REMINDER: Protect yourself when conducting online transactions!

Every so often I think it’s important to send a reminder to the community about protecting ourselves during online transactions. As another scam seems to be unfolding, this time in a Facebook group I want to address all of our EA Trade Market users.

The Trade Market is certainly not the only buy/sell/swap group out there. I’m also a member of a group for Lululemon lovers on Facebook. (Like the Trade Market it’s a closed group that you must be invited into.) Unfortunately it seems a member of the group has been taking advantage of the community there, apparently stealing over $2,000 from members by selling items and then never actually mailing or delivering those items to the buyers. The victims are now grouping together to see what they can do. Doubling the frustration, many of the buyers apparently used the “gift” payment option in Paypal which gives them no recourse to get their money back. (I’ll talk about this more later in the post.)

This is a terrible and unfortunate situation that is no one’s fault except the scammer’s. That people like this scammer scum exist boils my blood! To my knowledge this scam has not affected anyone in the EA TM Group on Facebook or here on the blog.

As longtime EA readers know the Anthropologie blogging community was hit with its own scam in 2011 when a now-defunct Anthro blogger named Anthroholic perpetrated much the same scheme as this Lululemon scam artist. Anthroholic took money from people to buy items on their behalf or to sell them items, but then went either very long periods without mailing the items (we’re talking over a year in some cases) or never delivering. Many of the victims were able to get their money back but I am not sure if everyone did.

For too long, people were afraid to speak up about the scam for fear of being shunned by the community. I hope that no one here ever feels that way! If you are conducting a Trade Market transaction here or on Facebook and it goes south, please do not ever be afraid to contact me directly. I do not allow public callouts because people are innocent until proven guilty. But if someone turns out to be a scam artist I have no problem calling them out publicly myself and doing everything I can to ban them. (Some examples live here, here and here.)

My intent is not to scare anyone off from using the Trade Market. More I want to shake any naivete off. Don’t let a generous, polite nature override your self-interest. Don’t be afraid to say no to transactions that look fishy as either a buyer or a seller. Please remember that I have no control over these transactions and zero involvement. ANYONE can post in the Trade Market and it’s very easy for a banned user to simply log on from another computer and continue perpetrating their scheme. Likewise on Facebook it’s so easy to create a fake user account. Don’t let profile photos fool you!!

So, how can you protect yourself? I previously wrote a post in 2011 about how to protect yourself when conducting payment transactions online. Please be sure to check that out! I’ll hit on some of the highlights here.

Paypal offers a decent buyer protection process. If you agree to purchase an item and the transaction doesn’t go as planned you can file a dispute within 45 days of sending payment. Keep that 45-day limit in mind because scammers will try to hem and haw and delay you until that window has closed!!

If you use the personal or gift tab to pay in Paypal however you get ZERO buyer protection. I understand that some sellers want to use those tabs for whatever reason but I am thoroughly against it. As a buyer or a seller I would refuse any request to conduct the transaction that way. The risk is just not worth it to me.

I realize that if you use a credit card you may be able to file a chargeback even when using the personal or gift tab. But Paypal doesn’t like that and they could suspend your account as a result.

I doubt this happens much any more but it will be a cold day in hell before I mail a seller cash, a check, a money order or anything like that for an item anymore. These days there are so many payment options out there online (Paypal, Amazon Payments, Google Payments, etc.). There’s no reason to have a receiptless transaction.

It’s tough to know what the line between being overly suspicious about a transaction and being reasonably cynical is. Sometimes I get emails from buyers/sellers that haven’t heard back for a few hours — while I understand the fear we need to realize people do have busy lives! It’s not uncommon for me to go a week or more before responding to an email during my busy season. (Sorry.)

Here’s my rules of thumb:
– I give the seller/buyer 72 hours to respond to my emails
– I give packages 7 business days to arrive from when I received the tracking number
– I give the tracking number 72 hours to show up in USPS or UPS, unless the tracking number is “3” or something clearly fake
– If a buyer/seller delays me or asks me to wait more than once or for longer than 7 days, I let them know I’ll be opening a dispute in Paypal. And if they don’t make it right in 24 hours from me letting them know then I open that dispute.

I would expect you to hold anyone here — including me!! — to these standards. I can’t say it enough: DO NOT BE AFRAID to let me know when something has gone wrong. Although I may not be able to do anything to help I will try my hardest to mediate and resolve issues. And I am not afraid to drop the banhammer no matter how close I am to someone, as some very angry former community members can attest to. I want us to be a community and I genuinely want to be bloggie friends with all of you! But this is a business and a family to me and I am not afraid to cut people out who are doing harm.

With that, I’ll open the comments for tips, questions and discussions. Please no personal attacks in the comments!  I will be deleting any comments with haterade. I have zero patience for it.

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