Avoiding OfferUp scammers: how to protect yourself

Scammers are the worst. As marketplaces continue to grow their online presence, scam artists are stepping up their games (from all over the world). In 2015, 44.9%—or almost half of all consumer complaints—were related to online fraud. OfferUp, a popular site for buying and selling items has made attempts to end the trend. But lately they just haven’t been making the mark and consumers aren’t happy about it.

In 2011, OfferUp was launched as a mobile alternative to Craigslist for buying and selling items locally. While the OfferUp app is great for finding good deals on small to mid-size items like furniture or appliances, it may not be the best go-to place for vehicle buying/selling. OfferUp car scams abound. Scammers often pose as trustworthy buyers or sellers of big price items like cars. And too often, people fall for their tricks. There are red flags to be on the lookout for when using sites like OfferUp and ways to avoid the stress of recovering and/or of coping with losing money.


OfferUp Story #1: Fraudulent Buyer

An individual posted his car for sale on OfferUp. The interested buyer made contact with the seller but did not show up as expected to test drive or check out the car. The buyer sent an email to the seller stating that they agreed to pay the full listed price of $2500. They told the seller they would receive a cashier’s check by UPS and to use $75.00 of the $2500 to pay the shipping rate for the car. The seller received the check, deposited it, the check cleared and they withdrew the money. Almost immediately, the buyer repeatedly called the seller and instructed them to send half of the withdrawn money to Chicago and the other half to Nigeria. Scared, the seller sent the MoneyGram as requested the next day, his bank account was completely overdrawn.

Red Flags:

Buyer refuses/avoids meeting in person – interested and serious buyers make an effort to test drive the car and meet the seller…wouldn’t you? When buyers refuse to meeting in person it send the message that they have ulterior motives.

Checks can be tricky (especially when you’re dealing with strangers) – checks, in general, are safer to use than cash. But keep in mind that checks can take longer to clear than you may think. Contact or visit your bank and they’ll give you a heads up if things seem sketchy.

MoneyGram – once money is wired and received, it cannot be recovered. Using MoneyGram also helps people avoid sales tax. Their website has all the info on common scams.

OfferUp Story #2: Fraudulent Seller  

The following is an email sent to a scammer who listed their car for sale:

“Hi – As I’ve told you, at this moment I am in Offutt AFB, NE in a military base. I do a special training program each day and I am not allowed to get out of the unit or call whenever I want. The reason I’m selling this truck way below market value is because don’t have time for negotiations and I need money before August 30 for my next house in Anchorage. The truck is already at our Offutt Air Force Base Library form Offutt AFB, NE crated and ready to go. Like I already said, the delivery process will be managed by me. I think I can have it there at your home address within 2-3 days. It will come with a clear title and reg. I am a member of the eBay buyer protection program and using this service you will get a 5 days testing period after delivery. During that 5 days testing period I will not be getting any money. I need to know if you are interested so I can ask eBay to send you the details on this deal. If interested please include in your next email your contact info for eBay (full name, shipping address and phone number), so we can move forward with this transaction.

Thank you – SSgt.USAF Debra M. Herrod”

Another example of this:


Red Flags:

Pushing quick transactions – this was the third email the buyer received and the tone got increasingly pushy. Phrases like “As I’ve told you” or “like I’ve told you before” signal fraud because they want money ASAP with no questions asked.

Seller claims hardship – sadly, many scammers pose as military personnel and take it further in saying they are going to be deployed soon and must get rid of their car right away. Anytime a seller shares extremely personal stories right off the bat, something isn’t right.

Seller claims to pay for shipping fees – this falls into the “it’s too good to be true” category. Don’t fall for it. Plus, I’m sure you would go and retrieve the car yourself, as any serious buyer would.

Avoiding OfferUp scams requires attentiveness to detail and really just following your gut instincts. We know, that is easier said than done. Other things to look out for include users copying other listings and duplicating them with various emails, sellers listing their OfferUp cars as “As-is” and using stock photos that misrepresent the current state of their vehicle. The OfferUp app may be easily accessible and simple to navigate, but it can make it even easier for scammers to hide behind their screens.


So, what’s another alternative?

Buying and selling a used car on TRED is a safe alternative to using sites like Craigslist and OfferUp. TRED reviews buyers’ financial and criminal history, so you can rest assured that the transaction doesn’t go sour. Additionally, every car listed on TRED must pass a 150-point vehicle test that guarantees safety and quality (with warranties, just in case!). With TRED, you are in good hands. We facilitate efficient and, most importantly, safe transactions and walk buyers and sellers every step.

Sell your car for thousands more than Craigslist or the dealer with TRED. Sell my car

3 thoughts on “Avoiding OfferUp scammers: how to protect yourself

Add yours

  1. Let-go

    Nothing but thiefs
    Scammers and
    Shisters on there.

    No one will meet you at a police or fire station.
    Nothing is ever in the condition represented as being.

    You will waste all you time and money for nothing going to look at pure junk some idior wants your virginity for.

    Just isnt worth the frustration and agrevation.

    Pure evil thats what it is.

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