Classified scams trick buyers or sellers into thinking they are dealing with a legitimate contact but it is actually a scammer.
How this scam works
Scammers will pose as genuine sellers and post fake ads on classifieds websites, in print classifieds, and may approach you through email or on social media platforms.
The ad can be for anything, such as rental properties, pets, used cars, boats, bikes, caravans and horses. It may even include pictures and other details – often copied from a genuine seller’s ad. In order to lure a number of victims in a hurry, the scammer advertises the item at a low price, often much lower than comparable items advertised on the same site.
When you show interest in the item, the scammer may claim that they are travelling or have moved overseas and that an agent will deliver the goods following receipt of payment. Following payment you may receive a fake email receipt claiming to be from the website’s secure payment provider, however, you won’t receive the goods and will not be able to contact the seller.
In the case of rental properties, the scammer will pose as a property owner or landlord and post a fake copy of a genuine rental property ad. When you show interest, the scammer will make excuses as to why you cannot inspect the property, often claiming that they are currently overseas. If you are still interested, they will ask for bond, rent payments or deposits in advance. You will never receive the keys to the property and the scammer will disappear with your money.
If you are advertising your items for sale through print and online classifieds, beware of scammers posing as genuine buyers. Scammers may make up stories such as needing your help to pay an agent or third party for upfront costs like transportation or insurance. They may promise you reimbursement for these costs.
Alternatively the scammer may send a cheque for more money than the agreed sale price. The scammer will invent an excuse for the overpayment, such as to cover the fees of an agent or extra shipping costs, or that it was simply human error. The scammer will then ask you to refund the excess amount – usually through an online banking transfer, pre-loaded money card, or a wire transfer – before you discover that their cheque has bounced.
In both cases, you will lose the money you gave the scammer, and if you have already sent the item you were selling, you will lose it as well.
Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.
Do not send the items to the buyer until the cheque has cleared in your bank account or the deposit shows in your Paypal account as receipts and emails can be easily falsified and sellers can lose money in this way. Check the email address from sender and their PayPal account by logging in rather than taking the fake Paypal receipt on face value.
For items of high value, do not allow potential buyers to inspect the goods without someone else being there to supervise.
List of Scams
Online car sellers are being targeted in an elaborate scam involving bogus buyers and fake PayPal transactions. Car sellers who placed classified advertisements with legitimate car sales sites have been approached by overseas buyers who, at first, appeared genuine. Sellers of motorbikes, caravans, trailers and even horse floats have also been targeted.
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