BBB Advises Customers To Use Online Sites With Caution

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So much shopping is now done online, but the Better Business Bureau is warning that caution must be used when consumers use services dealing with sellers they don’t know.

The BBB says that sites like Craigslist bring up several personal and financial risks for those who use them. Although many transactions and deals on Craigslist are honest and legit, criminals have been able to use Craigslist and sites similar to their advantage. The BBB is offering tips to make Craigslist use a safer experience.

Basic tips from the BBB include:
•Try to deal with local buyers and sellers.
•Never wire funds.
•Make sure you are using a reputable escrow service.
•Never give out your Social Security Number or other personal information.
•Don’t apply for jobs that require a payment.
•Apartment or home rentals should be inspected in person before money is put down.
•Consider the risks involved with selling a high value item yourself and weigh that against any extra profit you might make. Is it worth the risk?

The following are red flags—signs you might be dealing with a fraud:
•The buyer or seller is located in another country.
•The buyer or seller will not meet with you and will only communicate via e-mail.
•The buyer overpays (probably having sent you a fraudulent check) and asks you to wire the extra funds back to him/her.

The riskiest part of buying or selling something through Craigslist (or other e-commerce sites) is meeting a stranger to complete a transaction. These are some tips to decrease the risk factor:

•Set up meetings during daytime hours and in a public place.
•Consider bringing a friend or family member with you.
•If you’re the seller, consider using an escrow service.
•If you’re buying an item, don’t pay with cash if the item is more than $100; pay with a cashier’s check and let the seller know in advance that you’re paying with a cashier’s check.
•If the seller insists you come to their home or apartment, don’t.
•Trust your instincts. If you don’t like the direction things are taking, walk away.

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