How to Avoid Getting Scammed When Selling or Buying

Despite the popularity of e-commerce, Canadians are aware that this medium exposes them to an increased risk of fraud

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While it’s undeniable that you can get great deals when buying things online, there are some risks.

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The onset of COVID-19 lockdowns drove shoppers online. In May 2019, only 19% of Canadians shopped online. In May 2021, that number rose to 49%, according to a PayPal Study 2021. Beyond butter and eggs, Canadians have also flocked online to upgrade their electronics and pick up used gym equipment.

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Despite the surge in online shopping, potential customers are still wary of fraud. A 2021 CPA Canada survey on fraud indicates that one in three Canadians has been the victim of scam at some point.

The more anonymous nature of online shopping makes it a great place for scammers to scam people out of their money and belongings. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dump your old air conditioner on Kijiji, or tag an air fryer on Facebook Marketplace. Here’s how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud on online platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, and Craigslist.

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Always trade in person

As a general rule, try to meet locally because you’ll know you’re dealing with a real person. If you fear for your safety, ask to meet you at a local police station, as many have a trading area it is monitored. You can also ask to meet in a public place, such as a coffee shop.

Avoid nighttime encounters or areas that could make you vulnerable, such as a parking lot. As a seller, you might not get the best deal when dealing with someone local – as opposed to someone willing to pay more if you ship it to them – but at least you’ll know you’re selling to someone real.

cash is king

Cash transactions are always best since you physically receive the funds. However, if the amount is high, you can ask the buyer/seller to accompany you to a bank to get the bank draft. By doing this, you ensure that the funds you receive are legitimate.

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If you’re being asked to transfer money through an exchange service, money order, or wire transfer (such as Western Union), it’s likely a scam. Don’t even think about accepting a check. Interac transfers may be fine, but be aware that if you’re sending someone money for faulty goods – or goods you don’t receive at all – you probably won’t be able to cancel the transaction. If you call your financial institution quickly enough, they may be able to cancel the transfer before it’s deposited. Otherwise you could contact your bank to explain the situation and see if they can start an investigation and possibly get your money back. However, this can take weeks and there is no guarantee that your bank will investigate.

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ask lots of questions

When you buy anything online, you need to ask additional questions. You need to research additional information to verify that the seller is legit. For example, you can ask for more photos or ask how the item was used. You can even ask them where the item was originally purchased. Essentially what you’re looking for are holes in their history. If something rings, it’s probably not a transaction worth making.

See if you can verify their identity

If you’re dealing with a buyer or seller that you can’t meet in person, you should try to verify their identity. Ask them to send a photo of themselves holding their ID (with their personal information covered). You can also ask them to provide links to their social media accounts. You want to establish that you are talking to someone legitimate. Scammers will be reluctant to give information. That said, everyone should be wary when someone asks about personal information. Make it clear that you are just trying to verify their identity and are not looking for any sensitive information.

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Pay attention to the prices

When shopping online, if an offer seems too good to be true, be very careful. If you are looking for a Playstation 5 – which usually sells A few days after being restocked – but an online seller is offering it for only $50 more, it’s probably a scam. Alternatively, if there’s an item you’re interested in that seems to be listed way below what it’s worth, you should question its legitimacy.

accept no excuses

If you come across a buyer or seller who seems to have excuses, it’s probably not worth it. Let’s say you buy electronics. There is no reason you can’t inspect the item before completing the transaction. If they come up with an excuse like they forgot to charge it, demand it be plugged into a cafe so you can inspect it. If someone says they need the items shipped to them because they are in another country, but are willing to pay you extra for your problem, warnings should be ringing in your head.

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Only buy from reputable sites

It’s not just second-hand markets you need to be aware of. When shopping online, you should only buy from reputable sites such as Amazon. Even then, you’ll want to make sure you’re on the right site because scammers can create a fake website that looks like the real thing. Tech-savvy scammers can create sites that copy the logos of reputable sites. Watch out for misspellings or even a URL that doesn’t look right.

Be sure to read seller feedback. If there isn’t, beware. When paying, make sure you have not been redirected to a third-party site. Also, make sure the site doesn’t ask for payment with a method like bank transfer or gift card. Finally, if a price seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

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Always use tracking when selling

A common scam is that of buyers claiming that the goods were never delivered. They will then try to get their money back through the market, which can quickly side with the buyers. If you are a seller, choose a shipping method that has a tracking number and requires a signature upon delivery. Providing this service also protects the buyer in the event of loss or non-delivery of the item.

Listen to your instincts

Even if you do your due diligence and try to protect yourself as best you can, sometimes a deal just isn’t right for you. It might be best to trust your instincts and just walk away from the trade.

This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.



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