Buying and selling second hand goods goes back as far as the dawn of civilization, and online trading is just the next step in the evolutionary line. Online trading has never been easier, and with the advent of Ebay and "Buy and Sell" sections in your local forum, pretty much anyone can get into the act.
Unfortunately when it comes to money, there will always be someone looking for an opportunity to try and steal. With a bit of common sense and some tips from us, hopefully we can advise you about protecting yourself from being burned in a deal gone bad.
First before you do anything, go and sign up for a Heatware account. Heatware was setup by a few computer enthusiast to try and help determine who is a good trader and who is not. It allows people to evaluate one another after a transaction has taken place and allows others to see how good a trader is. While it's not 100% foolproof, in general the more positive Heatware evaluations one has, the more trustworthy they are.
Here's an example, if I sell Buddy a videocard and the transaction went smoothly he would give me a positive evaluation with a small comment on how it's like to deal with me. If the transaction took longer than it should have or that I packaged the videocard poorly for shipment, Buddy could leave me a neutral eval, I didn't do a good job but I didn't do a bad one either. If the card I sold Buddy turned out to be dead without me telling him that before hand and I refuse to refund his money, he would give me a negative evaluation and would definitely tell the world how bad things went in the comment section.
If you're a newbie to trading, sorry but you'll have to make some concessions at the very beginning to get some experience. Don't expect people to ship to you first, it's nothing personal but we all have to pay our dues. If you're worried about being ripped off, deal only with experienced users till you build up a decent list of referrals yourself.
When dealing with someone online, first and foremost ask for trading references (Heatware, Ebay). If they provide you with a link to their "heat" (Heatware evaluations), look at it closely. If they don't have any referrals or are new, skip to the next page.
Typical Heatware information, user name, E-mail address and evaluations, positive, neutral and negative
Here are a few thing to look out for, does the person's user name match up to the one used on Heatware? Do the e-mail address match? If neither do, something is definitely fishy so send off an e-mail to the trader via their heatware address just to double check. Next open up some of the evaluations and see what the users say.
Click on the people who have evaluated the person you're dealing with to see their evals to make sure everything looks legit. If you're still not sure about things, e-mail the people who have traded with the person you're dealing with and ask about their experience. In general if someone has a lot of "heat", they should be a trustworthy trader. Still there are a few precautions you should take in order to safe guard yourself even if the deal is in your local area.
First always get the person's full name, mailing address and phone number. If they refuse to give out that personal information, tell them that you want to do a background check, if they still refuse, walk away.
From my experience, traders who are legit have nothing to hide and are not afraid of giving potential buyer/seller their information. With their info on hand, you can verify their place via MapQuest, most scammers simply make up an address and many times they do not exist. Next give the trader a call even if its long distance, a few dollars spent on a phone call can possibly save you hundreds dollars and a huge headache in the long run! If the deal goes bad at least you have a phone number where the guy can be reached to give to the authorities.
Please keep in mind that many scammers these days are passing themselves off as people with good heatware evaluations so make sure you do your homework!
Payment Methods and Shipping!
After a deal has been agreed to there are several ways to pay. Probably the most common and probably the safest way is through Paypal. While there are a lot of service fees, Paypal allows you to pay with your credit card or even your bank account and is quite easy to use. Up here in Canada a easy cheap way of sending money can be done via Certapay, there's a nominal fee to send out the Electronic Money Transfer but it's very quick and easy. There are a few other forms of electronic payment so choose what's best for you.
If you don't trust the internet to send money, there's also the old fashion way of sending out money orders and cashiers cheques via courier or the post office but remember to buy the right one if you're shipping internationally! Most online traders will not take personal cheques or if they do, they will wait till the cheque clears before sending out the goods.
Shipping, it is important!
There are many forms of shipping from the slow Post office to overnight courier, it simply depends on how fast and how much the buyer wants to spend. As a shipper, you must ensure that the item/s are packed properly that they won't be damaged if the box should fall to the ground or crushed if something heavy were to land on top. Always remember to insure the package for its retail price, should the item get damaged, it shouldn't have to come out of your pocket. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get a tracking number, without that you would never know if the package arrived to its proper destination and it's important to have should there be a dispute.
The way one ships their packages is just as important as the way one handles paying and receiving money.
A few general rules when it comes to trading with people!
I'll admit I have been scammed a couple of times even though I'm an "experienced trader". The reason why I was taken advantage of was because I didn't follow my usual set of rules. Here are some guidelines that
I try and follow which have served me well.
1 - Never get too excited about what you're buying or selling, enthusiasm is great but it can lead one to be careless which is bad.
2 - There's an old saying that rings very true when trading online, "If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is". While it is possible to get a real gem, more than likely it's a scam. Just use some common sense.
3 - Always ask any question that pops into your mind, the last thing you want is for a deal to go sour because there was miscommunication or you buy something you're not expecting based on an assumption.
4 - For sellers, be honest about the items you're selling. If you modded the item say that, there shouldn't be any surprises.
5 - If you're dealing with someone who has no or few evaluations never ship first (money or items) no matter how good the deal look! When it come to selling, scammers usually list their items at unbelievably low prices which tend to make you want to act fast in order to land the deal.
6 - Check their evaluations and do your homework, e-mail the person via their heatware/ebay e-mail address to verify who you're dealing with. E-mail users who have traded with the person you want to deal with and ask about their experience. I'd gladly vouch for anyone I have traded with and you'll find that others will do the same.
7 - Get their personal information like full name, address and phone number then verify the info. If they don't give it to you, they might have something to hide.
8 - Never send cash!
9 - When sending out items/money, make sure you use a traceable courier, should there be a dispute, you have proof the item was delivered.
10 - Always insure your packages based on its retail value! Sometimes the shipping company makes a mistake and destroys the goods, it's rare but it does happen!
11 - Keep all your receipts and e-mails/PM's, should you need to deal with authorities if the deal goes bad you have everything they'll need.
12 - Be honest, if the transaction was not a good one, leave neutral or negative feedback. Keeping silent does not help your fellow trader.
13 - Be patient, people's lives do not revolve around computers and sometime it's not possible to continue communications for a few days, give the trader the benefit of the doubt before making accusations.
There are many websites out there to help you trade safe, first and foremost check out TrollHunters. They scour the various computer forums around the web to get a list of bad traders. Anandtech also has a big list of traders to avoid.
With the advent of the internet, it was only a matter of time before people would start trading their goods online. After all you can reach a much broader spectrum of users and the likely hood of getting a sale is much higher. However because the internet is so anonymous it's also easier for one to cheat others without retribution.
Online trading is not difficult and not very risky, you'll find that the vast majority of traders out there are very honest and helpful. If you're new to trading do not fear, it's actually quite easy. You'll probably have to ship the money/items first till you gain a bit of experience so deal with veteran users only at first.
Make sure you ask the trader for previous evaluations then check them carefully. See what other people say about that guy and if need be e-mail the people that have traded with him/her. For your own reference you should get the person's full name, address and phone number, legitimate traders should have no problem with giving you this information. If you think the person that you're dealing with is a scammer, look for their info on TrollHunters or the Anandtech bad trader thread.
The above guidelines are the ones I follow and they have served me well. While I've been ripped off a couple of times, it's because I was caught up in it and didn't follow these rules. Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back, I really should have known better.
Online trading is not hard but if you're not careful, you can be burned quite badly.