BBB scam alert: Selling used items online

Mobile County

MOBILE COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) — Monde Donaldson with the BBB serving South and Central Alabama spoke with WKRG News 5 about the risks of online sales.

If you are trying to make  money to pay bills or decluttering your home by selling unwanted items online, be on the lookout for buyers wanting to pay you more than the listed price. The Better Business Bureau Serving Central & South Alabama warns if it is  “just too good to be true,” it probably is.

How does the Scam Work?

You post an item for sale online (BBB is seeing a lot of recent scam reports that mention Facebook Marketplace, but this applies to other services, as well). It might be clothes, a vehicle, electronics, or another item. You are contacted by a buyer who seems trustworthy, nice even. They offer you more money than what you are asking for. The reasons vary. The scammer may claim they want to cover shipping or other fees for you “because you’ve been so helpful.” Or they may overpay through a digital wallet, such as PayPal or Cash App, claiming it’s a policy of the service. Or they may mail a check for more than the asking price and then insist it was by mistake.

In any case, once you are overpaid, the buyer will ask for their extra funds back. After you’ve returned their money, you’ll likely find the initial payment was false – the check will bounce or the buyer’s online payment will be denied. You will have lost the money you “returned” along with the item you sold.

How do you avoid online selling scams?

  • Don’t ship an item before you receive a payment. Make sure any payments you receive are legitimate before you ship your item to the seller. If you ship before they pay, you will have no way to get your item back.

  • Don’t believe offers that are too good to be true. Unless you are selling a rare or highly desirable item that several people are bidding on, you should not expect anyone to offer to pay more than what you are asking. If someone tries to overpay you, consider it a red flag.

  • Look out for counterfeit emails. Scammers are skilled at imitating emails from popular payment services, such as Venmo or PayPal. Examine all emails carefully. If an email comes from a domain that isn’t official or contains obvious typos and grammatical errors, it’s probably a scam.

  • Report scams to the online marketplaceBe sure to report suspicious activity including dishonest buyers or sellers to the platform you are using FB Marketplace, EBay and of cours, the BBB’s Scamtracker.


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