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As more day-to-day activities continue going online, so too does the opportunity for fraud, especially within social media sale groups. While these platforms offer a convenient way to buy and sell items, they also harbor risks akin to those found in traditional classified ads and marketplaces. Despite the security measures provided by major social networks, users can still fall prey to scams that range from simple fraud to more serious crimes like robbery and violence. With participants often knowing little about each other, proceeding with caution is not just advisable—it’s essential.

To assist you in safely navigating these platforms, InterBank has put together a set of guidelines to help you when buying or selling on social media marketplaces. These recommendations draw on advice from the platforms themselves and insights from leading fraud experts, aiming to arm you with the knowledge needed to identify and avoid scams.

Before You Dive In

One of the first lines of defense against online scams is securing your own account. Fraudsters commonly seize legitimate accounts to add credibility to their scams. Activating two-factor authentication is a crucial step that adds an extra layer of security, requiring a verification code from a device that only you control, effectively keeping most scammers at bay.

For Buyers: Warning Signs

Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, exploiting the convenience and reach of social media platforms to deceive unsuspecting buyers. Here are some key warning signs that every buyer should be aware of.

  • Unbelievably Low Prices: Exercise skepticism toward deals that seem too good to be true, particularly for high-demand items.
  • Avoidance of In-Person Meetings: Genuine sellers usually welcome or suggest meeting in person and allowing item inspection before purchase.
  • Requests for Payment in Gift Cards: A classic red flag; no legitimate transaction should require payment via gift cards.
  • Communication Evasion: Sellers who refuse direct communication or redirect you to external sites for transactions are typically hiding fraudulent intentions.
  • Suspicious Email Addresses: Research the seller’s email to check for a history of associated scams.
  • Multiple Listings for the Same Item: Multiple ads for the same item in different locations are a common indicator of fraud.
  • Overly Creative Excuses for Bargain Prices: Elaborate stories justifying unusually low prices are often fabricated to lure unsuspecting buyers.

For Sellers: Spotting Buyer Scams

Selling items online through social media sale groups can be an effective way to reach a wide audience. However, this convenience also attracts scammers aiming to exploit sellers. These are some signs that you may be dealing with a scammer.

  • Requests for Verification Codes: Avoid sharing any verification codes received via text, as scammers can use these to hijack your account, enabling further scams.
  • Refusal to Meet in Safe Locations: Insist on public, well-lit places for exchanges, ideally near police stations.
  • Urgency to Move Communication Off-Platform: Buyers who rush to move discussions off the original platform may be looking to evade detection.

Additional Scam Tactics to Watch Out For

  • Fake Payments and Refund Requests: Be wary of buyers insisting on using mobile payment apps and sending fake payment confirmations.
  • Check Overpayment Scam: Never accept checks for more than the purchase price, as these are often fraudulent, leaving you liable for the difference once the bank uncovers the scam.

Safe Selling Practices

When selling online, it’s best to deal with local buyers you can meet in person, accepting only cash to avoid most scams. If dealing with non-local buyers, familiarize yourself with the seller protections offered by the platform.

By staying vigilant and informed, you can enjoy a safe and successful online buying and selling experience. Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it likely is. Protect yourself by adhering to these guidelines, ensuring your online transactions remain secure and scam-free.