Staying Safe

Buying or Selling – Your guide to staying safe

While most adverts, buyers and sellers are genuine and the exchanges go through happily and without any hiccups, it is an unfortunate state of the modern world that scammers are out there.

While adverts are checked as much as possible to try and weed out possible scams, it is unfortunate that scams and fraud do happen. They rely on victims being led into giving away their money and maybe their personal details. The best way to avoid this is to recognize a possible scam and report it. We have put together some tips to hopefully help avoid these situations:

Buying safely

  • Always be alert.
  • Use your common sense; if the email doesn’t fit the expected process of selling or buying, you should be cautious.
  • While we do what we can to prevent them; hoax, counterfeit, bogus or stolen items can occasionally slip through and appear to be real listings. It is important to read the advertisement carefully and ask questions about anything that is ambiguous or sounds too amazing!
  • Be very wary of items or animals advertised at unusually low prices.
  • It is not uncommon for fraudsters to ask for contact via another email address and then ask for payment for goods using non-traceable methods.
  • Don’t give out your personal details or bank account details over email. Be wary of anyone asking for bank details in the first email or phone call in order to make a payment. Be wary of emails asking you to confirm or supply website login or credit card details.
  • Always try to confirm the identity of a seller. Scams usually hide behind generic email accounts and conduct everything anonymously via email. Sometimes an answer phone message is used to get an email account and then ‘talks’ continue via email. Always try to establish telephone contact with the seller first and confirm their identity.
  • If anything feels “off,” stop contact immediately and report the advert.
  • When you’re comfortable that the seller seems legitimate, ask them to give you his or her phone number, preferably a landline –  the area code may indicate where they are based. Try the phone number to find out if it’s valid. If the person responds, chat on the phone for a bit about the item for sale and decide if the person still feels legitimate.
  • Find out as much as you can about the product and ideally inspect it in person
  • Ideally, always trade face-to-face. Always meet during daylight and have a friend with you. If you go back for another visit, follow the same procedures. Don’t get careless the second time around.
  • If a seller does not offer a warranty or receipt, find out why.
  • Please make sure that you are not alone while accepting the cash. It is better to be somewhere with security cameras and witnesses before handing over large amounts of cash. British bank transfers can often be done quickly and are traceable.
  • Never put any money into a foreign bank account. A common scam involves fake overseas sellers contacting you directly or pretending to be from a reputable organisation.
  • Always remember: If an offer seems too good to be true, it often is.

Selling safely

  • Stick to the facts of the item being sold. Do not put any information that identifies you personally if it’s not strictly necessary. Keep in mind that every piece of information you post may be used for other purposes than you intended. Limit your information to limit your risk.
  • Look hard at any photo you post, you don’t want it to include house numbers in the background, or license plate numbers, etc. Show just the item being sold.
  • You do not need to list a mobile number or email address in your listing as we have a contact form for people to contact you about your ad.
  • If you prefer the convenience of allowing people to call you (as opposed to emailing you), use a number that is easy to change should you start to get nuisance calls. There are several reverse look-up directories may provide a wealth of information about you that can be used in ways you would not appreciate.
  • Be wary of offers to buy in the first email. Would you buy a high-value item like a horse or horsebox without seeing it first? This wouldn’t normally happen in real life, so be wary if this is happening.
  • If anything feels “off,” stop contact immediately.
  • When you’re comfortable that the buyer seems legitimate, ask the buyer to give you his or her phone number. (Sometimes, the area code may indicate if they are in your area.) Try the phone number to find out if it’s valid. If the person responds, chat on the phone for a bit about the item for sale and decide if the person still feels legitimate.
  • Always meet the buyers during daylight and have a friend with you. If the potential buyer wants time to consider and comes back later, follow the same procedures. Don’t get careless the second time around.
  • A cheque as a deposit to reserve an animal prior to a vetting is usual, however it is safer for the final transaction to be in cash or as a bank transfer with the deposit cheque to be returned or destroyed when the full payment is received.  Please make sure that you are not alone while accepting the cash. It is better to be somewhere with security and lots of witnesses before accepting large amounts of cash. British bank transfers can often be done quickly and are traceable.
  • If more than one person arrives, keep them together. A common ploy is for one person to engage you with questions while another asks to use the bathroom. This splits your ability to supervise and increases their ability to scope out more of your house and any items worth stealing. It may seem rude to refuse to let someone use your bathroom, but it will keep you safer! Let them know where the closest public bathroom is located. If there are a few of you and you feel it is safe to do so, have someone escort them to and from the bathroom, but do not put yourself at unnecessary risk and remain alone with anyone, no matter how tough you feel you are.

Trade safely – recommended payment methods

Some payment options offer more protection than others, so be sure to select a payment method that you’re comfortable with. Walk away from the deal if you’re not happy with the payment arrangement.

Good payment options include:

  • Pay on pick-up – good for higher value goods and for local buying. You’ll be able inspect the goods to ensure they are as advertised.
  • Cash – used for thousands of years and still going. Stay safe if handing over large sums of cash and we suggest you get a detailed receipt.
  • Internet bank payment – deposit the payment directly into the seller’s bank account through internet banking. You’ve got the seller’s bank account number, which is of course traceable. Do not put any money into foreign bank accounts though.
  • Credit card – you can benefit from your credit card’s protection clauses. However, we suggest you find out the detail of the protection from your credit card issuer before you commit.

Common scams

A fake advert is placed online. The item being sold is often significantly cheaper than items or animals of a similar age or condition. When you contact the advertiser to find out more about the item, the seller claims to be ill, busy or out of the country, so you can’t go to view it. They offer to send it to you if you send them the money and promise you a full refund if you are not happy with it. They may suggest you pay via an account such as PayPal, Amazon Payments or Google Wallet ‘for protection’.  Don’t be caught out by these types of scam. The excuse may sound legitimate or the deal may be tempting. The scammer doesn’t have the item they are advertising – they are simply going to take your money and leave you without your money or the item.

A vehicle is based abroad. A common scam involves potential buyers being sent an email containing detailed information on a vehicle supposedly located abroad. Once communications start, the buyer is pressured into making a smaller payment to view the vehicle, which either doesn’t exist or doesn’t belong to the person who is advertising it!

You have booked an advert with us and you receive a call from a person who claims to work for us and says there was a problem with the payment. For some reason or other it hasn’t gone through and they ask if they can take your card details again. They sound legitimate, they may claim to be a person you know works for the company and they may know your name and when the advert was originally placed. You might think there is no way you would just give your card details out to someone who calls you on the phone asking for it, but these scammers are very convincing. They will have looked up your personal information before calling. If you receive a call like this, tell them you don’t have your credit card to hand and that you will ring them back. If they are claiming to be from us here at Animal Classifieds, please call 01633 681640 or email us at hello@animalclassifieds.co.uk. We will be able to confirm if there has been any problem with your payment. Do not accept that it is us at face value.  If you are not sure, err on the side of caution and assume that it isn’t us!

You have placed an advert to sell an item and receive an email from a potential buyer. They will usually offer you full price for it. Typically the emails are written in broken English and include terms like ‘final price’ or ‘best price’ in them.  If you get into an email conversation with the scammer and you agree a price, they will then say they will send you a cheque or bankers draft for more than the amount you are asking and ask you to send the rest on to their agent, who will be collecting the item for them. This is also designed to exhort money out of you as the cheque will appear to clear, but then be declined later, leaving your without the money or your item.

Catteries and Kennels are also currently being targeted. You will be asked to receive a cat or dog in advance of someone who is moving back to the UK. The cat or dog will be delivered by a courier and you will be asked to pay the courier, and add the amount onto the boarding bill. It may be offered that they send you a cheque in advance to cover the costs, so you pay the courier after receiving the cheque.  It may be that they claim that as their account is abroad, the payment won’t go through to the courier properly. No courier will take a delivery without first receiving payment.  If you are asked to pay the courier then something is wrong and it probably isn’t a genuine courier!  The cheques in these situations are cancelled. In cases like these the cat or dog in question is usually stolen. While it does happen that cats and dogs are sometimes transported ahead of their owners, you should take a deposit in these circumstances and not pay any fees, no matter how genuine the reason may sound!

Scammers commonly target individuals selling a horse or horsebox online. It’s vital that you take the time to learn how to spot a scam email so you can properly protect yourself, your money and your goods.

Victim of a scam?

If you think you have been the victim of a scam you should report this to Action Fraud, more details are available at: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

Remember…

Only deal with buyers and sellers that you consider trustworthy and Always check them out by calling them back on a landline number.

Only buy something if you’re confident it’s genuine and ideally only after you’ve seen it in person.

Never part with any money – even a small deposit – until you feel the previous two points have been met.

More comprehensive advice is available at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau: here