Classified Ad Scams: taking the AG’s advice to a logical extreme.

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office sent out a new message on Friday with some advice concerning criminals running scams on people who sell things in classified advertisements (I’m going to assume this happens mostly via Craigslist, although the alert didn’t mention the site specifically).

It is, as usual, fine advice, but I almost feel like their tips don’t go far enough. I’m not usually much of an extremist in most regards, but there comes a time when you need to go the extra mile to protect yourself, and selling things via online classifieds is one of those times.

So, here are the AG’s tips, along with the ways I would recommend taking them to a logical extreme:

  • When posting an ad, be leery of anyone offering to pay more for your item than the listed price. This is often the first sign of a fake check scam.

The FPU Says: Absolutely refuse to accept more than the asking price, and never under any circumstance agree to wire funds back to a buyer. On a related note, basically refuse to sell to anyone who isn’t local and willing to meet in person. Why would someone in Oregon choose to buy your cruddy old kitchen table in Indiana? Surely they could have found one closer to home.

  • Never accept or transfer money from a Cashiers Check or Money Order. Let the buyer know that you will be waiting for the bank to finalize the funds, which may take up to four weeks.

The FPU Says: Really, if you’re selling something for less than a few hundred dollars, refuse to accept any form of check. Cash only. You’re meeting the buying in person to show the item and make the sale anyway, right? In cases where the item is large enough to warrant a check, make sure to wait until your financial institution clears the check to release the merchandise. Actually, if you’re selling something that good, maybe you should consider other selling channels.

  • Investigate your buyer and talk by phone or meet in a public place to discuss important details of the transaction, such as payment and condition of the item.

The FPU Says: Yes. Local buyers only. Do your homework.

  • DO NOT ship or release interest in your merchandise until you are confident that the funds have cleared or you have the money in cash. 

The FPU Says: Just do not ship your merchandise in the first place. Shipping = trouble. Locals only!

  • Be cautious of offers to buy an item sight-unseen.

The FPU Says: Absolutely refuse to sell sight-unseen. Why would a buyer be willing to take on the risk of you running a scam? Only if they’ve got nothing to lose, I think.

The FPU Adds: Also, if you’re selling or buying an item with cash from a local person who you are going to meet in person, there is no reason to reveal any personal information to them, including your full name. Bringing a friend along is also highly recommended. You don’t want to get rolled.

Of course, you might read this and ask, “Don’t you lose the whole worldwide reach of online classifieds when you refuse to sell anywhere but locally?”

Maybe. You might as well just use the old newspaper classifieds, right?

Well, have you priced those lately? Online wins. Just be careful out there.