How to Buy and Sell Safely on Facebook (and not get scammed).

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My brother-in-law recently bought a new couch and maybe a few other items for the living room too.  As we all know you can’t buy JUST ONE thing when shopping with the wife for anything to do with the home (budgets go out the window then).  So with their new couch on the way, they needed to get rid of their “gently-used” great condition sofa.  Out with the old and in with the new, as they say.

Now, the challenge is to then find an online platform to sell this bulky furniture of theirs to try and recoup some value from it.  Selling this on Craigslist is one of the options, but as many of you know, there are plenty of scammers and murderers that lurk behind that site.  Then there’s a new sales platform in one of the most popular apps out there: Facebook.  Why not give that a try?  After all, the buyers would have a profile picture built in, and (if they share it), their location too.  Perfect for local pickup.

Off to Facebook to sell this thing!

A few moments (maybe days) later they receive an offer from an Out-of-Town buyer saying they will send a certified check for the asking price PLUS some extra money to cover the cost of a freight company to pick this up.  All they have to do is go to the bank, cash the certified check, forward the difference to some freight company and their couch is sold.  So, when the check came today, it took no time to determine it was blatantly fake.  I don’t have a picture of this “Certified Check” but in my mind, a 5-year old took a box of crayons, and several cut up sheets of paper and wrote, “Chek 4 Cowch, Monee $$$.”  You know how these scammers are, they’re barely literate, some may have finished high school, some barely graduated kindergarten, all deserve a smack in the head.  But, the counterfeit check threw a red flag immediately, and luckily they didn’t follow through on this transaction, or they would have been seriously out of hard earned cash!

Here are some quick tips for buying and selling safely on Facebook:

  1. Never wire funds to strangers.  In grade school they taught you to “Never Talk to Strangers” – well that kind of created a bunch of people from ever having the courage to talk to strangers because in order to sell anything, you must talk to strangers!  Selling to your friends and family exclusively will not provide you a sustainable income.  So they should re-write this in school to say, “Never Wire Funds To Strangers.”  That doesn’t have the same ring to it but, if you have to pay via wire transfer – you should seek a reputable escrow company, like Escrow.com.  Escrow is okay, because that creates a neutral third-party barrier from getting scammed.
  2. Always meet in a public, well-lit environment.  This almost always guarantees your safety.  So try your best to meet out of your home and into a public area during the day.
  3. Watch out for complicated schemes like what happened to my brother-in-law above.  Scammers will create new and dubious ways to part you from your money.  My rule of thumb is, if it requires more than two steps to complete, I’m out.  Of course, there are more steps to buying a car or a house so this rule won’t apply and those transactions are almost scam-proof.
  4. Never give out your credit card, Social Security Number (SSN) or checking account info to anyone on Facebook.  It’s Facebook – do I need to say anything more about this?
  5. Never do business in your car.  This just invites way too many possibilities of things going wrong.

If you must sell your goods for local pickup (shipping is very expensive for items weighing more than 5 pounds), keep the above story in mind, and be careful.  If you aren’t willing to take a risk on Craigslist and tried unsuccessfully on Facebook, you can use eBay to sell your couch.  Just choose the local pick up option in the shipping section of your new listing.  Good luck!

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About Brandon Foster 19 Articles
Brandon Foster writes about stock and options trading for Camtrading.com. He also writes product reviews for a prominent online publisher. Previously he managed an equity fund and daytraded full-time in Seattle. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon, and spends his free time thinking of new ventures to start.