A private Internet sale involves a person offering to sell a
product, good, or service to another person on a website.
The website acts as an intermediary between the two people.
It is similar to purchasing a product or service through classified ads in a
In most private sales, products are sold as is. Unless the
sale involves a written contract, a private seller has no additional legal
responsibilities for the item. Check with the seller to see if it is still
covered by a manufacturer’s warranty.
The Bureau of Consumer Protection does not regulate these
transactions. But consumers do have the right to take private action to settle
disputes with the other party, including small claims court.
How to identify a scam
Red flags that could signal a potential scam are:
If the inquiry is from someone far away, specifically in a
Refusal by the seller to meet face-to-face before completing
If the seller requests payment be sent in the form of a
cashier’s check, money order, or escrow service.
If the seller asks for the money to be sent through a wire
service, such as Western Union, MoneyGram, or Green Dot, or asks for a cash
If the seller pays you more than originally agreed upon, and
requests that the difference be returned after you cash or deposit the payment.
Do your research
A good way to make sure the product you are buying is
legitimate and priced appropriately is to do some research. Make sure the
product or service you are prepared to buy actually exists and is reasonably
priced. Read the fine print of the product’s description so you know exactly
what you are buying.
A simple amount of research can give you a good idea if the
product or the seller is suspicious. Review consumer posts on the Internet to
see if other consumers have encountered problems with a seller, or if the
seller is offering similar products or services under a different name.
charges any fees or offers any protections. Keep a copy of the product
description and any e-mails you receive from the auction site, or the seller,
so you have a record of the transaction.
If you are meeting with a seller or buyer, meet in a public
place, especially if the product you are selling or purchasing is of high
value. Many police stations allow private transactions to be conducted in their
lobby. Contact your local police station for more information. Do not invite
someone to deliver your purchase to your residence. Make sure a friend or
family member knows where you are going or consider having someone go with you.
Finally, trust your instincts. If you think something seems too good to be
true, it probably is.
Read our “Wiring Money” fact sheet before getting involved
in private internet sales.