Take it from Sarah: Sellers beware of unknown buyers.

October 13, 2009

Scam:  Unknown Buyer Uses 3rd Party Buyer/Seller Website to Scam Sellers Out of Their Money
Location:  Nationwide
Claim:  “I would like to purchase your item valued at $150.  I will send you a check for $1,200 to cover shipping.   Please forward the extra money to my personal shipping agent.”

Online buyer and seller communities like Craigslist can provide a great service when dealing locally.  Sellers who list items are often contacted by eager buyers who are interested in making a quick, informal purchase.  Be wary of the buyer who offers you more than what you asked for.  Find out what happened to Sarah during her first selling experience online.   

Sarah posted an ad to sell a vintage record player.  Shortly after posting, she was contacted by a buyer who stated he was very interested in her item, but was unable to purchase it as he did not have shipping arrangements at the time.  Sarah replied and stated if he got his shipping in order, she’d be happy to sell him the item.  Two weeks went by and Sarah had no new offers on her item.  Luckily, the first buyer contacted her explaining he’d been ill, but that he had devised a way to arrange shipping so he could purchase the item.  He would send Sarah a check to cover the item purchase price plus shipping costs.   At this point he was in a hurry since so much time had passed and he really desired the item.  Sarah agreed to his offer and received a check a few days later.  Her item sold for $150; however the buyer sent a check for $1,200.  The buyer instructed Sarah to deposit the check, and then wire the excess money to his family member via Money Gram so he could pay the shippers.  The bank accepted the check, so Sarah went to her local Western Union to send the excess $1,050 to the shipper.

Weeks later, after funds had been sent to the agent as requested, Sarah’s bank notified her that the check she’d deposited bounced.  Sarah was faced with bounced check fees and was responsible for the missing $1,050.  She never heard from the buyer or his shipping agent again.

Exercise caution when selling online.  Deal locally with people you can meet in person, never wire money via Money Gram or Western Union, and never give out your personal financial information for any reason.