Junk Mail is a great way to hunt for bargains and sell your stuff. Following these simple tips can help protect yourself and ensure a safe and successful transaction.
When Selling Something:
1. Posting Your Ad
- Be descriptive, use photos. Describe your item as accurately as possible so potential buyers don’t become irritated if the item is not as expected. Include photos to give an idea of the appearance and condition of the item.
- Limit personal information. When posting your ad, use an email address that does not personally identify you (for example, use a Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo email rather than a work or home email). If you use a phone number, use your cell number instead of your home phone.
2. Responding to Initial Contact
- Answer questions. Respond to any interested buyer over email and/or by phone to answer his or her questions and to determine whether he or she is someone with whom you want to do business. Try to get a sense of his or her overall credibility and trustworthiness to see if you want to move forward. Limit personal information. Don’t disclose any personally identifiable information, like where you work, until you feel comfortable with the other person. Avoid inviting someone to your home.
3. Meeting the Buyer
- Avoid doing business with people who are not local. Classifieds transactions should always be done locally. Don’t accept offers from potential buyers you can’t meet in person, especially offers over your asking price. A common scam is an offer over your asking price plus an extra amount for shipping. The “buyer” will send a counterfeit check and ask you to refund the difference back to them. By the time you discover the check is counterfeit, it’s too late.
- Meet in a public place; avoid being alone. Meet in a public place if possible, or if the item is large, like a piano or a washer and dryer, arrange to have a friend over when the buyer arrives. If you are selling items, you may want to schedule your showings all at one time, especially if you are at home alone. Let a neighbor know that potential buyers are coming to your house.
- Be prepared to negotiate. A buyer may want to bargain with you about the price of an item. Be prepared to negotiate the price and terms of the transaction, but be clear where you stand. Remove listing when sold. For common courtesy and to avoid angering potential buyers, once your item is sold, be sure to remove your ad and contact any interested buyers so they don’t waste their time coming to see it.
4. The Transaction
- Insist on cash. In online classifieds, cash is the safest and the simplest for both parties. Do not accept personal checks, money wires, Western Union or Moneygrams. Also, ask for payment in full.
- For big purchases, you can accept guaranteed cash checks. A potential buyer may be uncomfortable carrying around large amounts for items priced over R1000, so an alternative is to go to a bank together and arrange for a guaranteed cash check to be written out to you. Do not accept a cash check from someone’s pocket (they are easy to forge). Arrange to go to the bank with the buyer during business hours to verify the check’s authenticity.
- Protect your personally identifiable information. Don’t give out your social identity number, bank numbers, credit card numbers, etc.
- Offer a receipt. Detail the amount of the transaction and the condition of the item should any further disputes arise. Make sure that both parties sign and keep a receipt, especially in the case of a car sale. You may need the receipt later as proof of relinquishing ownership and responsibility of the vehicle if it is not re-registered and gets a ticket, or is in an accident.