Many people looking to buy or sell items now turn to online listing sites, like Craigslist or social media pages. Better Business Bureau warns buyers and sellers to watch out for scams.
BBB's Dale Dixon says one common scenario involves a vehicle listed for sale at an exceptionally good price.
"The potential buyer reaches out to the seller, expressing their interest. The seller says the car is available, but explains there's some reason why they can’t meet in person; they're in the military and 'about to be deployed,' or they are caring for a sick family member in another state, or they themselves are in the hospital, the list goes on. The supposed seller explains they can have the vehicle shipped to the buyer, and might even offer a period of time the buyer can 'change their mind' and get their money back. But again, because they are out of the area, they ask for payment via wire transfer or prepaid card. Those forms of payment are as untraceable as cash, so as soon as the scammers get that payment, they disappear, and your purchase never arrives," Dixon says.
Dixon says scammers also use similar tactics to target sellers.
"The story is usually similar, the scammer, who’s now the buyer in this scenario, says they are out of the area but interested in what you are selling. In one common version of this scam, the con says they’ll overnight a check to you. It arrives, and it’s for more money than you agreed upon. The phony buyer asks you to forward the money on to someone else, typically through an elaborate and somewhat plausible story. A few weeks later, that check comes back as fraudulent, but you are out any money you sent on to the scammers," Dixon said.
To protect yourself while buying or selling online, keep this advice in mind:
- Avoid working with people who refuse to talk to you on the phone or meet in person. Do not agree to purchase without seeing the item in person. No matter how many pictures or details a seller provides, it can all be faked. Meet in person in a public place.
- Be cautious of someone who insists on wire transfer or prepaid card over the phone, and never agree to overpayment.
- No matter what, if you feel uneasy at any point of the deal, back out. A good deal is not worth compromising your safety.
For more information, visit www.bbb.org.