advertise-safely

If you are advertising online (for example, to sell a horse), you should be aware of the common internet scams associated with online advertising, and how to avoid them. Following is a list, based on our experience, and our suggestions on how to avoid them. We suggest you consider the following, regardless of whether you advertise with us, or on other websites. Please note that the following is written to protect advertisers; a separate article will be provided on how buyers should protect themselves.

EMAIL Theft

When selling online you will usually be required to provide a contact EMAIL address. Although the website where you are advertising may be perfectly honest, such websites are often scanned by fradulent software programs which try to obtain such EMAIL addresses by any of the following 3 methods:

  • Going through the advertisements to find any EMAIL addresses which are within the advertisements themselves.
  • Automatically completing the contact form and sending it with a general question (e.g. 'Please provide more information about your item for sale').  When you reply, they collect your EMAIL address from the reply.
  • Getting through the website's security to access the database when the contact EMAILs are stored.

Once they have your EMAIL, they may either then use if for SPAM or fraud themselves, or they may sell on the list of EMAILs they've obtained to other people who use it for SPAM or fraud.

Since even the largest and most honest websites may be the target of such fradulent software, one should always protect your EMAIL address. Never use a business or personal EMAIL for selling online. Obtain a free temporary password (e.g. from Google GMAIL or Yahoo) which you can use for the advertisement. That way, if it becomes the subject of SPAM, you can simply throw it away and get another (which may not be easy if you used a business or personal EMAIL address).

As an additional step, you may wish to advertise only with websites which provide a contact form which hides your EMAIL (we provide this service automatically and free of charge), so that you do not have to place your EMAIL address within the advertisement. Note that EMAIL addresses which are published within advertisements are more likely to attract SPAM.

Over-Payment

In this scam, the buyer pays more than the price of the item and asks you to refund the difference. For example, if an item cost $100, he pays you $150 and asks you to send back $50. He may say that he overpaid by mistake, or he may give some other excuse.

The basis of the scam is that the payment to you is fradulent. For example, it may be a counterfeit cheque (even a counterfeit cashier cheque), or it may be using a credit card which has been stolen or a PayPal account whose login details have been stolen. Consequently, if you send back the overpaid amount, the buyer will simply take the money and you will find out later that the cheque or other payment to you is not valid and you are out of pocket this amount.

To avoid this:

  • Never pay money to a buyer. Cancel the original payment (e.g. return the cheque or cancel the credit card payment) and ask them to make a new payment in the correct amount.
  • Always wait until payments have cleared and are deposited in your bank account before providing goods or refunds.

Advance-Payment

This scam is similiar to the above scam in that the other person tries to get you to send money to him. The difference is that rather than pretending to have over-paid you, the scam is based on promissing to pay you but giving some excuse for needing money from you to complete the transaction. For example, they may may offer to buy a horse, but ask for money to pay for its transport or innoculations. However, after you have 'advanced' the money, the other party will simply take it and disappear.

The way to avoid this scam is exactly the same as for the previous scam: never pay money to a buyer, even if it is just an advance.

Identity Theft

There are a number of scams in which the other person tries to get financial information about you (e.g. your bank account or credit card number), along with personal information so that they can use your identity to access your money or purchase items.

Many financial institutions have a small number of personal questions which they use to identify people. Typical questions include your date of birth, your full name (including middle names), your mother's maiden name and so on. Consequently, if someone obtains this type of information from you, along with a bank account number or credit card number, they may be able to contact your bank or credit card company (by phone or through an online account) and pose as yourself.

They are a number of reasons which they may give for asking for  this information. For example, they may ask your bank details so that they can transfer money to your account and then say they need the personal information for administrative or security reasons.

To avoid such problems, be carefull what information you provide. Try to agree a payment method which involves providing the minimum of information. If you suspect that your details have been compromised, contact your bank or credit card company to discuss the situation and make the appropriate changes to number or security questions.

Private Meeting
 

This is a scam which most often occurs with real estate advertising, but could occur with horses, so we discuss it here just in case.

People advertising high value items (e.g. a house) have been contacted by people saying that they want to buy the house but need to meet with you at another location (e.g. a hotel in a foreign city or country) to make the arrangements. There are a number of different scams which can then occur, from your house been robbed (as they know when you will be away) or a straight-forward scam (e.g. they try to purchase the item in cash, using counterfeit money) or an attempt to get you alone and force you to give them money.

To avoid this scam:

  • Even if you are desperate to sell the item in question, ask yourself if the offer is reasonable. Someone who offers to buy an expensive horse simply from an online advertisement, without ever seeing it or even trying to negotiate the price, is unrealistic. Further requests, such as meeting in a far away city rather than locally, just add to the unreality of the entire situation.
  • When meeting strangers, always do so in a public place (e.g. a restaurant) and never in an isolated area (e.g. a hotel room). If possible, have a friend with you rather than going alone.
  • Find out who you are dealing with. Ask them their names, where they live and so on. If they are guinine people, they shouldn't mind telling you about themselves.Premium Rate Telephone Numbers

General

Remember that any potential buyer is a stranger. You should never give them money, no matter how reasonable and convincing their story is (remember that practiced con men or women can be very good at this) or personal details except those which are relevant to the item being sold. For your personal safety, do not meet strangers alone or outside of public areas.

If potential buyers make strange or suspecious requests, or behave in an odd fashion, be careful. If they don't seem like guinine buyers, they probably are not.