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buy-and-sellSelling personal and commercial items online is a great way to open up your goods to an enormous audience. Online buyers also have the advantage of shopping through millions of products from the comfort of their couch or office chair. While there is tremendous opportunity for both parties, how can you safely complete a transaction with someone who many not be just across town, but across the globe? Following the tips below can help to ensure that whether you’re buying or selling, you’ll always be safe.
Keep Things Disposable
Many online auction and classified websites have their own email system where buyers and sellers can communicate within the platform. However, not all sites offer this type of functionality. If you don’t have the luxury of being able to communicate with the other party through the host sites system, consider creating a non-specific and easily deleted email account. This allows you to keep your regular emails from family and friends separated from any communications with unknown buyers and sellers. That insulation layer can also provide protection against scammers who may try to hack your email.
Go Beyond Email
Communication through email is incredibly convenient, but it can also provide scammers a great place to hide. If you’re comfortable, attempt a phone conversation with the other party. Not only does this allow you to establish that there is a real person on the other end of the transaction, but it can be a great way to iron out details that may not translate well in an email message.
Protect Your Funds
Consider using an online escrow service like PaySAFE. Online escrow is great for both buyers and sellers – especially when steep price tags are involved. Sellers are protected as all purchase funds are verified and held upfront; completely removing the risk of non-payment, insufficient funds, fraudulent checks and credit card charge backs. Buyers are also protected because funds are held securely with a neutral third party, and generally aren’t released until there is proof that the item has shipped or has even arrived for a final inspection.
Get an Inspection
It not difficult to believe that any seller will always try to present their item in the best possible light. Some sellers will take things a bit too far and attempt to conceal damaged items. While you may be tempted to take the seller at their word you should always consider an inspection. Companies like will setup a time for one of their lookers to visit the item you’re considering, and document the actual condition of the item. Depending on your requirements, these inspectors can even shoot video, or perform custom inspections to make sure that all of your concerns are addressed.
When it call comes down to it, most people are better at recognizing a potential scam than they realize. If you ever get the feeling that something just isn’t right, or that it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. In that situation you should never feel badly about simply walking away from the deal.
For more tips about buying and selling safely online, be sure to check out our posts on using escrow to buy and sell cars online, how to buy luxury items online, and six tips for international buying and selling.

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