The world of online buying, especially when it comes to second hand items, is full of horror stories; everything from muggings to the (somewhat) hilariously atrocious conditions of the items presented. Most Craigslist sellers are genuinely trying to make a nice chunk of change out of their unwanted junk and while it is true that you probably aren’t going to get robbed blind while trying to buy a wicker chair, it definitely doesn’t hurt to be safe. Everyone pretty much understands that common sense is key during transactions like these, but here are a few safety tips that may help you along the way.
1. Ask The Seller For A Photo And Background Information On The Item
Just think of this tip as asking for proof that the item you are considering purchasing actually exists and is in good condition. Whether you’re planning on purchasing a vintage bicycle or a high-tech kitchen mixer, ensuring that the products you’re looking for actually exist and is in working condition is the first step of any second hand purchase. If the prospective seller cannot produce any photos or information or flat-out refuses to, it may be best to move on to greener pastures.
2. Learn How To Recognize A Scam
In the world of online second hand exchanges, scams can be found in even the most seemingly trustworthy of places. Never buy something you haven’t seen, advance payments are a no-go, and any weird third-party transactions should be strictly avoided. When buying second hand items, your common sense is your best friend.
3. Always Meet In A Public Place
This should probably go without saying, but as nice, polite, and unassuming someone might seem over the exchange of lengthy emails, they are still strangers, which makes inviting them into your house, or vice versa, very unwise. Places like busy coffee shops and bustling public parks are spaces that offer a relative amount of privacy but are central and crowded enough to serve as protection should anything go wrong. It is also always advised to bring a friend along with you, just for the added sense of comfort.
4. Never Reveal Your Personal Information
Other than your phone number, there is no real reason to give out any of your other personal information to second hand sellers. If anyone requests your social security number, bank information, or even home address, run far, far away. Since the majority of second hand buys are made using cash (excluding sites like eBay or transactions made through PayPal), the need for any of your personal information is non-existent and the request for that information is indicative of an impending scam.
5. Remember To Tell Friends or Family About Your Plan
When looking at and buying items in person, if you must go alone, always remember to tell friends and family your plan. Shooting off a text with all of the information you have on the seller, your meeting place, and a brief explanation of what you are doing acts as an added layer of protection.
6. Be Extra Cautious When Buying High Value Items
For expensive, high-ticket items like cars, electronics, and furniture, buying things second hand is a great way to save yourself some major cash, a fact that scammers are well aware of and try to profit from. Always be sure to do ample research on the expensive item that you are planning to purchase, know the market price and understand the risks. It may also be best to conduct the payment process for these items at the bank to keep any funny business at bay.
7. Trust Your Gut
As with most things, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If the price on a usually expensive item is exceedingly low but claims to be in great condition, there’s almost a guarantee that something isn’t quite right there. If a potential seller requests that you meet at their home instead of someplace public, it’s probably best to keep as far away as possible. Your gut almost always knows best, which makes following it a must.