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How to Protect Yourself When Selling Things Online 1/31/2019

While a good old fashioned garage sale is still a good way to make some extra cash by selling things you no longer want, it takes a lot of time (and energy) to organize one – signs, tables, price tags and not to mention patience to meet, greet and haggle with the public. Instead, many have turned to selling their unwanted items on popular online channels, such a Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. But before you sell anything online, take these precautions to ensure you and your wallet remain safe.

Be careful who you invite to your home

Your home is your safe space, and you should try to keep it that way. If you’re selling a large item that cannot to be easily transported to a public area, you may not have a choice when it comes to inviting strangers to your home. If possible, get the item you’re trying to sell out of the house by putting it in the garage or driveway.

And most importantly, don’t be alone. When setting up a meeting, tell the potential buyer that others will be there. You can say something like “Come over between 2 and 3 o’clock. I have family visiting and we’ll have a few others coming to look at that same time.” If the item you are selling is easily transportable, you could also meet at a designated “safe zone” for internet transactions, such a police substation. These safe zones are always under video surveillance, with some being monitored live.

Don’t accept checks

Personal checks can sometimes be problematic because you don’t know whether the account has funds, whether it’s fake or whether the check was printed using a stolen identity. Instead, see if the buyer can send you the funds via their banking institution’s Online / Mobile service. Most banks / credit unions nowadays will allow you to send money to individuals, even if they don’t bank there (and without sharing your account number). Cashier’s checks are also a safer alternative to personal checks.

Don’t give out your personal contact info

This probably goes without saying, but don’t give your address or phone number out on the post. An interested buyer can email you, and you can then choose to respond. Many people create and use a dedicated email address for online sales as well, so to keep their personal email addresses separate.

Ensure the item is received

Let’s say the buyer interested in your item doesn’t live nearby and they want you to ship it. Before you do, consider requiring a signature upon delivery to ensure the item was received. Delivery tracking only shows that the item was dropped off, but it could have been left on a doorstep, and there’s no way to ensure it went to the right address or that the right person received it. When you require a signature, there is proof of where it was delivered and who signed for it.

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