A Guide to Buying and Selling on Online Forums

Here’s a guide to online dealing on forums, and to help prevent yourself from being scammed.

First tip: To make it more difficult for potential scammers to be less anonymous when dealing with buy/sell, ask them to PM (private message) you instead of contacting directly via mobile.

Here’s why:

  • People who want to deal with you will have to register an account with the forum.
  • Easier to be tracked down.
    • This makes it easier for them to be tracked down with the help of forum administrators and moderators.
    • Better than having to track down someone who could be using a prepaid line that can be easily discarded.
  • You will get to see the person’s track record, if any.
    • Members with “quality” posts (i.e. those who don’t rack up post counts by bumping their own sale threads) are more likely to be trustable.
  • See if they could be trouble.
    • It makes it easier for you to Google your potential buyer/seller first to see if they could be trouble.
    • If you can’t find any info about them at all, whether good or bad, you should be on your guard as well.
  • If the deal is too good to be true, it usually is.

If you are buying or selling a big ticket item (or if it is costly enough to you) and a member with a low post count contacts you for the sale, you may want to do a more thorough check as follows.

Request for his mobile number and/or email address. You may have to come up with a relevant and logical reason for asking for his email address.

From there, and in the meantime:

  • Search ’em!
    • Run a Google search with his mobile number/email address.
    • Note that other than using Google, you may want to consider using Facebook’s search bar with his email address.
    • It may also give you an insight into the person you are going to deal with.
  • Any other identities?
    • If there are results, check what other usernames, if any, that he has across various forums, or anywhere else on the Internet.
    • You will be checking for his Internet footprints to see if he seems ok to conduct a deal with.
  • If nothing much turns up…
    • You may have to dig a bit deeper if the email address or number he provided appears to indicate a link to another username…
    • Google this other username, which in turn leads to…
    • Another email address for you to check up on.
    • Do note that sometimes, search result “gems” will only turn up on the 3rd or 4th page of the results.

Is doing all these worth the effort? Probably only if it is worth your while for the item that you intend to buy/sell. Or if you have time to spare.

Edit: To update this post for 2015, I’ve added more tips below:

  • DO NOT use your debit card for online purchases:
    • Since that debit card is linked directly to your bank account, someone with your stolen card info could wipe out your account that way.
  • If your account gets hacked:
    • If your account on shopping sites like Taobao has gotten hacked into and the hacker has locked you out of your account, quickly call up your bank to cancel the credit card that’s linked to that account.
  • Ask the bank to:
    • Check if there have been transactions made out of the country which you have been residing in, and ask them to cancel those.
    • I say this because a friend’s friend got locked out of her account, and the hacker also managed to change the phone number that she used to receive login authentication codes.
  • Buying things from sites like Streetdeal or Olaprice?

Smith Streetdeal Straits Times article

  • And read what Smith had to say in his blog here.
  • Curious about Rivalife? I saw it mentioned in a comment online, went to Google it, and here are two very interesting links:
  • Last but not least, before you sign up for anything, or give anyone your credit card details:
    • Always Google them to find out if they will be trouble.
    • For example, you could search terms like “signed up for so-and-so-delivery.com credit card scammed” to check.
    • Or use search terms like “so-and-so-site.com scam”. If they actually do scam, there will be complaints.
    • Remember, Google is your best friend!

Hope this helps! Cheers.

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