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Safety and Fraud Prevention
The Nuts and Bolts:
The Internet is popular: While that may be the biggest understatement made this
century, it’s also the most important factor to remember when buying and selling online.
Most people logging onto the World Wide Web are honest, hard-working, decent
individuals, simply using the Net to find news, information, entertainment, jobs, and
classifieds. However, there are and always will be those determined to exploit and abuse
the Internet – and you. We have some suggestions:
- Do all transactions in person, at a local, neutral and public place unless absolutely impossible. Physically see both the seller and the item you are buying.
- Do not wire money, especially overseas! Scams using Moneygram or Western Union are becoming increasingly more common. Just do not do it – as a buyer or a seller
- Hunches are always a legitimate reason to stop a transaction. Don’t like the Vibe? Walk away.
- Use common sense!
Note: We do not provide any sort of Purchase Protection Program for any item listed on our site. All transactions must be handled between the seller and the buyer directly - recycler.com does not “validate” listings, offer escrow services, or receive/hold payment for advertisers. If a seller is claiming to sell his/her vehicle or item through any such program, please forward the email correspondence to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) along with any other information that will aid our investigation. We also recommend you stop all communication with the seller.
Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions! Like a naïve and zealous schoolboy learning about the birds and the bees, ask everything you want to know and maybe even some things you don’t. Ask about the item’s condition, how often it was used, its full history, why the seller is selling it, and if you can see digital photos (or more photos if the ad only had one or two). You cannot ask too many questions – get a feel for the item and the person selling it.
Don’t reveal too much about yourself! Remain a closed book when issuing personal information to a seller – keep the buyer on a need-to-know basis only. We are not suggesting you become, as Winston Churchill put it, "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma" – shady and elusive – because trust is a two-way street, but there is absolutely no reason to divulge your home address or home phone number (use your cell), social security number, bank information, etc. Make sure to remove anything overly personal on your email signature. After some trust is established, and the only vibes are good vibes, give the seller your name and cell number, but there is no reason to give anything more.
Get them on the phone! It is far easier to be deceptive electronically, so try to talk with the seller at least once over the phone. Even if the original ad only listed an email address, eventually get a phone number and give the seller a ring-a-ding-dong. And though you shouldn’t judge someone based solely on his or her voice (after all, he or she might just have a cold…or be James Earl Jones), try to get a vibe of the person by asking questions about the merchandise.
Meet and Greet:
Meet in a public place! You’ve seen enough spy movies to know you should always meet strangers in public, preferably in the daytime (safe from vampires and werewolves) when plenty of other people are around. If the item is large and you have to go to the seller’s home, bring a friend or three (if you bring enough, maybe you can get out of carrying anything heavy). And at the very least, let someone know where you are going and share whatever info you know about the seller (address, email, phone, name, etc).
Know Thy Stuff:
Research what you are buying! Not only does thorough research yield a sound knowledge of the average market price and the deal you are getting, but can also help you identify fraudulent or "scam-ful" behavior when contacting and meeting the seller. If you are buying an automobile, get the VIN from the seller to check the vehicle’s history (i.e. Carfax.com), or get service receipts directly from the seller. It is also OK to request an inspection of the car by a local mechanic before purchasing it. Do test drives – for cars or anything else that can be "test driven" (motorcycles, guitar, electronics, etc). Pets should have veterinary records readily available or pedigree papers.
If the item hardly resembles the provided photos the same way a peanut hardly resembles the Statue of Liberty, don’t be afraid to stop the transaction. You want to deal with honest people.
Deal or No Deal:
Cash is often the safest and easiest way to pay for online classified merchandise – simple and secure. Personal checks, money orders, Moneygram, or Western Union may create risks for the buyer or seller. And do not give out personal bank information or credit card numbers to private parties you do not know. Keep it simple.
Be prepared to bargain! Sometimes you can get a better deal if you can haggle the seller down on the price, but do not insult him or her with something ridiculously low.
For pricier purchases: Instead of carrying a large, leather, briefcase full of unmarked bills handcuffed to your wrist, ask the seller if he or she will accept a cashier’s check at your bank. You can purchase a cashier’s check and deliver it at your bank, after you are sure you want to purchase the item. Always get a receipt, of course. If the seller is suspicious of cashier’s checks (as they are easy to fake), going to the bank together to get a positively valid check is surely the way to go.
If ever you are pickin’ up them bad vibrations – if the seller sounds overly enthusiastic, seems excessively suspicious and mysterious, erupts with ominously maniacal laughter, carries an ax and wears a hockey mask, stares at your kidneys while licking his lips and rubbing his hands excitedly, or makes you uncomfortable in any way at any time during the transaction process – just walk away.
Sellers take Heed:
Baiting the Hook (with honesty):
Be honest when creating the Ad! Use strong and descriptive language to make your ad standout, but don’t embellish your words or doctor your photos – it will only diminish your credibility when the buyer meets you and sees the item. The photos should be current and should accurately display the condition of the item.
Don’t reveal too much about yourself! Do not use an email from your work or your home email address – they can be too easily traced. List a cell phone instead of a home phone. Though it is a good idea to leave contact instructions and your general location, there is no need to reveal anything personal in your ad (last name, home address, home phone, PIN number, girlfriend’s dress size, etc). Keep it professional and you’ll get professional responses.
Build Trust when responding to inquiries! Discretion may be the better part of valor, but you might have to reveal a few things after initial contact in order to gain credibility with the interested buyer, facilitate further communication, or get the item hauled away. Be friendly and professional as you answer any questions a potential buyer might have, while learning as much about him or her as you can. Avoid overly personal facts (either asking for them or giving them out). Be the judge and jury (and executioner, if you don’t like the vibe) of the buyer’s personality…safety comes before making friends.
Meet and Greet:
Stay local! Be very suspicious if you cannot meet the buyer in person. Classified transactions are exponentially more secure when dealing locally. Be especially wary of anyone from out of town wanting to pay more than your asking price – chances are it is a scam. It works like this: the scammer offers to pay more what you’re asking and after sending a fake cashier’s check, requests that you refund the difference. You are left with a counterfeit check and the buyer, long gone and impossible to trace, makes off with your money.
Meet in a public place! Ideally with the sun still high in the sky, with a lot of people (or witnesses – no, perish the thought) milling around. Avoid inviting the buyer to your home unless it is absolutely unavoidable. If the item is heavy and large, inconspicuously invite a friend over to help with lifting and loading the item. At the very least, let someone know – a neighbor or a friend – when the buyer is coming to your house and share anything you know about him or her (name, phone, email, etc).
Don’t get blindsided by a haggling buyer! A potential buyer might try to steamroll you once face-to-face in person. Be prepared to negotiate, but have a firm "lowest you will go" price in mind – don’t get your metaphorical pants pulled down.
If ever you are pickin’ up them bad vibrations – if the potential buyer seems more interested in you than the item, seems willing to do anything to make the transaction happen, is named Lord Voldemort, demands you take him to your leader, asks what blood type you are, or if you are made uncomfortable in any way – just walk away.
Deal or No Deal:
For larger purchases: it is unsafe for both you and the buyer to walk around with big sacks of money. One option is for you both to go to a bank together and request that the buyer receive and write the cashier’s check in front of your eyes. Do not accept a cashier’s check without knowing it is valid, as they can be forged with ease.
Offer a receipt and keep good records of the transaction in the case of any subsequent quarrels. Get a signature and a timestamp (both parties should sign).
Again, if ever you are pickin’ up them bad vibrations – just walk away
After selling the item: Tie up any loose ends. Please cancel the ad on recycler.com, and contact any other potential buyers. If the item is a registered vehicle make sure your state DMV or other agency is notified.
Secondhand items and Yard Sales:
Comply with local and state sales tax and other laws regulating your activities. In many states yard or garage sellers are required to have a “resale permit” and collect and pay sales taxes and penalties can be harsh.
If you are a host or a customer of a yard sale (and this applies to online classifieds), be sure to understand the law concerning selling secondhand items. It is both illegal and very dangerous to sell recalled items, so stay informed and aware.
All it takes is a little research:
- Cpsc.gov is a great resource for finding recalled items, allowing you to search by product type, company name, and possible hazards, among other things.
- Recalls.com has a comprehensive list of Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls, along with five other federal agencies’ recall lists.
With the total amount of consumer product recalls increasing every year (the top items being toys, cribs, electric blowers, cosmetic accessories bags, and window blinds) it is paramount to stay mindful of potential hazards.
We recommend you use all the resources available before buying or selling anything of questionable origin. There are also inexpensive home lead-testing kits available – especially important for children’s toys and clothing (anything manufactured overseas where production guidelines are less strict).
Be safe and use common sense!
To Sum Up:
Here are a few more tips and reminders:
- Keep it local! Unless you are buying or selling something unique, any non-local transaction should be handled with extreme caution and suspicion – especially international inquiries.
- NEVER wire money.
- Consider setting up a separate email address to handle online transactions, keeping your home or work email address safe from over-exposure.
- Do not give out personal or financial information.
- Be leery of third party involvement, as they may be bogus, phony "agents" invented by a scammer (e.g. somebody to "hold" the money).
- Dealing with escrow companies is especially dangerous because they are very easy to fake.
- Trust your gut. Feel the vibe...
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is...
These are all merely suggestions. You can learn more or report suspected fraud as indicated:
- Contact your local law enforcement agency.
- FTC toll free hotline: 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357)
- FTC online complaint form (www.ftc.gov)
- Internet Fraud Complaint Center (www.ifccfbi.gov)
For other precautions you may wish to take, please visit the FTC site (Federal Trade Commission), which provides detailed information on E-Commerce transactions. You may also wish to visit www.OnGuardOnline.gov , which provides useful tips reducing the likelihood of fraud, securing your personal information as well as other valuable information.
In addition, if you know of or suspect fraud by one of our advertisers or users please let us know at once by sending us an email at email@example.com .