Online buy and sell (classifieds) websites are becoming a great way to find deals or bargains from anywhere with an internet or mobile data connection. However as its popularity has increased, so have the risks, with more and more people trying to scam you out of your money, credit card or personal identification. We are committed to creating a safe, secure and user-friendly environment, where our users can post and reply to ads and other messages freely and without concern. The following is a list of useful information and good practices on how to protect yourself and your privacy online; however, this listing is not a substitute for your own common sense. As always, the best protection is to use your own judgment and trust your instincts.
Meeting Safety Tips
- Deal locally; Avoid long distance or overseas transactions.
- Do not meet in a secluded place or invite strangers into your home. In other words, meet in a public place, whether it is a coffee shop, restaurant, parking lot, or even the mall, ideally one that is under video surveillance or with heavy pedestrian traffic flow.
- Have someone come with you when you meet. If you cannot arrange for someone to come with you, tell a friend or family member where you are going and what time you're meeting and when you plan to be back, and all the details about who you are meeting.
- When buying or selling a vehicle, offer to meet at an automotive garage where the vehicle's quality can be assured, instead of offering a test drive. Also ask the buyer for photo ID or write down their licence plate number when they arrive at the meeting location.
Buying Safety Tips:
- Never send or wire money to sellers or buyers. This includes never mailing a cheque or using payment services like Western Union or Money Gram to pay for items.
- Beware of Counterfeit cashier checks & money orders; Banks will cash them and then hold you responsible when the fraud is discovered weeks later.
- Never provide your personal or financial information, like bank account number, social insurance number, credit card number, etc.
- Avoid deals involving shipping or escrow services.
- Never send your item before receiving the money. Do not send the item until confirming that the payment was legitimate, and has cleared, with your bank.
- Counterfeit or knockoffs or stolen merchandise are commonly sold via the internet.
Common Classified Scams and Frauds
Scammers often post fake ads on classified websites as genuine sellers. The ad can be for anything, such as rental properties, used cars, smart phones, laptop computers, or even pets. It may even include pictures and other details to show the ad looks like a genuine one. When you show interest in the item and by following through the 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.
The storyline: in the case of rental properties or real estate, the scammer will duplicate posting from legitimate classified websites 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 out of the country. If you are still interested, they will ask you to mail the check (often to a foreign address) or wire money as deposits in advance. The scammer will disappear with your money and you will not be able to recover your losses.
If you are posting your items for sale through classified websites, the scammer may contact you, make you an offer – often quite generous – then make payment through credit card or cheque (with an image of payment receipt). The scammer often asks you to mail your item to another country (for example, to the United States). Once you realized it was a fake/photoshopped receipt, however you had already sent the item you were selling, so you will lose it as well.
The overpayment scam works by tricking you into refunding money to a scammer who has overpaid you with a bogus cheque or money order for an item you are selling.
The storyline: The seller post an ad on the website, the “buyer” or scammer will contact the seller and make an offer and then send a cheque or money order or credit card for the item; however the payment amount is much larger than the agreed price. The scammer will contact the seller again with an apology and offering a fake excuse for the overpayment. The scammer might tell the seller that the extra money is to cover the costs of shipping or customs processing fees and should be sent to a third party. Or the scammer may just say she/he simply made a mistake when writing the cheque and then ask the seller to refund the excess amount. The seller will deposit the cheque or money order into their bank account and then withdraw the appropriate funds and send it to the seller or specified third party. Few days later, once the cheque or money order is processed, the seller will discover that their cheque has bounced or the credit card had been a stolen or fake card. The seller won’t get any of the funds promised by the buyer plus they have handed over some of their own money right back to the scammer and even worse, if the seller has already sent the item she/he will lose it as well.
Online shopping scams:
Online shopping scams typically involve the purchase of products and/or services where the transaction occurs via a website or other online apps. The scammer will pretend to be a legitimate online seller either with a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine classified site to offer attractive deals, but once the payment is made (scammers prefer money order, pre-loaded money card or wire transfer) then no product or service is delivered.