Shopping online is a great convenience, especially when it comes to buying and selling used items. Buying and selling second-hand items locally has many benefits like keeping items out of the landfill, saving money, and making money off items you no longer need. We could go on and on about how great online buying and selling is, however, like with any online shopping marketplace you need to be aware of potential scams.
Online scammers today have advanced technologically along with the rest of the online world. They can create new IP addresses and email addresses as quickly as we can remove them. There are automated bots set up to communicate through online commerce sites with no humans needed. Although their means of communication may have advanced over time, after seeing this throwback news coverage of Used.ca from over a decade ago, we still see similar types of online scams today.
Used.ca has many security systems and processes in place to help moderate our website; we use a combination of automated technology and a team of vigilant moderation employees. We also have reporting systems set up for our users to report ads right from the ad view page, or to send us any suspicious communications to firstname.lastname@example.org. Although we do our best to prevent or put a quick stop to any fraudulent activity, some scammers do make it through
Here are some common scams to be aware of when buying and selling online:
1.) Vague messages:
Used.ca does not have a one-click buyer message set up as some other online marketplaces do. If you get a generic message from a buyer such as “is this item available?” with no detail as to what item they are interested in, be wary as this may be a bot message. Typically, buyers on our website would be more inclined to send something more personal and specific to what you’re selling such as “Hi! Is your Ikea desk still available? I can pick it up”. Scam messages are often followed by emails that are grammatically incorrect, rude when the seller questions them, pushy to continue the transaction, or can’t name what they’re trying to buy.
2.) A buyer offering or sending extra money:
If a buyer offers you an exorbitant amount of extra money for the item this is suspicious. There are two scams that often stem from this. First, the buyer will ask you to buy gift cards which they will “pay you” for, and then do not pay for them leaving you out the funds. The second other possibility is that they will send the extra money claiming it was by accident and ask you to send it back, after you send them the amount, the money that they sent you has bounced.
3.) Out of the country and someone will pick it up:
This scam has grown in frequency. The scammer will tell you that they are out of the country or out of town and someone will pick up the item for them, typically a “cousin” or “courier.”
3.) Payment methods:
Be extremely cautious of anyone offering to pay via payment methods other than cash or e-transfer without wanting to see the item first. Bank transfers, cheques, and even PayPal can all be big red flags. Remember that with PayPal, it’s possible for a buyer to cancel their transaction and withdraw the funds after payment. E-transfer is common in scams where the item for sale does not exist and you never hear back after your money is accepted, or the buyer cancels their transfer or gives you a false password and has made off with your items before you’ve noticed. At Used.ca we recommend always dealing in cash and in person. If you can, meet in a public space during business hours and have someone join you, this is even better. Never send money without verifying an item in person.
4.) Gift cards:
There is no reason for gift cards to be part of a transaction. If someone is asking you to pay for something with gift cards, pick them up gift cards that they are going to pay you for, or pay you in gift cards this is likely a scam.
5.) Requesting a deposit without viewing:
If someone is asking for you to send a deposit to hold an item before you come and see it, be very wary. There are often stories of online buyers sending an E-Transfer to someone only to discover that the address that they were given was false (even residential addresses) or to never hear from the seller again. This goes for rentals as well, make sure you are able to view a place in person before paying any money. We’ve seen media stories of scammers renting an Airbnb, pretending it’s their condo, and trying to rent it out – verify the person trying to rent a property owns its first.
6.) Recreational vehicles and tractors under market value:
It’s that time of year again when we see an increase in scams on tractors, trailers, RVs, boats, and ATVs. If a recreational vehicle is priced much lower than market value or the ad seems too good to be true, it likely is. Trust your instinct. It’s a good idea to check the seller’s other listings. If they’re only selling high-ticket items and they’re all priced too low, there’s a good chance that they aren’t real listings.
It’s important to keep in mind that not all scammers are looking for money, be conscientious of what kind of information you are sending buyers or sellers as information phishing is another way that scammers benefit. Don’t give out banking information or personal information about what they would need to arrange to meet with you for the item. For more safety tips for shopping safely on Used.ca check out our past article. When buying and selling online, the number one tip is to trust your instincts and question odd behaviours. If you’re in doubt about something that you’ve seen or received, you can email us at email@example.com, we’re happy to take a look and help you.