Thursday, April 25, 2024

Seller beware!

Community Outreach Specialist, BBB Northwest + Pacific | August 10, 2020 1:00 AM

For some of us, the annual act of spring cleaning may have stretched well into the fall. And why not? The added time at home has provided plenty of opportunities to clean out closets and clear away clutter. It’s no surprise, then, that all the tidying up has translated into a surge in online sellers wanting to cash in on their unwanted items.

But that’s when things may get messy. Most everyone knows to take extra precautions when shopping on sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and eBay. Put the same amount of care into selling items on those platforms as well. Failing to do that could add your name to a growing list of victims whose efforts to make some money ended up costing them.

The most common tactic starts with a simple question: Do you accept checks? If so, the potential buyer will “mistakenly” send you one for an amount higher than the price of the item you listed. The buyer will then ask that you keep the cost of the item and then send back the remaining balance. After you agree, and once the check clears, the bank contacts you to request payment for insufficient funds.

Just because a check clears doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t bounce. The time between depositing a check into your account and when the bank can identify if it’s bad is long enough for scammers to get away with your money. So, if you’re looking to unload unwanted items, make sure you know the risks.

Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific recommends these guidelines for safely selling your used goods online:

• Control communication. Avoid interacting with interested buyers who want to communicate with you outside of the official selling platform. Most online selling sites and apps have their own messaging systems. Those resources are the safest way to engage with anyone interested in the items you’ve listed.

• Cancel any requests to use checks. Bad checks are a good way for you to lose money. If a seller asks to pay using either a check or money order, assume you’ll be held responsible by the bank if things go wrong.

• Pay through the platform. Accepting payments directly through the site or app you used to list your unwanted items lessens your risk of fraud. Follow any payment recommendations provided by those platforms to better protect yourself.

Stay within the guidelines. Each platform is likely to have a slightly different set of recommendations and requirements for its users. Following those guidelines means the platform is better able to assist you should anything go awry.


BBB is here to help you, so if you have any questions or information about scams you have seen, please let us know, and we’d be happy to help! For more information on businesses, scams, and complaints, you can call 208-342-4649 or find us online at!