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How to avoid getting scammed when buying or selling online?

Get to Know the Buyer/Seller
Your intuition is your best weapon against getting conned in a sale. While it's unlikely it'll happen in the first place, you'll know when you're talking to someone who makes you uncomfortable. While a little discomfort will often rule out some safe buyers/sellers that you just find off-putting, unless you're selling some rare item you should be able to be picky and still find someone you're comfortable selling to or buying from. Ultimately, you just need to be patient.

If you have a prospective buyer/seller in mind, just get to know him or her a little bit. Ask to talk on the phone. If you're interested in the item they're selling, ask a few questions about it. Questions about usage often lead to answers with personal information. You can use this opportunity to ask a couple of questions about the seller to get to know them a little bit. If you're the seller, encourage the buyer to ask questions about the item. Make them feel comfortable, let them know a little bit about you, and try to find out a little bit about them. This can seem a little awkward but you can often find ways to ask a few questions. You're going to be setting a place to meet, so it's not unreasonable to ask (approximately) where they live and/or work. You can use this information to mention something you like in that area or even let them know you've never been there before. You can ask what the area is like, how far it is from your location, and so on. This shouldn't be a long discussion, but devoting about a minute of your conversation to ask a few questions will help you gain some comfort in dealing with the buyer or seller.

When you are buying or selling items, always meet the people in a safe place where you are surrounded by other people you know. For example, if you are trading cars ,have the people meet you at your work place or some other familiar place where there lots of people. You can very quickly become a crime statistic if you go to a stranger's house.

Avoid Online Scams
Do not send payment by wire transfer. Wire transfers are best reserved for situations where you know the person you are sending it to.

Avoid Counterfeit Money When Selling in Person
Never divulge your credit card or bank information to people. If you're making a purchase always uses trusted sources for payment. Be on guard for stolen goods and fake currency, also

Utilize Common Sense
Do not, under any circumstances, let your emotions dictate the sale. This is not to say that you shouldn't pick a buyer you like and feel comfortable with, but that you shouldn't lower a price because of somebody's financial situation or change the terms of the sale out of pity. Do not rush into selling because you're afraid of losing the opportunity. Be patient. If anything is going to get you into trouble, it's going to be impatience.

Generally, though, the other party is going to be equally as paranoid as you are. It's a little bit scary meeting a stranger off the internet for the purpose of exchanging some valuable. In all likelihood you'll both have concerns, so just be a nice person while taking the necessary precautions and you should be just fine.