Buying Secondhand? Anti-Scam Tips

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

     Some seasons in our lives, we need to save up and be practical in spending our hard-earned cash. One way to do this is to resort to secondhand items. Fortunately, lots of people are willing to destash their stuff to get more out of their purchase, while some just want to Marie Kondo out of their way to an estetik home.

     If you’re on the fence when it comes to the art and science that’s shopping for secondhand items, get a load of our tips below to avoid getting scammed.

Buying Secondhand? Anti-Scam Tips 
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Thorough research always helps.

     Yes, stalking the seller’s profile is part of research. No, they can’t sue you for that. Aside from scouring the social media pages for leads, try to run a search using your browser. Use search phrases with the following format:
  • <product name> scam
  • <name of seller> scam
  • <seller’s contact details> scam

     There are a lot of other possible combinations but hopefully, you can get more ideas out of the examples above. Do a quick comparison of the seller's price to the brand-new version as well. If the secondhand price is only a few bucks away from its mint counterpart, you may have to look elsewhere for a better deal.

     Some online selling platforms allow users to post their preloved stuff. As such, they also get reviews after having sales. Check these reviews so you can get a general feel of how your possible transaction with them will go.

Ask many questions.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a “stupid question” -- ask away if you feel you had to. Aside from making sure you know everything about the item, this helps bring clarity for you – if you really want the product, if you’re ready to face the possible consequences of buying secondhand, and if the seller is true to their word.

  • For starters, some questions to ask them include:
  • Is the item on-hand?
  • What is its current condition?
  • What are its defects?
  • Do you have a warranty for it?
  • Are you the first owner of this item?
  • Why do you sell the item at this price point?
  • What's your reason for selling?

     Depending on their response, you can further probe to learn more about what you’re about to buy.

Go for trusted sellers and platforms.

     As much as possible, go for websites that has both buyer and seller protection systems in place. That way, it’s easier to dispute something in case both parties had a miscommunication. It also decreases the chance of joyjoy buyers or bogus sellers thriving in the secondhand trading community.

     If the platform has an online payment system in place, take advantage of the feature and use it. Consider the reputable site as sort of a middleman between you and the seller.

Opt for meet-ups instead of online transactions.

     This is especially important if you’re dealing with high-ticket items. Of course, we understand that going outside isn’t very much encouraged these days. But so is getting money down the drain because you weren’t able to examine the item well.

     As much as possible, have at least one person with you when you go out. They’ll act as an extra set of eyes and brains to check for the important stuff. If you can’t tag someone along at the time, make sure to share pertinent information with people you trust. Let them know the following and be as specific as possible:
  • Where you’ll go
  • Who you’re going to meet
  • What sort of transaction you’re doing with the seller
  • Contact details of both parties
  • Relevant photos and videos

     Do a quick search of the general area where you’ll meet – a precautionary measure to ensure that you’ll not meet somewhere deserted.

Only meet up in public places. If you can go to a location near somewhere safe, like a police station, that will be better. This way, if both parties do not come to a mutual agreement, they can readily settle the issue. If you’re really iffy about going out to meet someone, have someone reliable do the task for you. Orient them about what to expect, what questions to ask, and what to check when they go to check the item.

Never let anyone inside your home.

     While this is not the usual setup for meetups, this is a probable scenario when you’re buying a large item (an appliance, for instance). It's a nice gesture for the seller to offer to have their product brought inside your home. However, in the interest of health-related safety and all-other-things safety, turn down their offer.

     This doesn’t mean that you already classified them as bad people. Rather, it’s a move to protect both parties. From your end, it’s to make sure your household is safe. From their end, it’s to protect them from any accusations of crimes, such as theft. As the usual saying goes, better be safe than sorry.

Request for photos.

     Every angle, every part where defects are most probable, have a picture taken. While other people might find this too demanding or paranoid, it’s your money you’re spending after all, not theirs. Therefore, make sure it will not go to waste by getting legit items free from damage (if the seller claims there’s none). 

     If you can, request to have a video chat with the seller while you’re at it. This will help you ensure that the item you’re interested in is on hand and ready to ship (if you’re going for the non-meetup route). Take screenshots during the call for reference in case the seller eventually decides to ghost you after receiving the payment.

Unli-test when you get the chance.

     About 15 minutes’ worth of testing time is a good measure to determine if a secondhand gadget is working well. If you’re planning to buy one, check for the following, as applicable:
  • On and off functions
  • Screen lock
  • Camera
  • Calls and texts
  • Internet browsing
  • Sounds
  • Backlight
  • Charging
  • Vibration

     As for non-electronic items, check for signs of wear and tear. Try to detect any signs of damage, such as cracks and breaks. Double-check all the accessories and attachments included in the posting or advertisement, if the seller mentioned any.

Look out for red flags.

     Sometimes, you can get too carried away with excitement that you ignore warning signs of a scam waiting to happen. To help you gauge if the seller is legit, here are some red flags to look out for when dealing with them:
  • Does not answer the usual questions from buyers
  • Combative when given reviews/feedback
  • Wants to complete transactions outside the platform (if you’re using one)
  • Cannot grant simple requests
  • Ask a trusted friend who’s not directly involved with the deal to help you assess the situation if you’re having a hard time checking for legitimacy.

Ask for proof of identification.

     For relatively large transactions, ask for a picture of their ID if you’re transacting outside online selling platforms. When doing so, expect the seller to ask the same thing from you. Once you receive the image, run a quick background check. Scour the internet for information about this seller. Check possible transactions they have completed with other buyers.

     If you can also get some information about their after-sales services, that would also help you determine if they’re okay to do transactions with. If in doubt, don’t proceed with the transaction, no matter what other people will tell you. Remember: you’re not out there to please other people but to get a good deal. Not having your sought-after peace of mind is not part of the agreement.

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