The Internet is an amazing tool. It provides instant information and allows us to connect with people a world away. It also allows us to buy, sell and collect gas engines as quickly as we can click a mouse. Those transactions are instant and, unfortunately, so is losing your money to scam or fraud if you’re not careful.
Anyone who’s been in this hobby long enough will tell you that the vast majority of collectors are honest, above-board folks. But, if you’ve been around long enough, you’ve undoubtedly run into some bad apples here or there. It goes without saying that the Internet has no shortage of bad apples. The problem is, it’s much easier for them to hide behind a computer screen, disguising their less-than-noble motives with a cordial message board post or friendly email.
If you choose to do business through online marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist, or if you shop through classified ads in newspapers or magazines, there are some guidelines you should be aware of in order to avoid an internet fraud or internet scam. The following is a list of tips published by the Better Business Bureau for doing business through Craigslist, but I think you’ll find many of these tips apply to any business transaction with a stranger, online or otherwise.
• Try to deal with local buyers and sellers.
• Never wire funds to someone you don’t know.
• Use caution when using an escrow service – make sure it’s reputable by checking it out at www.bbb.org.
• Never give out your Social Security number or personal financial information.
• Consider the risks involved with selling a high-value item yourself and any extra profit you might make against using a consignment service. Is it worth it?
The BBB goes on to offer hints as to whether someone might be trying to scam you:
• The buyer or seller is from another country.
• The buyer or seller will not meet with you and will only communicate via email.
• The buyer overpays and asks you to wire the extra funds back to him/her.
If you decide on meeting in person to finalize the transaction, the BBB offers the following tips:
• Set up meetings during daytime hours and in a public place (coffee shop, restaurant).
• Consider bringing a friend or family member with you if you have safety concerns.
• If you’re the seller, consider using an escrow service for payment.
• If you’re buying an item, don’t pay with cash if it is more than $100; pay with a cashier’s check and let the seller know your method of payment in advance.
• If the seller insists you come to their home or apartment, tell them you will only meet at a neutral public site.
• Trust your instincts. If you don’t like the direction things are going, walk away.
Finally, online and classified transactions are nothing to be afraid of if you exercise due diligence. Hopefully, these tips will help you avoid internet fraud or internet scam, and better identify the bad apples before they have a chance to spoil your day.