Everyone is spending more time at home these days, so now is the perfect time to tackle the clutter. Selling your pre-owned items, whether it is furniture, appliances, electronics, or other home goods, online helps you earn quick cash and frees up space at your home.
With so many online platforms, selling your home goods can be easier than ever. All you have to do is snap a photo, write a brief description, and wait for prospective buyers to contact you. While most people are aware that they should take extra precautions when shopping on sites like these, many are unaware that selling poses some risks as well. Unfortunately, scammers use online selling platforms to target their new victims.
Generally, the scams follow a similar pattern. A potential buyer responds to your listing, wanting to pay with a check. The potential buyer says that they will mail a check to you as payment through overnight shipping. You accept the offer, but when the check arrives, it is for an amount higher than the price your item was listed for. The buyer instructs you to deposit the check, but they also ask that you keep the cost of the item and transfer the remaining balance back to them. You agree, but a week after the check clears in your account, the bank contacts you, requesting you pay the money back for insufficient funds.
You might think that you’re in the clear once a check’s funds have deposited into your account, but it often takes longer for a bank to realize that a check is bad. This lag in time between when a check reaches your account and when it’s discovered to be a forgery is exactly what scammers are counting on.
The Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas offers these tips when selling used items online:
Avoid prospective buyers who want to communicate with you outside of the official selling platform. To protect their users, many online selling platforms require users to communicate via the platform’s own messaging system.
Do not accept checks or money orders as payment. Scammers frequently use checks to line their own pockets. Victims who deposit bad checks are held responsible by the bank for the money lost.
Only accept payment through methods recommended by the app or website. Most sites recommend or require specific payment methods to help them protect both buyers and sellers from fraud.
Keep all transaction dealings on the site or app. When you communicate and accept payments outside of the platform, you are at greater risk for fraud and forfeit protections that the platform can provide.
Follow the guidelines provided by your chosen selling platform. Each individual platform is likely to have a slightly different set of recommendations and requirements for its users. Following the guidelines means the platform is better able to offer assistance should anything go awry.
If you encounter a scam, we ask that you report it to our BBB Scam Tracker site at BBBHouston.org. Even if you don’t fall victim to the scam, the information allows us to protect the public from scammers.
The Better Business Bureau is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Visit www.bbbhouston.org or call 713-868-9500. Leah Napoliello is senior director of Investigative Services with the BBB of Greater Houston and South Texas. Send questions to Leah Napoliello, Better Business Bureau, 1333 West Loop South, Suite 1200, Houston, TX 77027, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your mailing address and phone number.