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How to Spot and Avoid Scams When Buying and Selling Online

Jun 30, 2022
Person holding a loupe for check and focus on a gold ring to spot fake gold. Scams, robberies, and crimes

No matter the site, no matter the item, just assume that when you buy and or sell an item online, someone will eventually try to scam you.

Here is a list of red flags you can use to detect such attempts.

When buying online, watch out for these scammer red flags 

Price is too good to be true

If you ever see an item you want and the price is way too low, this is always a red flag. Skip this item and move on.

Seller (scammer) asks for payment outside of normal channels

The minute a seller asks you to do anything that isn't the normal method of transacting business on a given site, run for the hills.

  • If you are on Facebook Market place, only pay using the buttons Facebook provides.
  • If you are on eBay, same deal.
  • This applies to basically any marketplace, even AirBnB.  

TLDR: Stick to the prescribed methods of payment so you are protected from fraud.

Seller (scammer) has a rare or hard to find item

If you stumble upon an item which is normally hard to find, chances are it's a fake or the item doesn't really exist.

If you absolutely must make the purchase, do your due diligence. 

  • Check Reddit, collector sites, or other places where experts on the item dwell.
  • Send a few emails to experts and ask their opinion, or post a message in the Fellow Fox Community to see what others think.
  • Make sure you exhaust several avenues before committing to buy. Scammers know all too well that hard to find items pull on your Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

When selling online, watch out for these scammer red flags

Buyer (scammer) tries to communicate with you outside of normal channels

It is OK if the buyer has a question. 

It is not OK if they ask if they can text, call, or email you. 

Simply put, tell them if they want to buy the item, read the listing and hit the buy button.  

Buyer (scammer) tries to pay outside of normal channels

"I will buy the item but pay for shipping PayPal" 

"I have $1,000 gift cards will you accept?"

"I am buying this item for my cousin, can you ship to his address instead of mine?"

"I will pay you on Venmo and add an extra $100 on top"

These are all red flags. Stop engaging with the scammer and move on with your day.

Buyer (scammer) offers to pay much more than the listed price and needs the item quickly

This happens to me all of the time when I am selling items on Facebook Marketplace.

If you are selling a $20 item and someone offers you $100 to ship it over night, block the user and re-list the item if they hit purchase.

This is a common scam where the buyer pays way more for the item, using a stolen credit card, has you overnight the package, and by the time charge back occurs, it's too late and the item is gone.

Summary on spotting and avoiding scams online

These are just a few red flags to help you along the way.

The best method however is to use your gut instinct. If something feels weird about what the buyer is asking, do not sell to them. A legitimate buyer will eventually come along and conduct business properly.

Best of luck with your online buying and selling, and as always if you ever have a question about a specific interaction, post in the comment section below or the Fellow Fox community so one of us can chime in.

Stay safe and stay vigilant,

Partha