Scam Protection - General Tips

To help sellers avoid frustrating and potentially harmful scams, we've researched numerous selling websites for reported scam attempts. Here are some general tips on what to be suspicious of whenever you are contacted by a potential buyer:

  • Poor English and grammar skills. Also the use of odd phrases.
  • Questions such as best price and request for photos may be expressed, but interest is general and could be applied to any item you (or anyone else) sells.
  • Buyer will avoid giving an exact shipping address - only a general area.
  • Method of payment will be cheque and they will usually not consider other methods of payment. If they do initially agree to PayPal they may attempt a last minute change to Western Union or some other cash wiring service.
  • They will offer to send more money than asking and say this is to cover the cost of their shipping. They will want to control the shipping themselves.

That last point, about extra money, is a common red flag related to what is sometimes called the "overpayment" scam. Here is an example of how the scam can play out:

Your item, listed for $1,000, gets the attention of a scammer. They offer to send you $1,800, the extra explained as given to cover international shipping costs or the costs of the scammer's private shipping company. They ask you to transfer the remainder back to them once you have shipped the item, sometimes even offering to let you keep a few hundred dollars more than your item costs.

You deposit the $1,800 into your bank and then return the $800 to the scammer. The scammer counts on you doing this before the check officially clears your bank account. This window between deposit and processing is known as "float time" and can last seven days, ten days, or even longer if the payment is international. During this time the money can be transferred, but it has not been verified by your bank as real.

Once the payment is processed, your bank will determine that it is fake. They will take the entire $1,800 back from you. Since you will have already sent the $800 back to the scammer, you must repay the bank $800 of your own money. If you have spent any of the $1,000 you thought you earned, you will also need to replace that. Your item, if shipped, will also be lost.

This information is given as a guideline and not a guarantee of how a scam will operate. In all transactions caution is the best advice. If you feel you have engaged with a dishonest buyer the best course of action is to stop communications and, if needed, contact the police.