If you sell things on eBay or similar online marketplaces, here’s a scam that’s been around forever and won’t go away. Groups like the Better Business Bureau have been warning sellers about this scam, but there’s a constant flow of new sellers who apparently keep falling for the same old scam.

The Set Up

    1. You’ve just posted a big-ticket item (a car, computer or furniture) on eBay, Craigslist or another marketplace.
    2. The con artist, pretending to be an interested buyer, contacts you.
    3. They claim they want to buy the item right away and arranges to meet for the exchange.
    4. However, when the buyer arrives, the buyer doesn’t have cash.
    5. Instead, they claim they’ve sent you the money using PayPal.
    6. You check your email and, sure enough, you have what appears to be a message from PayPal confirming the transfer.
    7. The scammer may even claim that the transfer is “invisible,” and that’s why you can’t see it in your PayPal account.

The Sting

There is no such thing as an “invisible” transfer. The scammer didn’t send any money and is just trying to take your item without paying.

Variations | The scammer “accidentally” overpays you for the item and requests you wire back the difference. By the time you figure out the PayPal transfer was a fake, the scammer is long gone.

Tip from the Better Business Bureau on how to avoid buyer scams

    • Don’t accept checks or money orders | When selling to someone you don’t know, it is safer to accept cash or credit card payments.
    • Do not accept overpayments | When selling on Craigslist, eBay or similar sites, don’t take payments for more than the sales price, no matter what convincing story the buyer tells you.
    • Always confirm the buyer has paid before handing over the item |  Don’t take the buyer’s word for it.
    • Be wary of individuals claiming to be overseas | In many different types of scams, con artists claim to be living abroad to avoid in-person contact. Consider this a red flag.
    • Meet sellers/potential buyers in person and in a safe place | Meet in a public area and never invite buyers/sellers into your home. Ask your local police department if they have a “safe lot” program. Even if they don’t, suggesting the parking lot or lobby of a police station as a meeting place might be enough to scare off a scammer.

    More tips for avoiding buyer scams: Lifehack.com

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