Most consumers are looking for bargains, and many cruise the Internet looking for low prices.
While it’s possible to get good deals online, it’s also possible to be pulled into a scam, whether you’re buying or selling. Scambook (www.scambook.com) — billed as an online resolution platform dedicated to getting justice for consumers — has taken a close look at one popular national site, Craigslist (www.craigslist.org). Craigslist offers free online ads broken down by category and city.
Ideally, with Scambook’s list of caveats, you won’t need its resolution services. These tips can apply to nearly any website that lets people sell directly to others.
• Trust your instincts. If an ad seems phony, don’t pursue it.
• Stay local. It’s a red flag if someone makes up excuses about why they can’t meet or why they want you to ship something.
• Don’t get involved in cashier’s checks, money orders or wire transfers. Deal in cash only. If it’s a large amount of money, meet in a bank.
• Use a counterfeit-bill detection pen. You can get one for a few dollars at an office supply store.
• Don’t use online escrow. These sites are typically run by scammers.
• If buying, be sure to see the goods in person before you commit. At the same time, if someone wants to buy something you’re selling without even seeing it, beware. A scam is coming.
• Beware of job scams. Chances are, it’s an attempt to extract personal data from you. Visit the job’s location before you supply any information for a background check.
• Beware ads that claim to be “certified” by Craigslist.
• Check out the buyer/seller. You can use Scambook and Google to see if someone is who he claims to be.
• Don’t give out personal information in a public ad online. Use Google Voice to create a free disposable phone number (https://voice.google.com).
• If a buyer has to collect an item at your home, put it outside and don’t let them in the house. Have a friend with you.
Whenever you deal with an unknown person online, your risk doesn’t stop at potential identity theft. It can extend to robbery, harassment and even physical assault if you meet the person alone. Whether you’re looking for a snow blower, an apartment or a job, do your homework before committing to any deals.
Uffington regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Write to him in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.