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7 common OfferUp scams

7 common OfferUp scams

Have you ever made purchases on OfferUp?  Do you worry about not getting the item you paid for or being the victim of a scam?  We cover seven common OfferUp scams and how to avoid them!

What is OfferUp?

OfferUp is an online sales platform created in 2011 that allows you to buy or sell items.  There are no commissions or fees to list items for sale.  Sellers can pay a fee to promote their items – to move it to the top of search results to make it more visible to potential buyers. 

OfferUp is often compared to Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace as a way to network for local sales.

What kind of common OfferUp scams should I be watching for?

Any exchange of money is at risk for scammer attempts to steal either your funds or your items – and unfortunately there are some common OfferUp scams to keep an eye out for.

Some common OfferUp scams include: fake payments, fake mirror websites, fake accounts, demanding untraceable payment methods, code verification scams, and fake fees.  We’ll cover them all below as well as some red flags that might help you identify them.

Fake check or cash

You post your Xbox for sale and you get a message agreeing to buy it for your asking price.  Voila!  You’ve made a sale!

You meet to hand over the gaming system and collect your money, only to find out later that you were given a fake check or even fake cash!

You can avoid one of the most common OfferUp scams by simply only agreeing to cash.  You can invest in a money marker that can alert to counterfeit cash bills.  You can also be aware of anti-counterfeit features of bills greater than $5 (as of 1999) that have color-changing ink once tilted.

Another option is to do the transaction electronically either prior or in-person.  You can use payment apps like PayPal, Venmo, CashApp, Square readers, and more.  You can confirm the transaction is complete before the buyer leaves with the item!

Fake mirror website

Another one of the common OfferUp scams involves phishing.  The scammer sets up a fake website with a similar layout and logos as the legitimate OfferUp site.  The scammer posts phishing links on their sale ad and the links take you to their site to make payment.  There is no protection to the buyer through their website and payment processing, so you’re out your money since they won’t send the item they advertised.

A way to avoid these fraudulent sites is to never click on links outside of the original OfferUp website to complete your transaction.  The legitimate website helps counter common OfferUp scams by offering purchase protection for your debit or credit cards if items are paid for directly in the original OfferUp app.

common OfferUp scams scammers

Fake account

Fake accounts are another one of the more common OfferUp scams.  You can often spot them when you search for an item and notice multiple listings with the exact same photos with different seller names.

If a new account has zero feedback or transaction history, but has multiple of the same item listed, or an item listed that seems identical in photos to several other listings… it may be a red flag!  If a new account wants you to pay for the transaction upfront outside of OfferUp, it may be another red flag!  Also note if an account has negative feedback and be aware of potential bad experiences that other buyers may have had.

The fake account scam tends to be common with listings for vehicles.  If you search for a Ford Mustang and come across a dozen listings of the exact same vehicle in the exact same photos… listed in multiple cities throughout the US, it most likely is a scam.

These scammers will often say that they are selling the vehicle for a friend or family member and offer to have a vehicle or big-ticket item shipped.  Once they have money in hand, they move on to their next victim.

Paying by other means

Demanding payment via untraceable methods is another one of the common OfferUp scams.  Sellers may insist that you send or bring payment in the form of certified check, gift cards, prepaid cards, or wire transfers.  All of these ways do not offer buyer protection or a way to recoup your money if they do not provide your purchased item.  As a buyer OR a seller, insist on cash (and verify it’s not counterfeit!) or confirmed electronic payment via the app.

Overpayment scam

The overpayment scam works by appealing to the idea of making a few extra dollars on your sale.

Say you have a $1,000 laptop for sale and you receive a message from a buyer who loves it and is offering full price PLUS $100 for shipping.  You know it won’t cost $100 to ship, but it’s nice to increase your profit for the extra effort.

In reality, you’ve fallen prey to one of the common OfferUp scams that convinces you to accept the risk of a bad check.  It’s only after you’ve shipped the laptop that the check bounces.  To add salt in the wound, you have to pay fees for the bounced check!

If the offer seems a little too generous, it often is!

Additional shipping

OfferUp has links in the transaction process to allow for shipping.  This is the only way to receive purchase protection for items that need to be shipped!  Sellers insisting that an item has additional shipping charges are part of another one of the common OfferUp scams. 

All shipping fees and options are stated on the OfferUp website.  Sellers sending an invoice via another app to bill for “additional fees” are likely scammers and there’s a good chance you won’t see your money or your product!

Code verification scam

The code verification scam has been hitting many social media platforms, and is another one of the common OfferUp scams.  Often the buyer or seller will claim that they need your cell phone number and need you to confirm a code for them to verify that you are “real”.

When you receive a Google Voice verification code on your phone, scammers can use that to create a Google voice number linked to you or hijack your phone!  Sometimes they use it for identity theft or to create a new profile to scam others from.  They may potentially be able to open new accounts or access your accounts with additional information!

A good rule of thumb is not to give your cell phone number out to unknown persons, do not include it with your listings, and do not send verification codes to potential buyers or sellers.

What are some red flags that I might be dealing with a scammer?

The old adage, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” applies to many online transactions!  To help avoid some of the more common OfferUp scams; here are a few red flags to watch for:

  • Amazing deals on expensive items (a brand new iPhone for $20!)
  • Postings that only have manufacturer or stock photos
  • New account with zero history or transactions
  • Account with negative reviews
  • Links to purchase outside of original OfferUp website or app
  • Demand for payment in wire transfer, prepaid cards, certified check, etc.
  • Billing for additional fees or charges outside of OfferUp website or app

How do I ensure a safe transaction in person?

Now that you know how to avoid some common OfferUp scams online… here’s how you can help ensure a safe exchange if you choose to meet in person:

  • Bring a buddy!
  • Meet in a well-lit populated area, such as a local police department parking lot
  • Have a way to test electronics to ensure things work and are unlocked
  • Pay with cash or a traceable app with purchase protection
  • Be sure to select “Goods and Services” if paying with PayPal
  • Keep all correspondence and screenshots of communications and listings

We hope these tips help you have a great experience when purchasing items through OfferUp!  We have many more resources for you to help avoid scams and save money!

After 27 years in law enforcement and state Veterans Affairs agencies, I found myself working from home and looking for dollar-stretching resources. Government programs can be notoriously difficult to navigate and I'm happy to lend my experiences to make this easier for others!

Ashraf Abdalla

Tuesday 11th of October 2022

I already made that mistake and gave them my phone number and the verification code...What can I do to prevent them from hijacking my phone?

Ashraf Abdalla

Wednesday 12th of October 2022

@Catherine Marucci, Thank you

Catherine Marucci

Tuesday 11th of October 2022

You may want to secure your accounts, including changing passwords and removing access to any suspicious devices. You may also need to monitor to see if they create or use anything with your phone number and/or account.

Leticia Bacon

Wednesday 5th of October 2022

I am purchasing a car via OfferUp. The seller say the car will be shipped to me within 2-3 days with no delivery cost to me. The seller said I'm allowed to test drive the vehicle for 5 days with no obligation to purchase . Is this a legitimate transaction? I've never used OfferUp before.

Catherine Marucci

Wednesday 5th of October 2022

Hi Leticia. It's difficult to know from that information. Common things to look out for are fake accounts (they are new or have no feedback), questionable payment methods, and deals that are too good to be true.