We're in the process of relocating to a smaller house in Georgia and thought we would try to save our backs, lighten our loads and pick up a few bucks by selling unwanted and unused items. So we listed on social marketplaces Facebook and Nextdoor some unneeded furniture, rarely used kayaks and other items that would not have a place in our new Georgia home.
And right away, the despicable, slimy scammers crawled out of the dark holes in which they hide, using some novel, a few innovative and mostly tried-and-true slimy schemes to gain access to our personal data and bank account information. In fact, in the first few days of our listings on Facebook and Nextdoor, more than half of the "inquiries" we received about our items came from likely scammers.
Now, while this happened to us in Northwest Georgia, we know from talking to others in Georgia and around the country that this problems extends beyond Georgia state lines.
The fakers had some similarities in their approaches. Their inquiries came consistently about our largest and most expensive items. In each, they started with a question that made them seem like an interested or legitimate buyer. The most common included, "Could you tell me more about the condition of the item," and "Are there any problems with the item?"
Before we answered, we checked their online profiles. And guess what we found? Basically, nothing. The profiles were amazingly lacking in personal information. There were no details about their own lives, virtually no posting history, and certainly nothing that could be used to locate or identify them.
But we proceeded, giving cautious answers about the condition of the items just in case they were real or legit buyers. We used few words, and certainly shared no more personal information.
Then, the next request: can you give me your address so we can inspect, then pick up the item?
Now, of course, since we were selling large items that required pick-up and transportation, the request was legitimate, right? Well, no. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!!! Chances are they really wanted a physical address to use for some other nefarious purpose.
We were prepared for the ask, and offered to give them a video inspection of the item, just so they didn't have to make a needless trip if they really weren't interested. And, we confirmed that pick-up would be at a well-known local storage facility in our Georgia city, where we know both the manager and the status of the video recording system. Still, they persisted to ask for our home address. We declined, of course.
That often ended the contact, as the "buyer" mysteriously disappeared into the ether, no longer interested. Others continued, though.
One let us know that while they were the buyer, a relative living near us in Georgia was going to pick up the item on their behalf. We asked for the description of their vehicle and the license number so we could identify them on arrival, and confirmed that they could pick up at the storage facility instead. No, they preferred to pick up at our home, and we declined. Adios!
Yet another continued on, asking for our Venmo so they could pay. We have a stand-alone Venmo business account, which we supplied as we have done many times before. They then asked for our e-mail address, "for confirmation." We declined, noting that we'd get confirmation through Venmo directly. Determined, "she" then said her Venmo "business account" required her to enter MY e-mail address to confirm the transaction. But as owners and users of a business account, we knew better and called her out. POOF! Gone.
So far, we've sold only a few of our lower-priced items, and mostly with the help of the Nextdoor app. There, we've been able to more easily identify potential local buyers as real. And while we haven't yet given up on the online marketplaces, it's a trying and time-consuming process, requiring constant vigilance.
And, yes, we have reported the scammer accounts to the respective platforms. But it's likely they'll just adopt another persona and try to ply their slimy trade on others. So, if you're planning on selling on these social marketplaces, just be prepared for the inevitable slimy scammers and their devious doings.
PS, if you live near Northwest Georgia and have a legitimate interest in purchasing some really nice household goods, just search the Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor.com listings to find our stuff.