through the sales site or by an electronic payment app. Follow any payment recommendations provided by the platform you are using to make the sale.
- Follow the rules. Each sales platform is likely to have a list of recommendations and requirements of its users. Following those guidelines will help the platform assist the seller should anything go wrong.
- Report. If you believe you have been involved in fraud, report what happened to BBB, the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.