How can I sell my stuff online safely?

The holidays are over and you find yourself with gifts that you do not want or need. Consumers in this position often use this as an opportunity to try selling items over the Internet. Buyers, on the other hand, are looking for great after-holiday sales. Online selling is an excellent way to make extra money and empty your closets of unwanted electronics, clothes, home goods, and more, but comes with some needed security precautions.


1 – How to choose a safe website?

When you decide you want to start selling online, the first question you may have is – which website do I use? There are certainly many choices, but be sure to always choose a reputable site. EBay is a great site if you want to sell and ship all over the world, as is Amazon if it has a site in your country. Etsy is useful if you have homemade goods for sale, while classified sites like Craigslist and Oodle are the best for selling locally. Keep in mind that when you start selling online, you are opening yourself up to some potential risks, including non-paying buyers or scams that can compromise your personal data. That’s why you should pay attention to some of the security precautions below.


2 – Managing your personal information

After you choose the website, the ¬first step to selling safely is deciding what information to include in your ad. Create an email address that you will use as your “selling address.” Keep it very neutral so that it does not offer any personal information about yourself, for example and NOT Next, limit the personal information you put in that ad. Explain all of the features of your item but do not put your name, telephone number, or address in the ad. This kind of information can be used by scammers. Instead, use only your neutral e-mail address or the selling site for contact purposes – EBay, Amazon, Etsy and Craigslist offer an e-mail service that lets you stay anonymous to potential buyers.
Photos are a great way to showcase the item you have for sale. Check through every photo carefully to make sure there is no identifiable information. For example, taking a photo of a bike outside could reveal what your house looks like or its number. If you have some that could potentially identify you, use photo software to mask it or consider taking a new photo.


3 – Interacting with Potential Buyers

Congratulations, you have designed your ad with security in mind. Next, it is time to interact with potential buyers. As noted above, the best way to interact is through the selling site’s email service or your neutral selling email address. Make it a practice to save all correspondence, questions and negotiations you have with any buyer, as it can help if there are any problems later. Use your instincts when interacting with potential buyers – if something does not feel “right,” stop corresponding with that person. Also, if you are selling locally and someone contacts from another country, assume it is a scam and move on.


4 – Making the Transaction

Once you have your buyer, great! It is time to make the transaction. Some sites, like Amazon, will process the payment for you. With Amazon, a service called Marketplace Payments by Amazon processes the payment from the buyer and credits your net proceeds from the sale to your account. Other sites like EBay and Etsy rely on a secure form of payment from PayPal (See, What is PayPal?). Other safe forms of payment are cash (for a local item) or a cashier’s check from a bank. Avoid other types of payments like personal checks.
If you are shipping the item, wait for the payment to arrive and clear before sending the item. Follow up with the buyer and make sure he/she received it in good condition. If you are delivering the item in person, always be sure to have cash in hand before giving away the item. Do not accept partial payment or any other types of payment.

If you want to know more about buying online, read the special focus, How safe is my personal information at online e-commerce sites?, and see these tips:
Is it safe to give a merchant my credit card or bank account information through email or instant message?
What information should I give to an online retailer when making a purchase?


To Sum Up

• Selling online is a great way to get rid of old things or unwanted gifts, but it is important to take safety precautions
• Choose reputable sites like EBay, Etsy, Craigslist, Amazon and Oodle to sell online
• Keep safe your personal information: include the benefits of the product in your ad, but not any personal information about yourself
• Interact through the selling site’s email system or a neutral selling address; use your instincts and stop corresponding with people that seem like scammers
• Do not ship or hand over any items until you have payment in full