If you've ever tried to sell something online, you know how convenient it can be. Within a matter of clicks from the comfort of your couch, you can create a virtual garage sale.
But sales venues like Craigslist, eBay and newspaper classifieds also are convenient hangouts for scammers.
Before you ever reach out to an interested buyer, turn on your fraud radar and be on alert for ways you could be taken advantage of.
Thieves use fake or stolen money orders or cashier's checks, make bogus claims and turn to other tactics to defraud innocent sellers.
"No matter where they're trying to sell their goods, they can fall victim to these scams," says Tami Rechtenbach, vice president of member services at Dupaco. "And they need to be diligent about knowing who they're dealing with."
It's happening locally. In the past two days alone, Dupaco has intercepted three such attempts from members trying to cash fraudulent checks they received from online sales, according to Rechtenbach. In each case, the scammers sent fraudulent checks for more than the sale price and asked for the balance to be returned to them.
"They're coming up with all kinds of reasons they want the money back – shipping charges, trouble with cashing the check locally," Rechtenbach says. "Any time they want to send you a check and have you send money back, the red flag has to go straight up in the air. You never should have to mail money back if you're selling something."
Here's where the seller can get hit: If you cash a fraudulent check, you will be responsible for repaying those funds, Rechtenbach says.
Craigslist advises that most scams involve an inquiry from someone far away, often in another country; a cashier's check, money order or wire request; or a refusal to meet face-to-face. Follow these guidelines, provided by Craigslist, to sidestep would-be scammers:
- Deal locally with folks you can meet in person.
- Never wire funds. Anyone who asks you to do so is likely a scammer.
- Never give out financial information, including your bank account number.
- Avoid deals involving shipping or escrow services, and know that only a scammer will "guarantee" your transaction.
Bottom line: If you have any doubts about the person you're about to do business with, end your communication with the person and ask a Dupaco staff member to review the situation. It's not worth the risk.
By Emily Kittle