Seller Beware: Avoiding a Common Scam

Let’s start off here by me stating that I absolutely HATE selling things online. I have extensively used the Facebook Marketplace and eBay over the years and in recent memory the ratio between legitimate buyers and those looking to pull off a scam has gotten ridiculously wide. An unofficial guestimate that I made is something like for every 100 responses I get, better than 90 are total and complete bullshit, and it is infuriating.

Some of these are easy to spot. Common ones that we all know about. But lately there has been a newer one hitting the online selling platforms, and this is the one I am going to write a bit about today. Although used on other platforms like Etsy and eBay, it is especially prevalent on the Facebook Marketplace, because setting up a fake profile is straightforwardly pretty easy.

How it Works…

So, you have something you want to sell. Doesn’t matter if it’s $10 or $10,000, as soon as you list it on Facebook the responses come in. Excited at the prospect of making some cash, you naturally respond that the item is still available. This is where the scam starts.

The scammer will ask you for your phone number and give you a one of several reasons why, but the grift is the same. It will always end up with them telling you that they need to send you a special code to verify that your phone number is legitimate because they don’t want to get scammed. If you comply with this, you are about to have your identity stolen, and start down a long, winding, and expensive road to reclaim it – if you even can.

Here’s what happens…

As soon as they get your phone number, they (either manually or with the use of sophisticated scripts) begin to attempt access to your trusted sites. Your bank, investment accounts, online shopping portals like Amazon or other retailers, etc. Now, if you have ever tried to change your password or made too many attempts with the wrong password, most of these institutions will text you a secret code for you to enter on their website to grant you access in order to change your password. See where this is going?

Anyhow, you are at home patiently waiting for the scammer to send you their special code to verify your phone number (so they don’t get scammed) and as soon as it comes in, you send it to them in hopes of making that sale and putting cash in your pocket.

In the meantime, the scammer now has the code to gain access to your accounts and while you are waiting for them to make an appointment to come buy whatever your are selling, they are emptying out your bank account, ordering thousands of dollars of items from Amazon or Walmart or wherever, or using the information they now have to open up new accounts in your name using their scam address.

Just Don’t…

This cannot be stated emphatically enough. Keep communications within the platform you are selling on. Facebook, Amazon, eBay, and most of the rest have in-site services that allow you to effectively communicate with those you are doing business with without releasing your personal information – especially your phone number.

This is obviously not a comprehensive list of all the scams out there, but it is one of the most effective ones that are being used currently. It is also the easiest one to prevent.


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