4 Ways to Protect Yourself When You're Buying/Selling Online

By Sara


Last Updated: April 28, 2023


The internet and social media platforms have allowed everyone to be able to buy and sell things to an international audience.

This ability can help people sell unused things for extra cash or even start online businesses.

However, there are drawbacks to buying and selling online because of scams. The number of scams related to online buying and selling has grown, so it's important to know how to protect yourself from these issues.

Here are the ways that you can keep yourself safe when you buy and sell things online. 



4 Ways to Protect Yourself When You're Buying/Selling Online

1. Use trusted platforms.

The first place to start when you are looking to sell or buy something online is to use a trusted platform.

Mercari and eBay are two great online buying and selling platforms that protect both the seller and the buyer. Facebook Marketplace and Offer Up are good platforms to connect you with buyers and sellers, but they don't have as many features to protect their users. 

Look for platforms that have: 

  • Rating systems for both buyers and sellers 
  • Payments directly on the platform 
  • Buyer protection if your item arrives damaged or not as described 
  • Seller protection if your item is lost or damaged where you still receive payments 
  • Messaging capability in the platform 

Common marketplace scams can occur when someone who is selling something sends a cheaper product, or a buyer lies about not receiving a product. These are easy things to avoid with trusted platforms like Mercari and eBay. 


2. Read reviews of buyers and sellers.

One of the best ways to protect yourself as an online buyer and seller are to research who is buying/selling the product and the item itself. When you are doing your research, try to find reviews of the person you are communicating with. 

If a seller has 100 reviews with an average of 4.8 stars, they can most likely be trusted. You can usually filter the lower reviews to read why they received lower than five stars.

Read both the good and bad reviews to get a good picture.

If a seller generally has good reviews and a few low reviews, there shouldn't be too much concern. The same is true for a buyer. You can see their reviews to see if you can trust that buyer to meet you on time, offer a fair negotiation, and provide legitimate payments. 

If someone has no reviews, this doesn't mean they can't be trusted, but take caution. Many fake accounts that scam people will have no reviews. If you aren't sure of a buyer or seller, it's better to play it safe. If you are using a trusted platform, no reviews usually mean they are a new buyer or seller. 

Find reviews about the buyer and sellers: 

  • Communication 
  • Timelines 
  • Prices/negotiations
  • Number of reviews


3. Understand payment methods.

When you are buying and selling things online, there are three types of payment methods: 

  • Direct through platform 
  • Cash 
  • Peer to Peer payments 

Make sure you understand these different payment methods that are available. Paying and receiving money directly through a marketplace app can provide you with the most protection, but these platforms usually take a fee.

If you are using cash, be careful of large bills. You can request smaller bills or have a market to detect fake bills. If you are using a peer-to-peer payment like Venmo or PayPal, ensure this is secured, and you have actual confirmation of the payment. 

Try to avoid payment methods that require you to share personal information. This personal information can be used to scam you. 


4. Be aware of common scams.

Knowing common scams on marketplace platforms can help protect yourself. The type of scams are always evolving, but they generally have similar methods. 

If you are a seller, be cautious of new accounts that have been made and ask to pay before someone picks up. Usually, these scammers are trying to get your personal information and send a fake email confirmation that they pre-paid.

Usually, they are sending too much money and request that you send back the difference. You never got paid, and your item never is sold. Most scammers use Zelle or PayPal to do these scams. 

If you are a buyer, be cautious of items that are too good to be true. This is especially true if the item you are buying is being shipped to you. If you are not using a platform like Mercari that can offer you buyer protection, be careful about sending money for something.

You can send money, and that item will never come to you. 



Buying and Selling Online: Be Informed

Buying and selling things online is a great way to make extra money as a seller and be a more mindful consumer as a buyer. Online platforms from Mercari to Facebook Marketplace have made it easier than ever to connect buyers and sellers all over the world.

However, with this, more scams are occurring o these platforms. 

To keep yourself safe from scams:

  • Use trusted platforms 
  • Do your research 
  • Understand payment options 
  • Know common scams 

If you follow these four things, you can protect yourself from common scams that occur as a buyer and seller on these platforms. 

Photo by Anete Lusina


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