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Jan 23

Beware of Print and Online Classifieds Scams

Posted on January 23, 2019 at 7:11 PM by Michlynn St. John

Classifieds, both online and in print, are great for selling or buying everything from clothes and electronics to vehicles and collectibles. Posts are easy to create or browse through, and they often beat the alternative – investing long hours holding or going to garage or estate sales, which may or may not yield the results we want.

Classifieds Print

Unfortunately, where there are opportunities to get deals or make a profit, there is also a potential for scams to occur regardless of whether you are the one selling or buying.

And because scam artists are cunning at their trade, it can be difficult to tell apart a fake from genuine post or offer. By paying close attention and watching out for warning signs, you can greatly reduce the likelihood you will fall prey to a scam.

Scam Artist

The most obvious warning sign are deals or offers that are too good to be true. If the item is seriously underpriced or if the buyer is offering to pay more than you are requesting, it can very likely be a scam. Another sign is a seller or buyer who only wants to communicate only through email message, and refuses to speak to you over the phone.

Among the most popular types of scams are those that involve a “change” at the last minute that requires sending money overseas. The request is usually accompanied by a fabricated story involving a tragedy or emergency that takes the buyer or seller out of the country. He or she will tell you they still want to sell or buy the item, but that the exchange will happen by mail and that payment is required by wire transfer. One easy way to spot a fake post is to copy and paste the listing into your search engine. If your search turns up several ads that match word-for-word on various sites, it can likely mean it’s a fake.

A few more tips – if you are selling, listen to your instincts and use a trusted payment method, and don’t be shy about refusing payments through bank transfers or declining requests to make payments in installments. If you are buying, never give out your personal or financial information, and never agree to meet at your house of the sellers. Instead, meet at a safe public place during daylight hours and bring a friend and your cell phone with you. One of these safe places can be the Diamond Bar-Walnut Sheriff’s Station, located at 21695 Valley Blvd in Walnut. In 2016, this station was officially designated a Safe Exchange Zone, designed to make it safer for individuals buying or selling items through classifieds. Two parking spots near the front of the Sheriff's Station are clearly marked and solely available for these transactions.

Safe Exchange Zone

I hope these tips help make your transactions safer and protect your from money loss or identity theft, but if you or someone you know is a victim of a scam, you can report it to either the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission. Both these entities have online systems that allow you to file a formal complaint. The BBB even has a website with information about discovered scams. Check them out when you get a chance:

As always, thanks for subscribing to Safety Speak. Leaflets with safety tips, including one about gym theft prevention, can be found on the Let's Talk Public Safety page of the City website. I encourage to download them, read them, and share them with family members and friends.

Also, if you have any public safety-related questions or concerns you want to share with the City or the Diamond Bar-Walnut Sheriff's Department, or if you have suggestions for topics to cover in this blog, be sure to let me know using the Ask a Deputy feature.