Sell­ing your rig on­line? Be­WAre oF SCAM­MerS BuT, WiTh A liT­Tle knoWl­edge, They’re eASy To SpoT.

Camper Trailer Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS DAVID COOK

Is it real or a ‘steal’?

Look­ing to sell the old cam­per trailer? Feel it’s time for a change and want to move along that sec­ond car­a­van tak­ing up room in the back­yard? Chances are, you’ll be avail­ing your­self of the ser­vices of an on­line sales site. That’s a good idea, but just be wary of the scam­mers out there.

This was un­der­lined for me when I was in­un­dated with phone-shy ‘buy­ers’ en­quir­ing about my cam­per trailer – in­clud­ing one who was will­ing to pur­chase it sight unseen.

These dodgy ‘cus­tomers’ adopt a typ­i­cal pat­tern. Usu­ally you’ll re­ceive a text mes­sage (de­pend­ing on the on­line seller) re­quest­ing you to re­spond via email. There might even be an ex­pla­na­tion as to why they can’t talk to you di­rectly: they’re work­ing on an off­shore oil rig, or they’re away in New Guinea work­ing for a min­ing com­pany, or suf­fer from hear­ing loss so can’t deal by phone and they’re re­stricted to a wheel­chair so can’t come to look – or some such ex­cuse!

You will al­most cer­tainly re­ceive an en­quiry as to whether or not you have a PayPal ac­count near the start of any ex­changes and, if you don’t have one, they will want you to set one up.

Through the course of their cor­re­spon­dence, they may try to mimic gen­uine buyer be­hav­iours by re­quest­ing to see more pho­tos or ques­tion­ing whether or not it’s your best price, be­fore claim­ing they’ll trans­fer the money via PayPal and ar­range for some­body to pick it up on their be­half.

In re­al­ity, the scam­mer isn’t on the look­out for signs of rust or to ne­go­ti­ate a killer deal, he or she is out to send you through a false pay­ment and maybe elicit a re­fund, or pick up the cam­per or van and be gone be­fore you re­alise you’ve been had.

If you doubt their word, re­spond po­litely to such en­quiries with the state­ment that no pay­ment through PayPal is ac­cept­able and you are al­most cer­tain to have heard the last of them. In fact, in­clud­ing ‘no pay­ment by PayPal’ in your ad may even save your­self the trouble of hav­ing to deal with these peo­ple.

PayPal isn’t at fault here. The PayPal sys­tem ac­tu­ally works in our favour by per­mit­ting us to make pay­ments to var­i­ous on­line sites with­out re­veal­ing our full credit card de­tails each time, but scam­mers ex­ploit sell­ers’ in­ex­pe­ri­ence with the sys­tem to de­fraud them of their prop­erty and funds.

PayPal ad­vises how to deal with fraud­u­lent of­fers (see PayPal’s advice on p108), as do all the on­line sales sites. Read the warn­ing pages on each sell­ing site be­fore you start.


The seller will re­ceive a bo­gus email, claim­ing to be from PayPal, ad­vis­ing that funds for the sale have been de­posited into a hold­ing ac­count but won’t be re­leased un­til ‘over­paid’ money is re­funded. The so-called ‘buyer’ may ask for this re­fund to be sent by wire, bank trans­fer, or on a pre-loaded money card via a ‘freight com­pany’ (also usu­ally bo­gus). The scam­mer will in­vent an ex­cuse for the over­pay­ment, such as to cover the fees of an agent or ex­tra ship­ping costs or in­sur­ance, or ex­plain that it was sim­ply hu­man er­ror. They may prom­ise to re­im­burse you for these costs.

If you act on the bo­gus re­quest you will lose the money to the scam­mer and, if you have al­ready sent the item you were sell­ing, you will lose that as well.

Note that many of these so-called ‘buy­ers’ are will­ing to pur­chase your item with­out hav­ing viewed it in per­son – even if you are sell­ing an ex­pen­sive item such as a car or

cam­per. It could be an over­seas buyer in­ter­ested in pur­chas­ing your item de­spite it be­ing com­monly avail­able in their home coun­try. Of­ten the ship­ping costs would far out­weigh the cost of the item it­self, which should be a red flag.

As soon as a buyer agrees to buy with­out see­ing it and says they are “out of con­tact” be very wary!


It’s not just sell­ers who suf­fer, but also gen­uine buy­ers. The ba­sic advice is to never re­veal your ac­tual ad­dress or bank ac­count or other pri­vate de­tails. Deal only with peo­ple who you can talk to, prefer­ably face to face, and al­ways sus­pect some­one who claims to be happy to hand over thou­sands or tens of thou­sands of dol­lars, sight unseen, for what you’re sell­ing, most es­pe­cially if they’re from over­seas or in­ter­state.

We even­tu­ally sold our cam­per – months later – to a cou­ple who rang and asked ques­tions, then came to see it, liked what they saw and did the deal on the spot, re­turn­ing with a bank cheque the next day. That’s how sales are made, not via SMS mes­sages and emails to anony­mous peo­ple us­ing a pre­scribed method.

And, if you find your­self ap­proached by scam­mers, do as I did and re­port all the email ad­dresses and SMS mes­sages to the web sales sites in­volved to help them elim­i­nate this plague from our midst.

CloCk­wise from top left: Trust your gut. Le­gal trans­ac­tions feel dif­fer­ent to those in­volv­ing fraud (pic Getty Im­ages); It took months for a buyer to pur­chase David’s cam­per, de­spite the ‘in­ter­est’ that cropped up overnight; On­line sales sites are a tar­get for scam­mers, but each will have advice on how to avoid them, so read up be­fore you post your ad.

aBOVE: A canny scam­mer could be out of sight with your cam­per be­fore you re­alise you’ve been ‘had’. RIGHT: If the cost of freight­ing your cam­per over­seas or in­ter­state eclipses the value of the sale, it’s time to ask: is the en­quiry gen­uine?

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