Preventing fraud when buying used stuff

Preventing fraud when buying used stuff
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Buying used devices is a good thing - not only saving you money, it is also good for the environment. Provided you prevent fraud…


Everything that is popular and expensive (cameras, graphics cards, etc.) is used for fraud more often than average - but not every good deal is a fraud.

Hints for scam

There are several hints for scam, if you are looking for used devices, that should make you skeptical:

  • The price is too good to be true (far below average)
  • The seller only has this one product or kind of products (no toys, clothes or anything normal persons would sell)
  • The seller has a fresh account (not older than a few weeks)
  • The seller does not provide pickup, even if requested
  • Sharing email contact reveals a strange email address (nothing like gmail or hotmail, but something you never heard of)

No proof for legitimacy

On the other hand, there are some things, that are often used to proof legitimacy, but indeed they aren’t a proof:

  • The price is only little below or even average (some scammers do this to make even more money)
  • The seller has an account, that is well established and older than 5 years (scammers often use stolen accounts)
  • The seller has a good reputation or recommendations (they could be fake)
  • The seller provides pickup, but would prefer postal shipping (scammers might only bluff)
  • The seller provides a valid bank account with his name in your country (As long as the IBAN is valid, the name can be changed and is not checked by the bank)
    • Often, a typical stooge system is behind this - a person in your country gets paid by the scammers to transfer “earnings” to a western union account and keep 10% for their “work”
  • The seller provides an invoice with his name that looks legit (these are very easy to fake - maybe check the invoice article numbers on google)
  • The seller sends you a copy of his identity card (often scammers use copies of other identity cards, they have obtained by a fraud before)

What can you do?

There are some things you can do about this, but nothing is totally foolproof.

Note: The tips below are not a guarantee. Even, if you pick up the device and check it carefully, there is a small chance that it may already be broken inside or a fake product

  • Pickup - if you can check the device before you buy it, it should be no scam
  • Video-Ident - Invite the seller to a video chat and let him show you:
    • His face (obviously)
    • His identity card
    • The goods you are willing to buy
  • Contract - if you would like to be able to file a lawsuit in case of problems with an unwilling seller, make a contract containing the identity card number, address and details about the purchase
    • In many countries (like in germany) it is quite common to have a contract between individuals

What to regard as seller?

If you are the seller, you can follow the rules above, but there is a little extra. Buyers protection (like with Paypal) is very dangerous for the seller.

  • It only pretends to be secure - although it is not in most cases
  • You potentially have to pay high fees in case of problems
  • The seller cannot prevent, that the customer refunds his money without sending back the product, even it is totally ok
    • When the product is worth less than 200 bucks, you will probably not file a lawsuit - but you will definitely be angry
Andreas Fuhrich avatar
About Andreas Fuhrich
I’m a professional software developer and tech enthusiast from Germany. On this website I share my personal notes and side project details. If you like it, you could support me on github - if not, feel free to file an issue :-)