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5 Ways to Prevent Scams When Selling Online

Business Development

Selling online is a great way to earn extra cash or make a living, especially during this post-pandemic period.  

Unfortunately, swindlers find it as an opportunity to make money. And, these people make a living out of scamming small business owners like you.  

Isn’t it dreadful? While you’re busy getting your hands dirty to earn clean money, some people have it easy by fooling others.  

According to Digital Commerce 360, online shopping fraud increased by 30% in 2017, while e-commerce fraud grew by 45%. This costed retailers nearly $58 billion.

The data above shows that buyer fraud is indeed a huge issue, and ecommerce sellers are losing billions of dollars each year to these scams.  

That’s why it’s important to stay vigilant and learn how to spot scammers. It will go a long way in keeping you from becoming their next victim.  

Most of our clients are small business owners. We asked them if they experienced getting scammed by their customers before, and most of them answered yes.  

So, based on their personal experiences, this SEO West Palm Beach company compiled a list of surefire tips you can use to avoid getting ripped off when selling online.  

Let’s get started!

4 Most Common Forms of Buyer Fraud

scammer behind a computer trying to scam an SEO West Palm Beach company

Shady “buyers” use all kinds of crazy tactics just to try to trick sellers out of money, but don’t let this discourage or intimidate you. The trick here is to be mindful of every transaction.  

Some scams are very elaborate that you’ll never be able to guess it’s a scam. Scary, right?  

They send a fake cashier’s check for an amount higher than the set price. Then, the buyer tells you that they “accidentally” overpaid and will ask you to send back the extra money. Being the good and honest seller that you are, you’re going to send them back the extra amount only to find out that the check was fake to begin with.  

Not only does the “buyer” have your item, but they have your money in their own pocket as well! You, on the other hand, are left with no money and no item.  

Other scams are of simpler nature - so much easier to spot but are equally infuriating.  Below are the most common forms of buyer fraud you need to be aware of:

1. Undelivered Products

This fraud is a classic. The scheme remains unchanged, but many still fall for it.  

What happens is that the buyer claims that they never received the item they purchased even though they did.  

Generally, the seller will either refund the retail price or send another item. Either way, the scammer wins and you lose. They get money or two of your products.  

Many businesses look at “I didn’t get my item” cases with suspicion, which is bad for customers who genuinely didn’t get the items they ordered.  

Fortunately, there are different ways you can protect your business form this kind of scam. All you have to do is ship your item with delivery tracking. This will allow you to keep track of your products from the moment they leave the shipping center, until they reach your customers’ doors.

For pricier items, request for your customer’s signature when the package arrives. Ask them what time they’re usually home so you can put a note and let the delivery man know what time they should be delivering the item.  

2. Product Not as Described

Another common fraudulent act a lot of small business owners fall victim to is the “product not as described” scam.  

This is how the scam works: The "customer” will buy an item, and when they receive it, they will file a complaint saying that the item isn’t accurate to how the seller described it.  

What sellers usually do is to send a replacement without asking for the return of the original product or they will refund the customer.  

Now, this scam is trickier to combat because it’s a “your word vs. their word” kind of situation. What you can do is take a photo of the item as proof of its condition before delivery. This way, you have a photographic record of your product’s condition before shipping out for deliver.  

If you’re a larger retailer, it’s just not possible for you to take a photo of every item you ship out. So, to ensure you don’t fall prey to the scammer, check the quality of items the moment you receive them from your suppliers.  

Neither of these solutions are foolproof, and you may end up taking the loss. Just make sure to track the situation and the buyer and avoid doing business with them as much as possible.  

3. Return Abuse

This form of scam has been around for decades and is categorized as “friendly fraud”. However, nothing is really friendly about the impact it can have on your revenue.  

The most common form of return abuse happens in the retail industry. A buyer purchases a dress, wears it to an event, and then returns it. This form of scam can go beyond clothing and into other industries as well.  

Other examples are:

  • Returning a stolen item for refund  
  • Using somebody else’s receipts to get an item on the list from the store and pretending as if it were a purchased product to return for refund  

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. What you want to do is to update your return process and make sure to close any loopholes.  

Here are other tips you should consider:

  • Track every purchase and returns  
  • Set a clear return window
  • Ask for a receipt for every return
  • Charge a restocking fee for pricier items and make sure to state this clearly in your return policy

4. Crazy Customers and Bad Buyers

As an SEO West Palm Beach company that has encountered so many business owners who have experienced all sorts of customers, trust us when we say that there all kinds of crazy and bad customers out there. Some make wild threats, others can’t make up their minds, and there are those who are just plain psychos.  

One of the reasons why it pays to sell on eBay, Amazon, or other online market places is that they provide buyer and seller feedback tools. These tools help you see if a buyer has a good reputation based on their previous transactions.  

However, this doesn’t mean that if a buyer doesn’t have any feedback, you should avoid them entirely. Everyone starts at zero, and it’s not always that a seller leaves a rating for every transaction.  

If you feel in your gut that a particular buyer is a scammer, look them up on social media or at Bad Buyer List and do your research. Check if other online sellers have encountered this particular scammer.  

5 Ways to Prevent Scams When Selling Online

man shopping online and using credit card

Don’t Share Your Personal Information

Like we said, there are all sorts of crazy, bad buyers out there. To protect yourself from any threats or whatever forms of fraud they’re up to, never share your personal information.  

And, when we say personal information, we mean everything - from your account number, social security number, phone number, location, e-mail address, or full name.  

No buyer should ever ask you of you credit union account or any personal information. If you ever encounter one, know that they’re up to no good.  

Carry Out Transactions in a Public Place

Although most buyers are legit and have good intentions, you can never be too cautious when meeting them.  

Never do transactions at home. As much as possible, meet in a public place.  

There are have been news stories and reports about people getting robbed, assaulted, or even killed as a result of online transactions.  

Always be cautious even though a buyer seems really nice and legit. You just never know what could happen.  

Choose to meet at a busy coffee shop. Some police stations are also designated as Safe Trade Stations where you can conduct safe transactions. You can suggest that too.  

A legit buyer won’t get offended or infuriated by these suggestions, and will likely appreciate it because they’re also concerned about their own safety.  

Ask Somebody to Come with You

In cases where you really need to bring a buyer home because they need to check out your sofa, for example, make sure to have somebody with you.  

Call a friend or a family member. Schedule your meet up during day time. You can even request your local police department if an officer can drive by at the time of your meetup.  

Don’t Accept Weird Funds, Checks, or Money Orders

buyer writing a check

As much as possible, do not accept personal checks, cashier’s checks, wire transfers, or money orders. If a customer insists using one of these modes of payment, they’re most likely trying to scam you.  

If you’re selling big items like a car, do it in your bank. That way, you can deposit the cash right away.  

PayPal, Amazon Pay, GoCardless, and Secure Pay are some of the most popular, reliable, and safe online payment solutions you can use.

Sell to Local Customers

According to Craigslist, you can avoid 99% of all scams if you sell to local customers.  

When you sell to people who are from your area, you just know they’re less likely to scam you because everybody knows each other. If they do attempt to scam you, you can easily track or trace them. However, you still need to be extra careful.  

If a buyer is being shady and your gut tells you something’s off with them, trust your gut and end your transaction.  

Protect Your Business from Buyer Fraud at All Costs

While most buyers are legit and have good intentions, there those who make a living out of scamming others.  

According to Consumer Reports, fraudulent actions and scam traps increase before big holidays. Always be mindful and cautious of every transaction to avoid falling into scam traps, especially now that the holiday shopping season is fast approaching.  

Because all sorts and kinds of fraud happen in the world of online retail and ecommerce, customers are extremely wary of who they do business with.  

If you want to build your online reputation, start by establishing a solid SEO strategy in West Palm Beach. You may not realize it yet, but SEO techniques such as improving your website, optimizing your content, and building back links all work together to put your business at the top of search results and establish your business as legitimate.  

If you need professional assistance with SEO and online reputation management, Digital Resource can help! Our team of digital marketing specialists can help you establish the trust you need to start getting more customers.  

Want your business to appear at the top of search results? Contact us today!

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