Watch Out For These 7 Awful OfferUp Scams (New for 2022)

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Yaniv Masjedi

Organic Growth at Aura

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    Is It Safe To Buy Items on OfferUp?

    When a Colorado couple used OfferUp to find a trailer for their upcoming move, they soon found exactly what they were looking for. And when the seller requested to communicate via email instead of OfferUp’s messaging system, they didn’t think anything of it. 

    But one sob story, an email from a fake address, and $800 worth of gift cards later, Colleen Cothron and her husband realized that the sympathetic seller was a scammer in disguise [*].

    What happened to the Cothrons is just one story in a sea of reports describing online marketplace scams. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), online shopping scams make up 30% of all reports on the BBB ScamTracker website, with a staggering 71% of victims suffering financial losses [*]. 

    Shopping online becomes riskier every year. But the good news is that fraudsters on websites like OfferUp use the same tricks repeatedly. Learn to recognize them, and you’ll know exactly how to avoid dangerous online interactions.

    Is OfferUp Safe? Can You Get Scammed?

    OfferUp is a free website through which people can buy and sell items with others in their community — similar to Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. OfferUp also provides a shipment option so that users can reach beyond their local neighborhoods.

    There’s always some risk involved when buying and selling to strangers online. And despite offering a handful of security features and a buyer protection plan, OfferUp is no exception.

    OfferUp attracts scammers because they can use the platform to steal from other users or trick them into giving up personal information (that can be used for identity theft). 

    These are the most common ways that scammers operate on OfferUp:

    • Overpayment scams. A scammer pays too much for an item and pretends it was an accident. This can indicate that the buyer is using a stolen credit card; and a “refund” back to their own account is a way of pocketing more cash before getting caught. 
    • Requesting alternate payment methods or messaging apps. Scammers often bypass built-in security measures on OfferUp by moving off the platform to complete transactions or requesting non-traditional payment methods.
    • Deals that are too good to be true. Scammers list popular items at extremely low prices to attract attention. When buyers take the bait, scammers find a way to take their money before the victim catches on. 

    💡 Related: 9 Ways To Avoid Common Craigslist Scams

    Here’s How To Tell If an OfferUp Seller Is a Scammer

    There’s no getting around the fact that scammers are lurking on your favorite online marketplaces. But by learning how to detect suspicious or fraudulent listings, you can help stay safe on OfferUp and other marketplaces. 

    Be cautious if an OfferUp seller:

    • Asks you to provide personal contact information (such as your cell phone number or email address) and wants to communicate off the platform.
    • Sends a verification code to your phone as a “precaution” or to “make sure you’re a real person.” This is a common Google Voice verification code scam.
    • Requests payment outside of the OfferUp app — especially if they require payment via Venmo, Zelle, CashApp, wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or gift cards. 
    • Posts multiple listings with the same photos, and has minimal history on OfferUp.
    • Only posts product photos from the original website that sells the items rather than photos they took themselves of items that they own.
    • Lists an item at a price that’s too good to be true, or advertises that it “must sell quickly.”
    • Has multiple negative reviews on their seller profile.
    • Refuses to meet up in person, despite living in your area.
    • Sends you a link to a “new” listing of the item you’re interested in, or wants to move the sale to another platform like eBay.
    • Uses an email address designed to look like it’s from the official OfferUp website (for example, “offerup@easytransactions.com”).

    Be cautious if an OfferUp buyer:

    • Offers to pay more than the price you listed (especially if they ask you to “refund” them the extra money via a different payment method).
    • Responds to your posting instantly, and requests your phone number to “speed up” the process.
    • Wants to pay you with a personal check or a payment app such as Venmo, Zelle, or CashApp. 
    • Asks to make shipping arrangements outside of the OfferUp app. 

    💡 Related: Did You Get Scammed on Cash App? Here’s What To Do

    The 7 Latest OfferUp Scams To Watch Out for When Buying

    1. Overseas sellers (or anyone with a sob story)
    2. One seller account with multiple listings of the same item
    3. Sellers asking for verification codes to “prove” you’re legitimate
    4. Empty box or “box only” listings
    5. Offering to pay for shipping and then sending you an invoice
    6. Links to fake lookalike OfferUp sites
    7. Requesting payment through a different platform

    These OfferUp scams could happen just as easily on other marketplaces. Whenever you’re shopping online, look out for these red flags:

    1. Overseas sellers (or anyone with a sob story)

    Scammers do everything they can to make sketchy requests seem reasonable. One way they catch potential buyers off guard is by telling a sob story or inventing a fake excuse as to why they need to sell their item quickly, for a low price, or without showing it to you in person.

    Scammers use sob stories to get you to contact them off of OfferUp. Source: Reddit
    Scammers use sob stories to get you to contact them off of OfferUp. Source: Reddit

    Here’s an example: When an unsuspecting parent started searching for her daughter’s first car on OfferUp, she found one offered by a military servicemember on deployment overseas [*]. 

    At first, the scenario didn’t seem that out of place, but then the seller started making more and more unusual requests — including moving the sale away from the OfferUp platform. In the end, the buyer lost $1,600 and never received the car.

    Warning signs of this OfferUp scam:

    • The seller claims to be in the military, out of town, or living in another state.
    • The seller tells a sob story as an explanation for an unbelievably good deal (for example, one scammer told her victim that her son had recently passed away and she was trying to sell his car). 
    • The item is listed at a very low price and includes a title or description that includes words like “must sell fast!”

    When buying from strangers online, protect yourself above all else. Don’t make exceptions, no matter what excuses you hear from the seller.

    ✅ Take action: If you accidentally give OfferUp scammers your personal information (email, phone number, etc.), your bank account and identity could be at risk. Try Aura’s top-rated identity theft protection service free for 14 days and start safeguarding yourself against scammers.

    2. One seller account with multiple listings of the same item

    When OfferUp scammers want to bait several victims at once, they create multiple listings of the same item. This way, they can manage numerous interested buyers simultaneously. 

    This type of scam is known as the multiple listings scam. Other versions of this scam involve sellers using multiple online platforms to post identical listings. Alternatively, they can create several accounts on the same platform to post repeat listings. 

    Warning signs of this OfferUp scam:

    • You see more than one listing for the same item with the exact same photos and descriptions.
    • You do a reverse google image search and discover the same listings on other online marketplace websites.
    • The seller has a brand new account or a profile with bad ratings.

    If a seller truly has something of value to list, there’s no need to proliferate the post on any platform.

    💡 Related: Were You Scammed on Venmo? Here's How To Get Your Money Back

    3. Sellers asking for verification codes to “prove” you’re legitimate

    Ironically, scam artists get away with making suspicious requests by appealing to a person’s fear of being scammed. Verification code scams are a perfect example of this manipulative strategy.

    After the buyer expresses interest in a listing, the seller asks to send a verification code via phone or email as a security precaution. Scam artists will say they just need to verify that you’re a real person before they go forward with the transaction.

    Both fake buyers and sellers may try to scam you with the verification code scam. Source: Trend Micro

    At best, this strategy is just an excuse to learn your phone number or use it to verify their Google Voice account as a means to scam others. But they can also use it as an opportunity to send you a malicious link. When you click on it, the link will infect your device with malware that steals your sensitive data and leads to identity theft.

    Warning signs of this OfferUp scam:

    • Any request for a verification code is a major red flag. Take it as confirmation that the seller is not trustworthy.
    • OfferUp has its own verification process called TruYou that doesn’t involve verification codes. Moving communications away from their secure messaging system is never recommended.

    4. Empty box or “box only” listings

    Some fraudulent listings feature a whole box of items for sale. Scammers try to sell the illusion that they’re offering a bundle of (often expensive) items at a major discount. But when buyers take the bait, they receive an empty box at their doorstep. 

    Those who don’t expect to encounter scams on OfferUp might not look at listings with a critical eye. Scammers hope buyers will trust the description on the listing and overlook the fact that there aren’t any pictures of the items described.

    Warning signs of this OfferUp scam:

    • A listing advertises a box of items for a “bundle deal” but only features a photo of the box.
    • There aren’t any pictures of the items that are listed in the description.

    5. Offering to pay for shipping and then sending you an invoice

    Scammers often use shipping fees as a way to complicate the transaction (and, ultimately, steal from you). In this common OfferUp scam, the seller offers to cover shipping costs so that they can invoice you for the shipping fees after the fact.

    Scammers try to get you to agree to transactions off of OfferUp so that you’re not protected. Source: Reddit

    This is always unnecessary because OfferUp already has a streamlined process for calculating and assigning shipping costs. The only reason for a seller to deviate from OfferUp’s shipping policies is to swindle the buyer in some way.

    Warning signs of this OfferUp scam:

    • A request for an invoice is suspicious behavior in any OfferUp transaction.
    • An offer to cover the shipping cost or otherwise deviate from OfferUp’s standard processes is a major sign of a scam.

    💡 Related: How To Know if You’ve Received a Fake USPS Tracking Number

    6. Links to fake lookalike OfferUp sites

    Some OfferUp scammers try to steal people’s information by leading them to fake websites that look very similar to the official OfferUp website. This maneuver is a form of phishing, and it has dangerous consequences.

    Following a link to a lookalike website might not phase people who don’t have much experience with online marketplaces. But whenever a stranger online prompts you to click on a link, you risk losing control of your personal and financial information.

    Aura's safe browsing tool warns you of phishing websites
    Aura’s safe browsing tools can warn you if you’re entering a fake or malicious website. Learn more & try Aura free for 14 days

    Scammers can lead you to a website that downloads dangerous malware and spyware onto your device without your knowledge.

    Warning signs of this OfferUp scam:

    • The seller asks you to follow a link to another website to continue the transaction.
    • The seller sends you a link to fill out an online form.
    • The seller sends a link to a website that prompts you to create an account and enter login credentials.

    💡 Related: How To Identify Fake Websites (11 Warning Signs)

    7. Requesting payment through a different platform

    Scammers prefer platforms like Venmo, Cash App, PayPal, and Zelle where it’s much harder for buyers to cancel a payment or successfully claim unauthorized charges. 

    The same goes for other alternate forms of payment, such as wire transfers (like through MoneyGram or Western Union), gift cards (like Amazon or Google Play), and cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin). Walk away from transactions that involve these payment methods. 

    One OfferUp user reported that a scammer tricked victims into believing that the OfferUp platform accepts eBay gift cards as a legitimate form of payment [*]. The victim lost $500, and the scammer disappeared with the money.

    Warning signs of this OfferUp scam:

    • The seller asks you to pay via a third-party payment app or alternate payment methods such as wire transfers or gift cards.
    • The seller makes an excuse as to why they’re unable to pay through OfferUp (for example, many scammers claim that their app is glitching and they have to move to another system because of it).

    Paying directly from your bank account through OfferUp’s secure payment form provides far better buyer protection than third-party apps.

    💡 Related: 10 Amazon Gift Card Scams You Need To Avoid

    Can Sellers Get Scammed on OfferUp?

    Buyers aren’t the only ones vulnerable to theft on OfferUp. Scammers disguised as potential buyers can be every bit as deceptive as phony sellers.

    These are the most common strategies that scammers use to target sellers on OfferUp:

    • Fake check scams. Fraudulent buyers sometimes use fake checks instead of cash to purchase items in person. When sellers try to deposit the check after a meet-up, they find out the buyer gave them a bad check.
    • Overpayment scams. Buyers “accidentally” pay more than the listed price for the item. Then they ask the seller to issue a refund — and defraud the seller in the process.
    • Claiming an item never arrived. The buyer claims to have never received the item and demands a refund. This is a bigger problem if the seller agrees to manage the shipment process outside of the OfferUp app, since the seller won’t be able to verify through OfferUp that the buyer’s claim is false.
    • Buyers who rush the process and ask for contact information. Scammers often fabricate an urgent situation to rush the sale and pressure victims into sharing their contact information instead of using OfferUp’s messaging system.
    • Using payment apps with stolen credit card details. Scammers with stolen financial information use websites like OfferUp to make pricey purchases with stolen credit cards before getting caught.

    Buyers and sellers can report suspicious or fraudulent activity on the OfferUp app or website. If someone approaches you with suspicious requests, you can protect other users by reporting suspicious activity immediately.

    Did You Get Scammed on OfferUp? Do This!

    If you’re the victim of an OfferUp scam, there are a few ways to fight back. Besides getting your money back, you should also consider whether the scammer might have gained access to any of your personal information.

    For the best chance of recovering your losses, follow these steps:

    • Contact the seller directly and demand an immediate refund.
    • Request a refund through OfferUp using their 2-Day Purchase Protection.
    OfferUp provides help as long as you submit a claim within two days of receiving the item.
    • Open a case with OfferUp and report the user that scammed you.
    • Initiate a credit freeze to protect yourself from financial fraud. 
    • Update your password on your OfferUp account. Make sure that it’s unique and secure (at least 10 characters long with a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols).
    • Report the incident with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at reportfraud.ftc.gov.
    • Continually monitor your credit report and bank accounts for signs of fraud.
    • File a chargeback complaint with your credit card company.

    Lastly, consider signing up for identity theft protection services. Aura constantly monitors your sensitive personal information (SSN, email, bank account, credit, and investment accounts) for signs of fraud. 

    If anything suspicious is detected, you’ll receive alerts in near real-time along with 24/7 access to Fraud Resolution Specialists and $1,000,000 in insurance coverage for eligible losses due to identity theft. 

    ✅ Take action: Protect yourself and your family from the dangers of identity theft and online fraud. Try Aura free for 14 days and see if it’s right for you →

    Does OfferUp Provide Protection for Buyers?

    OfferUp’s 2-Day Purchase Protection allows buyers to file a claim if they received an item that is incorrect, missing, or not as described. The buyer has two days to make a complaint about the transaction. If the buyer and seller can’t resolve the issue together, buyers can submit a request to receive a refund through OfferUp.

    Of course, this solution doesn’t apply to in-person transactions or transactions that were completed outside of the OfferUp platform.

    While you might be fortunate enough to get your claim approved, you’d be even better off avoiding risky transactions entirely.

    The Bottom Line: Stay Safe While Buying and Selling on OfferUp

    Scam artists are experts at getting around systems that are designed to keep them out. Instead of depending on online platforms to ensure your safety, protect yourself by following these important guidelines for internet shopping: 

    • Secure your accounts by setting up two-factor authentication (2FA) and creating secure passwords using a password manager.
    • Only shop on secure websites, and avoid storing login and payment information on eCommerce websites. 
    • Don’t click on suspicious links (especially those that show up in text messages or emails).
    • Do reverse image searches for listings that you find on online marketplace websites to see if photos are authentic.
    • Check shipping costs on online listings and make sure the seller isn’t overcharging.
    • Only communicate and process payments on the marketplace platform itself.
    • Scrutinize seller profiles and be wary of new accounts, multiple identical listings, and negative reviews.

    Above all, protect your identity by restricting access to your personal information. For an all-in-one digital security solution that safeguards your identity and finances, consider signing up for Aura today.

    Protect yourself from scammers. Try Aura free for 14 days

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers