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Security & privacy

Selling things online? Don’t make this costly mistake

If you’ve got stuff stored away in the attic, basement or closets collecting dust, you may be in luck. Tons of older items are now back in fashion and selling for big bucks.

Old tech is particularly in high demand. If you have old gaming consoles or computers not being used, you might be able to sell them for serious money. Tap or click here for a list of old tech that is worth big money.

But before you put something up for sale, you need to be aware of a recurring payment scam spreading across the nation. Thieves are targeting online marketplaces and if you fall for their scheme, your bank account could be drained.

How the scam works

Everybody likes to get extra money, but you should be on high alert when a potential buyer willingly pays too much.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has highlighted a scam that has been around for some time but has recently seen a resurgence among online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace.

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Here’s how the scam works: A buyer will contact you about an item you have put up for sale. After negotiating an acceptable price, you notice that they paid you too much. They will claim that it was done by accident and that you can refund the difference to them.

But the payment wasn’t overpaid by accident. In fact, the scammer knows that the check they sent you is going to bounce. And that’s how they rip you off. If you send the refund before their check clears, the money you’re sending is your own.

What happens next is your bank will remove the dollar amount of the bad check from your account. Now you’re out the refund money you sent and the item you shipped to the scammer. Doubly whammy!

How to avoid overpayment scams

Thieves are getting craftier by the day, but there are several things that you can do to protect yourself. Here are some BBB suggestions:

  • Don’t ship an item before you receive payment. Make sure any payments you receive are legitimate before you ship your item to the seller. If you ship before they pay, you will have no way to get your item back.
  • Don’t believe offers that are too good to be true. Unless you are selling a rare or highly desirable item that several people are bidding on, you should not expect anyone to offer to pay more than you ask. If someone tries to overpay you, consider it a red flag.
  • Look out for counterfeit emails. Scammers are skilled at spoofing emails from popular payment services, such as Venmo or PayPal. Scrutinize all emails. If an email comes from a domain that isn’t official or contains obvious typos and grammatical errors, it’s probably a scam.
  • Report scams to the online marketplace. Be sure to report suspicious activity, including dishonest buyers or sellers.

RELATED: How to stop annoying robocalls and scam calls for good

It is always best practice to treat strangers with a little suspicion when buying or selling online. There is no harm in being cautious, and if something doesn’t feel right, walk away.

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