Buying and selling online has become one of the most common ways for consumers to secure the items they’re looking for. From cars to firearms, fine art to snowmobiles, online classified websites and auction platforms are no longer the purview of only the most tech savvy users. However, as more and more consumers have moved into the online space scammers have followed. Protecting your finances against fraud when buying and selling online is more important than ever, and the tips below can help you ensure that your financial information stays safe.
Use More Than Email
The most common way that online auctions and transactions begin is through email. Either by reaching out to an email address listed on a classified site like Craigslist, or following up after a closed ebay auction, most users never think twice about email only conversations. However, one of the easiest ways to sift out the legitimate buyers and sellers from the scammers is to follow up on the phone or in person. If the other party insists that email is the ONLY method by which they’re willing to communicate it should be taken as a red flag.
Secure Your Funds
After you’ve taken the time to verify that the other party is legitimate you’ll want to find a safe way to transmit funds between both parties. Online escrow is the most secure way to transfer funds between two relatively unknown parties. Buyers are protected because funds are held securely until there is proof that the item has shipped, or has even arrived for a final inspection. Sellers are also protected as funds are verified and held upfront – completely removing the risk of non-payment, insufficient funds, fraudulent checks and credit card chargebacks.
Use Third Party Inspections
If at all possible provide documentation from a third party, or be willing to allow the buyer to verify information through an inspection of their own. Unless you happen to be an expert in whatever is being bought or sold the only way to be sure that an items is what it’s advertised to be is to have a professional give their seal of approval. This is especially important with sports memorabilia, fine art, and other more easily forged items.
Never Transmit Account Numbers
Unless you’re 100% positive that you can trust the second party you should never share banking or other financial information online. Scammers need relatively small amounts of information to begin clearing out your accounts once they have the account number. Using a third party to transmit funds that shields financial information between the two parties is one of the safest and most secure ways to buy and sell online.
Believe it or not, but most consumers are smarter than they realize when it comes to sniffing out a scam. Trusting your instincts when something seems a bit off and asking the right questions can save you countless hours of time and stress – and if something seems to good to be true, it generally is.
For more information on how you can protect your personal and financial information online see our posts on how to prevent fraud when buying a car online, what to do if you think you’ve been scammed, and how to pay for ebay items.