Updated 01 June 2022 (view archived versions)
Here some tips on how to keep safe.
1. Trust your instincts: First and foremost, the adage “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” definitely applies to ecommerce. Your instincts are often the best indicator if something is amiss. Follow your gut feeling and use common sense.
2. Report abuse and suspicious looking postings: If you feel that an ad or a posting looks suspicious report it. Many sites, especially online classifieds and ecommerce sites have ‘report abuse’ or ‘feedback’ links, use those to alert authorities. Also contact local better business bureaus and police if you feel local action can be taken.
3. Research the item: Do this beforehand so you know what you are buying, how much it should cost, and what shape it should be in.
4. Never give out personal information: (When using online classifieds) Don’t give your personal information such as your social security, social insurance or national insurance number, date of birth, banking information, your address and so on.
5. Talk on the phone: While email may be the most convenient, especially for initiating transactions, when possible try to speak over the phone before agreeing to a transaction or agreeing to meet if it is a local online classified transaction. If they refuse, excuses are often very revealing. Again, go with your gut.
6. Deal only in cash: For online classified purchases, never wire money, send advance payments, or use your credit card. This also helps you to avoid any deals done through mail – a notorious method for running scams.
7. Keep it local: You can reduce your risk by keeping all transactions local. This also eliminates the need to use anything other than cash when buying or selling.
8. Inspect before you buy: Never buy something that you can’t check out in-person first – not only can you assess its quality for yourself, but you can meet the seller in-person.
9. Meet in public: For online classified transactions, always meet to exchange in a public place and bring a friend. This protects you by not revealing your address and makes it less likely that someone will try to scam you.
10. Don’t go to the car: Do not accompany a person to their car for any reason, and, of course, do not let them go to the car with items in hand if they haven’t paid for them yet.
11. Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask sellers why they are selling their item and about its condition. And sellers – don’t be afraid to ask buyers what their intentions are. If something sounds shady, remember you don’t owe anyone anything and you can always back out of a transaction before any money is exchanged.
12. Keep records: Especially if you buy and sell often – keep some sort of record of what you have bought and/or sold, where you met, and who you bought from or sold to.
Many of the tips above are focused on conducting safe online classified transactions but many can also apply to any online shopping. The most important tip is: only proceed with a transaction if you are 100 percent comfortable. As a rule your instincts are your best protection.