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Common OfferUp scams
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Security & privacy

Use OfferUp to buy and sell things? Don’t get scammed

We accumulate a lot over the years, and not all of it is necessary. Things get stored in cardboard boxes in the garage, while others are shoved into a cupboard. Cleaning out your house of unwanted items is an excellent beginning to decluttering, and there are a few places where someone will take them off your hands.

One of the most popular websites is OfferUp, which started in 2011 to compete with sites like Craigslist. Unfortunately, as the website became more well-known, it attracted many scammers. Tap or click here to see a popular scam making its way through Facebook Marketplace.

Read on for details on the most common scams on OfferUp and how to avoid them.

Here’s the backstory

Even though OfferUp only has a faction of the users of other sites such as Facebook Marketplace and Amazon, it doesn’t mean it’s entirely safe. Whenever a platform gains traction, scammers are sure to follow. 

Head of Financial Crime and Fraud at D4t4 Solutions, Serpil Hall, told Readers Digest that OfferUp scammers often pose as trustworthy buyers or sellers of big-price items and prey on people who aren’t computer savvy or aware of current scams.

To avoid these tricky scams, knowing what to look for in advance is important.

Here are five common scams found on OfferUp:

1. Fake website scam

Thieves often try to trick you with spoofed websites designed to look real. This scam is relatively simple, as criminals create a page that looks similar to OfferUp.

But if you pay attention to the URL and some visual elements on the site, you’ll see it’s a fraud. If you buy something through a spoofed website, you’ll throw your money away and never receive the item. Make sure only to conduct business on the official OfferUp site to avoid spoofing scams.

2. Overpayment scam

This type of scam is found on most marketplaces. It works like this. Someone buys an item from you, but instead of paying the purchase price, they send more than what was required. They claim it was an honest mistake. They ask you to return the amount they overpaid to resolve the issue.

That’s where you get scammed. In reality, the check they sent eventually will bounce. Or if they paid electronically, they will tell their bank the transaction was fraudulent and take back the payment from you. If you send the overpaid amount, you’re out that money, the original money they sent and the item you sold.

To avoid losing money on these types of scams, make sure their payment has cleared and is safely in your bank account before refunding the overpayment amount. Also, only use OfferUp to complete the transaction. Scammers might ask you to move to a different payment platform that won’t protect your money.

3. Overly interested buyer

It’s always great when there is interest in your listing, but be cautious about buyers who seem a little too enthusiastic. It might be a scammer trying to convince you that they need the item quickly and suggest talking about the sale on a messaging service away from OfferUp’s chat function.

This can be dangerous, as OfferUp can’t help you when something goes wrong if you move to a different platform. Whenever you buy or sell anything on OfferUp, stay on the OfferUp site and don’t switch to Facebook Messenger or another messaging site.

4. Fake verification code

This scam is pretty sophisticated and could trick almost anyone. How it works is someone looking to buy what you’re selling says they want to verify that you are a real person. Which seems legit, right? So they ask for your phone number to send you a verification code.

In reality, it’s not a verification code at all. They steal your credentials and banking information if you click on their link. It could even infect your device with malware. Never click on links sent by someone through OfferUp. The site has its own verification process and does not use verification codes. If someone demands it, walk away.

5. Empty box scam

An empty box scam is exactly what it sounds like. You buy something on OfferUp and the seller sends you an empty box.

To avoid losing money on scams like this, stick to the OfferUp app when conducting business. If the seller doesn’t send you the purchased item, you can file a complaint with OfferUp to get your money back.

Also, look at the seller’s reviews before buying something. If they have scammed someone in the past, their reviews should reflect it. Stay away from sellers with bad reviews. If they have no reviews, tread cautiously.

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