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Online Selling Scam


We’ve all heard stories of purchases going wrong – that great travel deal or cool gadget you thought you were buying turned out to be … not that great. Either it wasn’t as advertised, or it was a scam all together. We know to be skeptical of what we buy. We also need to be careful when selling.


Scammers Target Sites Like Craigslist

When you’re selling online, you don’t truly know to whom you’re selling. Be cautious when it comes to how you conduct the transaction and what payment methods you’ll accept.



The Online Selling Scam works like this: you put something up for sale on a site like Craigslist or Let Go. The scammer approaches you to purchase the item with a check or Cashier’s Check. Once you’ve completed the transaction, the scammer contacts you to claim they “overpaid” or included “shipping costs” and request that you refund them via Moneygram, Zelle, Cash App, or similar options.

You send them money via these channels, which are like cash: the payments are untraceable, and once the funds are gone, they’re gone. And then that original check or Cashier's Check turns out to be no good.


How To Avoid This Scam

The FBI points to these tips from the Federal Trade Commission on avoiding the Online Selling Scam:

  • Never take a check for more than your selling price.
  • Never send money back to someone who sent you a check.
  • Just because a check has cleared doesn’t mean it’s good. Banks and Credit Unions are required to make deposited funds available quickly, but it can sometimes take several days for the institution to learn that the check was actually bad. Consider giving it a few days before shipping the sold item.
  • Consider using a secure online payment service.


You can find some additional details and tips here.


What You Can Do If Victimized

There may not be much you can do to recover your lost money or the item you shipped. You can report the scam to the proper authorities:

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