Burton Kelso, Tech Expert
How to Avoid Scams on Peer-to-Peer Shopping Sites This Holiday Season
Popular online retailers aren't the only ones who will find people looking for the hottest deals this holiday season. Peer to Peer marketplaces like OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace are the go-to sites for customers who are looking to buy and sell just about anything. From used furniture, toys, and household appliances to rare collectibles. People are even purchasing cars and renting apartments on these sites. As with any online shopping site, you need to stay cautious. There are countless reports of robberies and fraud and it isn't going to go away anytime soon. Check out these tips on how to stay safe while shopping on Facebook Marketplace and other peer-to-peer sites.
The majority of people who list and purchase on Peer to Peer sites are honest. I've sold and purchased many items on sites like these without incident, but whenever you have millions of people doing good things, there are bound to be some creeps that make their way in. Here’s a list of some of the common peer-to-peer marketplace scams — and how you can protect yourself.
1. It sounds too good to be true. Have you ever seen an offer for the latest clothing or tech item at an incredible price? Well, the chances are high that the item is fake.
How to stay safe: Make sure to ask to see a live video or multiple photos of the item in question. Asking to see an original sales receipt before agreeing to purchase is a good practice to get into.
2. What gives? This thing is broken! Beware when purchasing electronics on peer-to-peer sites. My wife arranged for a pickup of a gaming system she found online at the local McDonald's parking lot. When I arrive the seller was ready to have me pay for the system, but he wasn't prepared when I pulled out a TV and some games to ensure the system would work properly. Imagine his disappointment when I declined to purchase what he was selling, especially when the item wouldn't even power up.
How to stay safe: When purchasing any electronic items, it’s best to make sure you turn on and test them before you hand over payment. Also when it comes to computers, smartphones, and tablets. Make sure the items is no more than three years old. Sometimes, a tech-savvy seller will sell items that are no longer supported or outdated hoping to make some quick cash.
3. I accidentally paid you too much, can you refund me? This scheme has been around for a while and started on Amazon. A purchaser will buy something from you online on Marketplace and pay more than what you were asking, usually in the form of a check and sometimes electronic payments. Once you've received the check, they will ask you to send a refund for the amount that was over your asking price. What happens is the check they sent you bounces, which means you've lost the item you were trying to sell, as well as the amount you refunded them. If this happens electronically, the crook will file a fraudulent charge to have the charges reversed, again with you losing your item.
How to stay safe: Never refund money electronically. If someone attempts to scam you with this, tell them to go to their bank. If you receive an overpayment via check, give the check at least a month to clear the bank before you give a refund. You could optionally give a refund in the form of a gift card credit card to ensure you aren't scammed.
4. I swear, I sent you the payment. While it's possible to pay for items on Marketplace online, criminals will take advantage of this feature by claiming they sent you payment for an item when in reality they have not. if you're honest, you'll go ahead and send the item to keep up your end of the bargain. Keep in mind, most people won't pay for items in advance.
How to stay safe: It's best if possible to see the items you are purchasing in person, but if you can't make sure you get multiple pictures of the item or a video showing the items is legit. When playing online, make sure you pay with a credit card or Paypal. When using Paypal, never pay someone as family or friend as this can open you up to fraud.
5. I want it right now! Beware of scammers who want to contact you offline to purchase an item. This could be a ploy for them to get your mobile number which a crook could try to steal your number and identity. How does this work? Well, the criminals will ask for your number which they will use to set up a Google Voice phone number. When they setup an account, they will ask you for the verification code. This allows them to use the Google number to scam other people and possibly steal your smartphone number.
How to stay safe: Never share your mobile number with strangers. With your number, crooks can take over your mobile account committing SIM card fraud. They can also use the Google voice number you help them setup to scam other suspecting people by orchestrating SMShining (SMS text scams) and Vishing (voice phone call scams)
6. Fake profiles or items. One of the great things about Facebook Marketplace is you can access the profile of any seller, but as you should know, not all profiles on Facebook are legit. Same with some of the other peer-to-peer sites. Crooks are notorious for creating fake profiles and listing fake items in peer-to-peer sites. When you purchase from a fake account, Facebook and other peer-to-peer sites won't be able to take any action on your behalf.
How to stay safe: Take a good look at the accounts for the items you are looking to purchase on peer - to peer sites. You should also look at the seller reviews before buying anything on Facebook Marketplace. If a seller scammed someone, they most likely left a terrible review. If there are no reviews available, move on to the next seller.
7.The Good Ole Bait and Switch. A seller on Marketplace Advertising one item, then seeking to substitute it is the classic bait and switch. You see an item you’ve been searching and searching for, then the seller tells you it isn’t available and offers another, more expensive item in its place.
How to stay safe: Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal if it’s not what you originally wanted.
Other Ways to stay safe:
Use common sense. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Arrange meetups during the day in a public place.
Use a credit card or PayPal for transactions because they offer fraud protection services.
Always assume every listing is a scam. Make sure you read every post thoroughly.
I hope you can use these tips to help keep you safe when using peer to peer sites this holiday season. Always be cautious and keep your information safe by not sharing information that could be used to steal your personal information. If you need further assistance, please reach out to me with any questions you might have. I am always happy to help!
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