BBB Tip: Online Purchase Scams

BBB Tip: Online Purchase Scams Online purchase scams often involve purchases and sales on eBay, Craigslist, Kijiji, and other direct seller-to-buyer sites. Be suspicious of checks and overpayments.

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, online transactions require extra caution to avoid scams. These cons often involve purchases and sales on eBay, Craigslist, Kijiji, and other direct seller-to-buyer sites. Scammers may pretend to purchase an item only to send you a bogus check and ask you to refund the “accidental” overpayment. In other cases, the scammer will pretend to be a legitimate online seller but never deliver the goods.

How the Scam Works:

You are selling an item through an online service. A buyer contacts you claiming to be interested in purchasing the item. They may offer you more money for the item if you accept a cashier’s check or money order rather than following the site’s usual checkout process. When the payment arrives, it is for more than the agreed upon purchase amount. The buyer claims to have made a mistake and asks you to return the difference by some untraceable method such as a wire transfer. The payment turns out to be a fake, and you’re out the money.

If you’re the buyer in an online purchase scam, the basic ploy is a simple one—you will not receive the items you paid for. The listing or website might be selling anything from a puppy to a used car. The seller may attempt to convince you to go outside the site’s usual payment methods, or to complete a purchase for a big-ticket item, such as a car, sight unseen. The details and photos—often copied from a real seller’s listing—will look very real, but the low price may seem too good to be true (because it is!).

Tips to Avoid This Scam:

  • Be aware that even if you are able to cash a check or see funds recorded in your account statement, it may still be a fake. Your bank may even tell you a check has “cleared,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are in the clear—it can take several weeks to find out that a check has bounced.
  • When buying or selling on a site that offers protections to buyers and sellers, take advantage of them. If a buyer or seller tries to persuade you to go outside the site’s usual process or payment methods, that’s a big red flag.

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