Selling items online: How to spot scammers

Here’s what to watch for if you’re selling items online

January is often a month people clear clutter from their homes, making room for new holiday gifts.

January is often a month people clear clutter from their homes, making room for new holiday gifts.

A popular way to unload unwanted stuff is to sell it online on sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. However, the Better Business Bureau warns that there is an overpayment scam targeting people selling their goods.

“People are posting their item and all of a sudden they get a buyer that’s really nice, that sounds legitimate, sounds trustworthy, but they offer you much more, or even just a little more, than what you’re offering your product for,” said Melanie Duquesnel, the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan. “The rest of the story though is that they’re going give you the extra money but they’re going to want you to refund it in a very weird way the difference between the cost of the item and your asking price.”

The reasons a scam artist will give for the overpayment can vary but include “claims of shipping costs or other fees” or maybe “because you’ve been so helpful.”

Duquesnel said these reasons are red flags a person is being scammed.

In this scam, a buyer will ask for the extra money back. By the time a person returns that money, they will find out the initial payment was fake and will be out the cash and the item sold.

The Better Business Bureau recommends never shipping an item before being paid for it, be wary of offers that are too good to be true and watch out for counterfeit emails. Emails that are fake often have spelling and grammar mistakes.

Duquesnel recommends reporting any potential scams.

“The real opportunity here is to prevent somebody else from getting scammed. even if you have not lost money but you believe that it is potentially a scam again by recording it you provide supporting documentation, you provide a case that may grow into something even bigger so, being a part of the information chain can ultimately work toward getting that scam artist offline,” Duquesnel said.

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About the Author:

Hank Winchester is Local 4’s Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV’s “Help Me Hank” Consumer Unit. Hank works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off people in our community.