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Protect yourself from ad scams

Online classified ad websites have made it easier to buy and sell all sorts of products from exercise equipment, jewelry and boats to houses. These sites have also attracted con artists who have nothing to sell or have no intention of buying your item. For example — you place an ad on a local buy and sell website and get a number of responses, but how do to tell which one is legitimate? How do you tell which purchaser is a scammer?

Here’s some tips to prevent these criminals from getting into your wallet!

  •  Be cautious — learn the warning signs of fraud:

1. Watch for incorrect grammar and spelling as these are indicators of a scam. Generic, non-specific responses also constitute a warning sign.

Example: “Hello seller, I saw your advert and i’m interested in purchasing your quad. I will want you to get back to me with the following info, if it is still available. It’s present condition. An updated pics {if any. Your last offer. I will make payment with a money order or check if it is still available. Hope to hear from you in earnest. regards, Frank.”

2. The purchaser sends you a cheque or money order greater than the value of the listed item.

Example: You list a trailer for $30,000 and the purchaser delivers a money order for $50,000. He tells you it was a mistake and instructs you to refund the “excess” to him via wire/money transfer. By the time your bank calls you to advise the cheque was counterfeit, the scammer has made off with $20,000 of your hard-earned money.

3. The purchaser doesn’t want to see the item in person. They may say they are out of the country or away on business. Most legitimate buyers want to see the item in person.

Example: You list a condo for rent. You’re contacted by a renter from out of the country who sends you a cheque or money order for the deposit and 12 months’ rent up front. This is too good to be true! Immediately after you deposit the cheque, he contacts you to say there has been an emergency and he can no longer rent the condo. He instructs you to keep the deposit and first month’s rent, and wire him the balance. Your bank calls you to advise the cheque was counterfeit and you’ve been scammed.

4. The purchaser wants to rush the transaction. Be wary of language such as “urgent” or “quickly,” or of purchasers who pressure you to immediately remove the listing. They may insist that you keep checking your inbox for messages, and will say things like “promise to check your emails” or “don’t verify with authorities.” Pressure tactics are common with scammers.

5. The purchaser tries too hard to appear legitimate. They use the words such as “honest” and “God fearing.” They often ramble on about details irrelevant to the purchase, such as sickness in the family or religious beliefs.

6. The purchaser’s name or email address changes during the course of the transaction. Inconsistencies in names, email addresses and phone numbers are a red flag.

  •  Tips to avoid being scammed:

1. Know who you are dealing with; independently confirm your buyer’s name, street address and telephone number.

2. Never accept a cheque for more than your asking price.

3. Never agree to wire funds to a buyer.

4. Resist pressure to act now. If you accept payment by cheque, ask for a cheque drawn on a local bank. Wait for it to clear!

  •  If you have been scammed:

1. Bring all emails, correspondence and relevant details to your local police agency.

2. Report the incident to the Canadian Anti Fraud Center at 1-888-495-8501. †

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