With the internet becoming ever more popular each and every day, many internet users have been exposed or subjected to popular online scams that fraudulent parties use to rip-off and steal from everyday internet participants. Unfortunately, one area of the internet where scamming is especially prevalent is in the arena of online classifieds. Since most online classified communities are free, and consequently open to the public, scammers inevitably try to pose as legitimate classified listings in an effort to lure their next victim.
Online classified communities count on the action of users to help regulate suspicious listings. By becoming aware of the types of suspicious activity that scammers use in online classified marketplaces, users can help to create a more utopian online marketplace experience for all internet users.
Obviously, popular scams in the world of online classified advertising usually look to steal something of value from an online user. This could include monies in the form of wired amounts or deposits paid or personal information in the form of banking or identity information. In the world of online scammers, no classified category is off-limits. Automotive listings are just as likely to potentially contain a scammer’s listing as are listings for financial services. In order to protect yourself online, it is critical to educate yourself about popular scams so that you can be proactive about flagging listings that you come across that may look suspicious or risky for yourself or other classified users.
The Site Unseen Sale at Lower price
For obvious reasons, one of the more popular forms of online classified scams involves the offer of a rare, popular or valuable product at a significantly reduced price. This could include a car for sale at drastically reduced prices, rare and exotic pets for low cost or other products that seem too good to be true.
With a scam of this nature, an online scammer offers something of value at a lower price but when interest is shown the scammer simply requests a “down payment” or deposit on the item. In many cases the product does not even exist and the entire scam centers around the interested party’s willingness to simply put “money-down” for the prized item or product for sale.
This scam is especially popular with cars and other high-end items that could legitimately carry a higher ticket price and consequently warrant a deposit for the purchase of the item.
In order to protect yourself from this type of activity, it is important to make personal contact with the seller and determine the level of trustworthiness of the individual. However, more importantly, it is critical that used items being purchased on classified websites are seen in person and inspected before any purchase is ever made. Most online communities exist for local transactions between reputable sellers. We expect that local online commerce is most efficient when the conversation carries off the page and into real life. With respect to this, it is always important to protect your personal safety when dealing with online classified.
Buy it Quick Scam
In the buy it quick scam, scammers will try to get you to act fast on the sale of a popular product. The scammer will create a sense of urgency and will put pressure on you as the buyer to take advantage of this great opportunity right away. The only problem is that often times there is no product or the product may be damaged. This is especially true with listings from another country that are quick and persistent to follow-up with you on the sale of their classified goods.
The most obvious way to extinguish the risk associated with the “Buy it Quick” scam is to see the product in person. Seeing the item for sale in person allows you to judge for yourself the quality of what is offered which will allow you to make an educated offer for the product on your schedule, not on the basis of a rushed purchase through online channels only.
Foreign Electronic Scams
Another popular online scam is the posting of used or new electronics by sellers in foreign countries. Often times, the scammer will only have contact mediums available through online chat or email and will be selling a variety of electronic items without the use of a company website.
With this online scam, buyers must be cautious about where the seller is located and must protect themselves by refusing to deposit or wire monies to “hold”or “reserve” the item. In most cases with this scam, people are stolen from when scammers receive the money and simply do not send the items. This is usually followed by the chat or email addresses being shutdown so that no trace of the scammer can be detected for the regular internet user.
Like most other scams, this one can be resolved by simply dealing locally online with legitimate sellers who are willing to meet to let you see items before you purchase. It is critical to be extremely cautious with any sellers located overseas who promise electronics at steeply discounted prices. Be aware and deal in person locally for your electronics needs.
The Seller Excuse
One of the more popular scamming setups when dealing with public classified listings involves the use of seller excuses to get an item sold quickly. Often times they will make a claim that involves something of critical importance like the health of a loved one or the fact that they just moved locations.
With the seller excuse scam, the scammers intention is simply to get you to purchase and pay for the item in question through the creation of trust. Once the buyer’s trust has been gained, the scammer can then try to receive a deposit or payment for an item without any expectation of sending or delivering on the product end.
As a classified market participant it is important to stay vigilant with respect to your online trust. If you do not know someone, it should be obvious to be cautious about proceeding with the purchase of anything sight-unseen. To resolve issues related to seller’s excuses, simply deal locally and in person when purchasing from online classified resources.
Fake Protection Programs
A popular scam that has been around in online classified communities for some time is the use of fake protection programs advertised and attached to classified listings. This scam usually uses the power and reputation of the classified website to trick users into thinking that deposits or payments made to the seller is protected by the classified website.
Fake protection programs are extremely dangerous for regular online users as scammers will go to great lengths to make it seem that large companies support payment plans or protection for deposits made to sellers. Unfortunately, with online classifieds this is simply not the case. Since online classifieds serve to match interested buyers and sellers, classified websites are not involved in any capacity with the payment end of the transactions.
In order to protect against fake protection programs offered by scammers in their classified listings, classified users must be vigilant in watching out for red flags attributed to these fake programs. First, users should be cautious if a classified listing includes branding and corporate logos from other well respected companies that are used as a means to ensure payments. Next, any listing that offers a payment plan or insurance for deposits should be suspicious to any classified user. If something looks too good to be true on an online classified marketplace, it usually is, so proceed accordingly.
Fake Job Listings
The next scam that unsavory characters use within online classified marketplaces involves fake job listings online. This scam looks to take advantage of people who are in need of employment by creating fake job listings. Most often these fake job listings are for a get-rich-quick type scheme that advertises “work from home”or other similar job postings.
Once a user expresses interest in the job listing, the scammer will then either farm for personal data such as Identity information and banking information or will look to get users involved in a pyramid scheme that can cause users to be exposed to financial or identity loss.
In order to avoid fake job listings, be wary of any postings that offer high income with little or no work. Additionally, be aware of any job listings that offer work for home or that allow only telecommuting. When searching for legitimate job postings look for local businesses that have a representative that you can either meet before you are hired or who can produce concrete proof of the employment position.
Critical components to watch out for to avoid a scammer
Often times, there are red flags in classified postings that can help users identify suspicious and dangerous postings. Many of these red flags are easily identifiable and when recognized users should do everything to quickly stop all communication with the person who created the listing. Some of these red flags include:
Listings from foreign sources
Listings with bad grammar or use of the English language
Listings that include generic pictures of products offered
Listings that make up excuses or refuse to talk on the phone or meet in person
Listings that pressure you into rushing the process of a purchase
Listings that always have an excuse about why they cannot provide you with more information about their listing
Listings that require a deposit or payment plans to complete transactions
Listings that offer very little information about the product or service for sale
With the increase in the popularity of free online classified markets, it is now more important than ever to be vigilant in protecting yourself when dealing with strangers in public classified marketplaces. As you browse local classified ads, be aware of what is being offered and always protect yourself against any possible intrusion into your personal or financial privacy.
With online classified marketplaces, the responsibility for staying safe falls directly on the shoulders of the user. Since it is up to the user to start contact with any online classified listing, it is critical that users remain committed to protecting all aspect of personal and financial safety.
As a general rule of thumb, use common sense when dealing with strangers in online classified communities. If something seems too good to be true, most times it likely will be a listing that users will want to ignore or walk away from all together. Be smart with your financial and personal information and use online classifieds safely through the power of local commerce, meeting and dealing with people in a local capacity for the products and services that fit your needs.