Online marketplaces are a vast world of buying and selling and hold a premium webspace in internet real estate. If you send money, do a wire transfer or put a credit card down for a purchase, chances are you will receive your product or service with no problems. However, on the off chance that what you have purchased is a stolen good, you may need a bit more than consumer protection.
Read: What To Do If You Owe Back Taxes to the IRS
Types of Online Reseller Scams and Their Consequences
Reselling scammers make thousands of dollars each year off of well-meaning consumers each year. First, there’s no purchase protection offered. Secondly, if you buy stolen merchandise, you could be out more than just the cost of doing business.
Here are the varying levels of both the responsibility of buying stolen goods and the degree to which you could face negative consequences:
Knowingly buying stolen goods
Expectations of buying stolen goods
Penalties for buying stolen goods
Defenses for buying stolen goods
1. Knowingly Buying Stolen Goods
There could be punishment for buying stolen goods on both sides of the buying and selling coin. For example, if a small business owner is caught receiving stolen merchandise, it must be proven in court that the owner knew the goods were stolen and weren’t victims themselves. The burden of proof does help make sure the right people are being punished; however, being in possession of stolen goods, intentional or not, can be bad for business.
2. Expectations of Buying Stolen Goods
If it sounds too good to be true, you can reasonably expect that it is. Here’s an example: if you are a small business owner and you buy computers that normally retail for $1,200 for $200 a piece from an unknown or unreputable source, it could be perceived as a willingness to pay for stolen or questionable goods.
3. Penalties for Buying Stolen Goods
Depending on the value of the stolen merchandise, you could be charged for a misdemeanor or felony. For example, depending on where you are and how an item was purchased, if it is valued at over $500, the act can be considered a felony. The penalties can include fines, paying restitution or even jail time.
4. Defenses for Buying Stolen Goods
When it comes down to it, the most common and logical defense for buying stolen goods is that the buyer did not know the goods were stolen. They can lose credibility if they buy known high-value items and then resell them at an incredible markup. However, reselling scams can start from many sources, and these can be hard to pinpoint the start of the cycle.
Warning Signs of a Reselling Scam
To better protect yourself from reselling scams, it is important to understand the red flags. Here are some common warning signs you are dealing with a reselling scam:
There is no proof of ownership or receipts to verify proof of purchase.
The seller does not accept credit cards or PayPal but prefers untraceable wire transfers or money cards.
The price seems too low or too good to be true for the brand value or compared to regular retail pricing.
The description of the items claims that the item was simply “found” or there is no description of the item whatsoever.
The seller has extremely low ratings or zero positive feedback on the site where you are shopping.
The seller has no contact information or phone number listed on the site.
What Is Reseller Fraud?
Reseller scams or reseller fraud can present in a variety of ways. Typically unauthorized sellers claim to be rightfully selling high-value products or heavily sought-after products they have purchased in bulk in the hopes of reselling for profit. These merchants can often portray themselves as individual merchants or even small businesses.
Final Take To GO
Online scams can involve anything from social media fraud to identity theft. If a deal seems too good to be true, chances are there will be warning signs well before clicking the buy button. Always exercise caution when buying, selling and shopping online.
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about online reseller scams.
What are the four most common scams?
How do I stop being scammed by a reseller?
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Online Reseller Scams: How Buying Stolen Goods Could Get You in Trouble