Stay Safe When Buying and Selling Through Online Marketplaces

Author: Dabney Weems

Buying and selling online through social media marketplaces is a common occurrence these days. With no physical place for transactions, buyers and sellers must find locations that are safe for both parties to complete the sale. You must consider many things when keeping yourself physically and financially safe while making a transaction through these sites.

Meet at a Law Enforcement Office

Never meet at a private location. Police departments or sheriff’s offices are open 24 hours a day; check with your local law enforcement officials to see if they provide designated areas for transactions. If possible, conduct your transaction inside these offices. However, you may need to schedule an appointment to do this. Also, meet during the day. Avoid conducting any transactions at night.

Tell Someone and Bring Someone Else

Let a trusted friend or family member know your plans. Tell them who you are meeting, their contact information, where you are meeting, and the details of the item being purchased or sold. Ask someone else to accompany you to the transaction. Remember, there is safety in numbers.

Don’t Share Personal Information

This may take extra steps on your end, but it’s worth it to stay safe. Never reveal your address, social security number or banking information. Since some of this information may be displayed on your personal checks, you should consider using a cashier’s check for the transaction or paying with cash.
You will also need to disable caller ID when calling the other party. This will ensure they do not have your full name or phone number. Simply dial *67 before making an outgoing call to the buyer or seller.

Another way to protect yourself is by using an email address that does NOT include your full name. You may need to create a new account with a generic name that is not identifiable. 

Remember, third-party payment apps (PayPal, Venmo, CashApp, etc.) use your first and last name and are connected to your bank account. Avoid using the apps with people with whom you are not familiar. Never pay before meeting in-person. If a seller asks for payment before meeting, don’t do it.

Take Caution Using Cash

If you decide to pay with cash, only bring enough to cover the cost of the purchase. Most sales are final but still ask for a detailed receipt as a proof of purchase. 

Check the Item Before Purchasing

Before money changes hands, ask for a demonstration. You want to make sure the product works. If the seller hesitates, think twice before moving forward with the transaction. If the deal is happening at a police station, they can check it as a possible stolen item before you purchase it.

Trust Your Gut

At the end of the day, trust your own instinct. If you have noticed red flags during communications, it is best to cancel plans and move on. If something seems off or wrong, it probably is. 

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