How to Protect Yourself When Selling Online
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Learn how to stay safe from scammers while selling items online.

Whether it’s a used couch you no longer need, a brand-new pair of shoes that just don’t fit, or an antique you no longer have room for, nearly everything has a place online where it can be sold. And while it might be appealing to sell unwanted items from the comfort of your home, it may also make you more vulnerable to scams.

Whether you’re selling online through eBay, Etsy, or Poshmark, or meeting a buyer face-to-face via Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, it’s important to know how to protect yourself. Here are a few of the more common scams targeting sellers, plus tips for how to protect yourself.

Understanding the Most Common Scams

Imagine this: You’re selling an item via Craigslist, and an interested buyer contacts you saying they’re out of town, but will mail you a check and arrange to pick up the item at a later date. When the payment arrives, you realize it’s made out for an amount higher than necessary. The buyer asks you to deposit the check and wire the extra funds back to them. Unfortunately, about a week or two later, your bank notifies you that the check was bad.

In these situations, the scammer uses the lag time between the check clearing in your account and the bank catching the fraudulent check to disappear. The scammer walks away with the money you wired them, while you, the seller, have little recourse for recovering those funds.

Another common scheme may occur if you are shipping an item internationally to a location where mail tracking is unavailable. In this scam, the buyer claims the item was never delivered and initiates a dispute. On most online marketplaces, the burden is on the seller to prove that the item was shipped as promised. In instances where tracking isn’t available, the platform will often side with the buyer, and you’ll be out the money and the item.

How to Protect Yourself When Selling Online

Although scammers are becoming more sophisticated in their schemes, there are many ways you can protect yourself and your wallet. When selling online, use these tips to stay safe:

1. Protect your personal information

When dealing with strangers online, it’s crucial that you keep your personal information personal. Never share your account information or exact location with a potential buyer. If a potential buyer is asking for unnecessary personal information, they’re likely up to no good.

2. Limit communication channels

Many websites or apps allow buyers and sellers to communicate on-platform, and it’s best to limit your communication to that channel. In fact, many sites recommend that sellers communicate exclusively through their platform. If you need to exchange phone numbers for picking up an item in person, consider using a Google Voice number so that you can cut ties after the transaction is complete.

3. When selling locally, stick to in-person transactions

According to Craigslist, you can avoid 99% of scams by selling to buyers in your area, face-to-face. Sticking to cash transactions and in-person hand offs can eliminate some payment scam risk, but you should still take certain precautions. If possible, choose a public meeting place — even in front of a police station — and ask a family member or friend to accompany you. If your item is too large to take to a public place, try to move it into your garage or in front of your home, and always schedule meetups for daylight hours.

4. Only accept payment through approved methods

Most sites recommend, or even require, certain payment methods to protect both buyers and sellers. If you’re using Craigslist, Amazon, or eBay, ask that the buyer pays through the website’s recommended channel. Do not accept personal checks, cashier’s checks, wire transfers or money orders. If a buyer insists on these payment methods, they may be planning a scam.

5. Take extra caution with shipping

If you have to ship an item to a buyer, you’ll need to take extra precautions. First, never ship to an address that’s not associated with the buyer’s profile. If you send to a non-approved address, the buyer may claim they never received the package — and it may be harder to trace. When shipping, always use tracked postage methods, and keep the tracking number for your records. That way, if they claim the package wasn’t delivered, you can check the tracking status or contact the postal service or carrier directly.

6. Take advantage of seller protections and guidelines

If the site offers seller protections, make sure you’re using them. Further, don’t stray from the site’s usual processes or payment methods — many sites require you to adhere to these guidelines in order to receive protection.

If you’ve encountered a scam while selling online, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at reportfraud.ftc.gov. For more tips on protecting yourself against financial scams on and offline, visit regions.com/fraudprevention.

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This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and irs.gov for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.

The information presented is general in nature and should not be considered, legal, accounting or tax advice. Regions reminds its customers that they should be vigilant about fraud and security and that they are responsible for taking action to protect their computer systems. Fraud prevention requires a continuous review of your policies and practices, as the threat evolves daily. There is no guarantee that all fraudulent transactions will be prevented or that related financial losses will not occur. Visit regions.com/STOPFRAUD, or speak with your Banker for further information on how you can help prevent fraud. References or links to third-party websites do not imply endorsement.