How Do I Avoid Getting Scammed When Buying Or Selling Online?

How Do I Avoid Getting Scammed When Buying Or Selling Online?

Dear Lifehacker, Lately I’ve been worried about being conned while buying or selling on Craigslist—and online in general. Do you have any thoughts on how I can avoid getting screwed? Sincerely, Paranoid Seller

Photo by Quazie

Dear Paranoid,

I was selling stuff online before I entered puberty and have had only one bad transaction (out of hundreds). I believe that’s because most people you’ll encounter are good and honest. Nonetheless, we share a common paranoia of getting conned. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to ease your worries and prevent problems from happening, though. Some involve intuition, and others just help to minimise the chances of an issue. Let’s get into it.

Get to Know the Buyer/Seller

Your intuition is your best weapon against getting conned in a sale. While it’s unlikely it’ll happen in the first place, you’ll know when you’re talking to someone who makes you uncomfortable. While a little discomfort will often rule out some safe buyers/sellers that you just find off-putting, unless you’re selling some rare item you should be able to be picky and still find someone you’re comfortable selling to or buying from. Ultimately, you just need to be patient.

Avoid Online Scams

Forgetting about the numerous Nigerian Princes in need, most scams you’ll find when selling online all have one thing in common: they’re too good to be true. If you’re selling, this almost always comes in the form of a buyer in another state who’s willing to offer you your asking price if you jump through a couple of hoops to ship it to them or their relative in yet another location. Generally you want to avoid replying altogether. If you’re not sure the prospective buyer is a scammer, just keep asking for information until you know one way or the other. The more B.S. the scammer has to make up the easier it will be to tell they’re a scammer.

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Utilise Common Sense

If time has taught me one thing, it’s that common sense is not very common. While some of these suggestions might be a bit obvious, they’re worth repeating.

Generally, though, the other party is going to be equally as paranoid as you are. It’s a little bit scary meeting a stranger off the internet for the purpose of exchanging some valuable. In all likelihood you’ll both have concerns, so just be a nice person while taking the necessary precautions and you should be just fine.


Got any great tips of your own for avoiding scams online? Let’s hear ’em in the comments!


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