Posted on

Selling items online may be popular, but it is for scammers, too

Everyone is spending more time at home these days, so now is the perfect time to tackle the clutter. Selling your pre-owned items online helps you earn quick cash and frees up space at home. It’s also environmentally friendly, keeping items that are in good condition out of the landfill.

Plus, with easy to use apps like Poshmark, Depop, and OfferUp, as well as popular websites like CraigsList and Ebay, selling your old stuff is easier than ever. All you have to do is snap a photo, write a brief description, and wait for prospective buyers to contact you. While most people are aware that they should take extra precautions when shopping on sites like these, many are unaware that selling poses some risks as well. Unfortunately, scammers use online selling platforms to target their new victims.

How the scam works: A potential buyer responds to your listing, wanting to pay with a check. The potential buyer says that they will mail a check to you as payment through overnight shipping. You accept the offer, but when the check arrives, it is for an amount higher than the price your item was listed for. The buyer instructs you to deposit the check, but they also ask that you keep the cost of the item and transfer the remaining balance back to them. You agree, but a week after the check clears in your account, the bank contacts you, requesting you pay the money back for insufficient funds.

You might think that you’re in the clear once a check’s funds have deposited into your account, but it often takes longer for a bank to realize that a check is bad. This lag in time between when a check reaches your account and when it’s discovered to be a forgery is exactly what scammers are counting on. Follow BBB’s guidelines for selling used items online to avoid getting scammed.

BBB offers these tips when selling used items online: -- Avoid prospective buyers who want to communicate with you outside of the official selling platform. To protect their users, many online selling platforms require users to communicate via the platform’s own messaging system.

-- Do not accept checks or money orders as payment. Scammers frequently use checks to line their own pockets. Victims who deposit bad checks are held responsible by the bank for the money lost.

-- Only accept payment through methods recommended by the app or website. Most sites recommend or require specific payment methods to help them protect both buyers and sellers from fraud.

-- Keep all transaction dealings on the site or app. When you communicate and accept payments outside of the platform, you are at greater risk for fraud and forfeit protections that the platform can provide.

-- Follow the guidelines provided by your chosen selling platform. Each individual platform is likely to have a slightly different set of recommendations and requirements for its users. Following the guidelines means the platform is better able to offer assistance should anything go awry.

If you encounter a scam, we ask that you report it to our BBB Scam Tracker at Even if you don’t fall victim to the scam, the information allows us to protect the public from scammers.

Learn more about fake check scams.

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.