Whether you’re buying a bargain bike, some pre-loved goods or tickets to a sold out gig, we’ve all had experience of the secondhand market. But while there are bargains a plenty to be found online, there’s always an element of danger that looms when buying secondhand goods or tickets.
For one thing, there’s no guarantee about the quality (or legitimacy) of the product you’re purchasing, and meeting a stranger from the internet is inherently risky.
But all is not lost – there are ways to stay safe and avoid getting scammed when it comes to buying secondhand.
We spoke to the experts to get their top tips to help avoid secondhand scams.
1. Meet in a public place
This one might seem obvious, but it bears mentioning – don’t invite a stranger to your home, and don’t go to a stranger’s home.
“Meet at a very public place like a coffee shop where there’s a lot of people and well lit and possibly security cameras,” Kijiji spokesman Shawn McIntyre tells Vancity Buzz. “The buddy system also works really well – taking a friend with you so that they can help monitor the situation.”
Meeting during the day when the place actually is busy is crucial as well.
2. Use cash only
Again, this may seem obvious, but it bears mentioning. This is to protect yourself from any kind of internet fraud in the case of using PayPal, money transfers, or giving away credit card information, says McIntyre. So make sure you visit an ATM before meeting with the seller.
3. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is
Don’t be lured in by incredible deals. Sure, everyone is looking to get a discount – that’s why you’re on Craigslist or Kijiji in the first place – but if a deal catches your eye that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
4. Ask lots of questions
No matter what the item you’re purchasing is valued at, it’s important to ask questions during the transaction.
“It’s really important that you’re getting an object that’s in good condition, so it’s only natural to assume that you’re going to ask a lot of questions,” says McIntyre. “If a user is unwilling to provide you with information, usually that’s a red flag.”
Be wary of sellers that are in a rush to secure a transaction, too, and don’t let yourself be pressured into buying something if you’re unsure of the situation.
5. Take a picture of the seller
Snapping a photo of the seller – with their consent, of course – is always a good idea to have photographic evidence of the transaction and to have something to hand to the authorities should things go awry.
“If they don’t let you snap a photo, that’s another red flag that you might want to consider.”
McIntyre says you can also take a photo of the person’s ID to have that information on-hand.
6. Verify the condition of the item before purchasing
While the majority of items aren’t off the table for purchasing secondhand, make sure whatever you’re buying is verifiable on the spot. If it’s an electronic item, ask for it to be charged prior to the transaction to ensure you can have some playtime and thoroughly inspect it.
“If it’s something that you have to take home and verify first, then obviously it may not be a good idea to give someone money until you have, in fact, verified it,” says McIntyre.
In the case of something like concert tickets, McIntyre says people need to be extra vigilant.
“Electronic tickets could be duplicated or cancelled after sale – if you just want to be 100% safe when purchasing tickets, get hard copies of the tickets, or find a way to verify that the tickets are legitimate with the venue, promoter, or event beforehand.”
7. Meet at a police station to do the exchange
One of the safest things a person can do is meet at a police station, says Sergeant Randy Fincham with the Vancouver Police Department.
“If in doubt, buyers are encouraged to use the lobby of one of our police buildings to do the exchange, to increase the chances that the purchase is a legitimate transaction,” he tells Vancity Buzz.
Police stations are outfitted with surveillance cameras and, obviously, there are police officers in the building, so, at the very least, your personal safety will be guaranteed.