Individuals who have something to sell used to rely on the classified ads, community bulletin boards, garage sales, auctions and so forth. These methods are still viable, of course. More and more, folks are finding a wider customer base by using Internet sales tools, such as Craigslist, eBay, etc.
Yes, this produces a wider range of customers, but it also gives the seller something else, con artists and crooks. These guys are almost always practiced professionals who know how to get around the usual safeguards in place for Internet commerce.
Let me cite some examples of what can happen if you are not aware of the pitfalls in this kind of enterprise. These are actual events reported to the BBB recently.
A local man was selling a car and listed it on Craigslist. He was contacted by an individual who said, “Consider it sold.” The seller received a check for much more than the agreed price and was told to deposit the check and send the balance to the “shipping agent.” At that point, the seller became suspicious and ended the transaction.
Of course, this is the way the crooks make their money. The “buyer” (who never wanted the item in the first place) makes off with the “shipping costs.” Then the check bounces.
The next case involved a wedding dress being offered on the Internet by a seller in our region. The “buyer” sent a check that was made out for too much. The seller was supposed to cash it and send the balance back. Again, the intended victim did not bite but reported it to the BBB.
In another instance, a local person wanted to sell a van and also got a check with an overpayment for the same reason.
The Internet is a viable way to sell merchandise, but it also opens the door for the criminal element to take advantage.
Some of the red flags include:
1. Asking for payment to cover shipping with a promise of reimbursement
2. Claiming to be overseas or in some distant place and therefore unable to deal in the usual way.
3. Paying the full asking price without attempting to negotiate.
4. Attempting to circumnavigate the PayPal verification or other service.
Of course, it works the other way, too. If you are buying something, never let yourself be talked into not using the well-established verification services. Make sure you understand all the terms and conditions of the sale, just like you would in any deal, but even more so when buying something sight unseen.
Neil Winget is the president of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.