If you are Selling
Fraud and scams
There lots of crooks out there, and they will target your ads.
As a general rule NEVER reply to emails which are suspicious. DO NOT use the links at the bottom of spam messages which offer to unsubscribe you from their list. You won't be unsubscribed, instead you will have confirmed your email address as a valid one and can expect a huge increase in the amount of spam you receive. If you receive a suspicious email in response to your ad then add the sender to your spam blacklist and delete the message.
Remember that we have no control over who responds to your ads, if they are not registered users we will be unable to help you identify them in the event of a problem. If they are registered then we have a log of their email address and the IP address that they used, this may be of limited use but is avaiable if there is an investigation.
Beware of emails asking you to cash cheques for more than the amount asked for whatever you are selling. What happens is that they send you a cheque which is counterfeit, you pay it in and they then ask you to send the money, minus your payment, to their 'shipper'. The cheque shows as clear funds in about 3 days, you send the money by Western Union or similar and await the shipper, who never turns up. About 10 days later the counterfeit cheque is rumbled and your bank write you a £25 letter telling you that the cheque has bounced and they are taking the 'cleared funds' from your account, so you have lost the money.
Here's an example of this type of message: Dear Seller, I'm interested in purchasing your advertised Kiln and i will like to know the price if is okay by me. if I can pay with a cheque drawn in an United Kingdom Bank. If this is okay with you do get back to me immediately for me to arrange the payment. Concerning the shippment, my shipper will come and pick it up from your location as soon as we seal this transaction. Do get back to me immediately with your Full Name, Contact Address and Phone Number for me to instruct my client to make the payment ASAP. Hope to hear from you soon.
If you receive anything like this then do not respond, simply add the sender to your blocked list. The general rule is: if it looks at all suspicious then it almost certainly is.
If you are Buying
Clearly it is difficult to check the bona fides of every person selling goods via classified ads. However there are a few precautions you can take.
Be sensible: if it looks too good to be true, then it almost certainly is! Get a full name, address and telephone number. You can use directory enquiries to check that the name and number agree and that the address is valid. If the seller only offers you a mobile phone number then you should reconsider the deal.
Get an email address. The classified ads system can be set to hide emails on ads to prevent them being harvested by spammers, however before you go ahead with a deal insist that the seller tells you his actual email address. Send an email to check that it is a valid address. If your email bounces then walk away. If the advertiser tries to get you to use a different email address by includng one in their advert, instead of the address registered with us, then YOU SHOULD BE SUSPICIOUS! You should also be wary of anonymous email services such as Hotmail. People can set up email accounts on these systems with completely bogus or even non-existent personal information, leaving you no way to find them if the deal goes wrong. Email accounts with UK service providers should be more traceable in the event of a fraud investigation.
Print out the advert and keep the copy safe. Ads are deleted after their expiry date and in any case they be deleted at any time by the advertiser. Having a copy of the original ad is useful in case of any later dispute. Keep printed copies of any emails exchanged and make written notes of any telephone calls - time, date, subjects discussed and so on.
Consider using an online payment service such as Paypal or Nochex. Users of these systems have had their personal details and bank account details verified by the service and should it all go wrong then they may be able to help recover your money. If the amount is a large one then you should really arrange a meeting in person. Check the goods and then hand over the cash. If that is not possible then you might consider an escrow service: they charge a commission but may be worth it. Escrow services reduce the potential risk of fraud by acting as a trusted third party that collects, holds and disburses funds following Buyer and Seller instructions. You pay them the money, then when you receive the goods they send the money to the seller. Do a search on-line to find a suitable company.
Remember the vast majority of sellers are honest people and very few deals end in fraud.