The company focuses primarily on mobile users, with the business being done almost exclusively through an app. On your OfferUp app, available items appear first and foremost as large photos on the screen, and, like Tinder, users can swipe through to see all the options open to them.
Also, like Tinder, OfferUp relies on geolocation to generate the list of items it shows you, though you can set filters to adjust for distance, price, and categories of items. As sellers, users can pay a fee to use a “bump” feature that puts their item at the top of the list.
You can pay for your item at the in-person meet-up or through the OfferUp app directly, which offers some protection for your transaction. Direct messages can also be sent between buyer and seller through the app.
OfferUp also features seller profiles, including information like reviews, verification badges, average response time, and trusted connections.
All told, the platform has done exceptionally well for itself, counting more than 20 million monthly active users and acquiring more than $380 million in funding as of March 2020. Its most sought-after items run the gamut and include toys, furniture, and cars.
Unfortunately, getting scammed on OfferUp is not a unique experience. Like its rivals, the company’s format opens itself up for scammers to take advantage of the platform’s users.
Some of the more common OfferUp scams that you should be aware of include:
Payment is always the trickiest part of an online transaction. OfferUp attempts to ease that process by offering in-app payment methods, though many people may choose to operate outside that option.
Paying with cash when making a transaction in person might be a good option. But it’s a red flag when a seller asks you to transfer money to them online outside of the OfferUp app.
You may send them money through Venmo, Cash App, Zelle, or other similar apps, only to watch the seller mysteriously disappear without ever delivering the goods. Most of the time, payments on these apps are instant and can’t be canceled.
To avoid a common pitfall of online customer-to-customer businesses, OfferUp offers a unique service to arrange item shipping on behalf of both parties, with the cost passed on to the buyer (included in the final, agreed-upon total) and a fee for the service taken out of the seller’s cut.
Still, many OfferUp scammers bank on you not knowing about this arrangement, and a common type of scam on the app involves would-be sellers charging you extra or sending you a separate invoice for shipping.
If the seller uses the app’s shipping service, all associated fees and payments will be visible directly in the app.
Cars are one of the most popular items sold on OfferUp—and one of the most expensive items sold anywhere—and so these sales are nearly irresistible to scammers.
There are several different types of OfferUp scams involving car sales.
Some sellers may be attempting to sell a stolen car, and, to throw you off that fact, offer you something called a VIN clone: A vehicle identification number (VIN) that comes from a car of the same make, model, year, and color but not the actual vehicle you’re buying.
Sellers also often try to sell cars that are not yet fully paid off without telling you about the lien. Scammers may also use fake titles in these cases to keep you from finding out the truth.
In the most elaborate version of a car scam, a seller will direct you to a fake escrow service to “handle the money” or a phony delivery service that will offer you a shipping number and even updates until the delivery day. These companies, along with the sellers, will then disappear, taking your money with them.
OfferUp offers protection for buyers as long as the purchase was completed and shipped using OfferUp's system. Simply request a refund directly from the app.
While there are many general types of scams that get committed on OfferUp, there are a few tell-tale signs of scams and fraudulent activity on the app, including:
The user profiles offered on OfferUp make for a helpful feature, but like any good-faith effort to increase transparency, this, too, can be co-opted.
There’s nothing stopping scammers from creating a fake profile and making themselves look better by using other fake profiles to bolster their ratings and reviews. And a common practice is to claim these fake profiles are members of the military.
This is helpful for scammers on two counts:
Being “in the military” can also give scammers leverage to pressure you into sending items more quickly, increasing their chances of successfully scamming you.
As discussed above, scammers posing as sellers can send fake invoices for shipping to get more money out of you. But a similar tactic can be used on the buying end.
A scammer hoping to buy something you’re selling may send you a fake invoice, claiming that their payment has been delivered. This is an especially prominent scam when using outside services like PayPal to handle payments, which is another reason why someone asking you to pay them outside of the app or an in-person cash exchange should raise a red flag.
One of the oldest scams in the book takes place almost anywhere long-distance transactions are offered, including OfferUp.
The scam involves someone offering to send you a cashier’s check as a form of payment. It’s not uncommon for these scammers to say they’ll pay above the listed price to sweeten the deal.
These checks will be fraudulent, but it may take several days for your bank to inform you of this—during which time you will have already shipped the item out to the buyer. Sometimes, buyers will also send a cashier’s check that’s “accidentally” made out for too much money and ask you to wire them the difference.
If you’ve fallen victim to OfferUp scams, don’t fret. It’s never pleasant getting scammed, but it happens to thousands of people every year—and OfferUp offers several methods for dealing with such issues.
If you’re arranging an in-person meeting, you can be proactive about stopping potential OfferUp scammers using a Community MeetUp Spot.
OfferUp works with police stations across the country to designate certain safe and well-monitored areas for exchanges, with more than 450 Community MeetUp Spots available nationwide. You can find more information and maps of these spots by clicking on the green icon on the bottom right hand of your chat screen.
If you think you’re dealing with a fraudulent account, you can report the user directly to the company by clicking the “Report” button on their profile page. If the person you’re dealing with gets abusive, you can also block them on the app.
OfferUp also has avenues for reporting counterfeit, stolen, or recalled merchandise. (The “Report” button should appear on the item’s details page.) And, of course, you can always report OfferUp scams to your local authorities.
When reporting fraudulent activity on OfferUp, you’ll need details like the user profile of the person you were dealing with and, most likely, screenshots of any discussions you had with them. OfferUp also encourages any users going to the police to ask the officers to contact the company about the fraud event.
But, as always, the best defense is a good offense. Keep your guard up when using OfferUp or any peer-to-peer app, do your research, and always use your best judgment before making your payment or sending your item.
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