Tips to avoid online sales scams

Online sales offer an easy way for consumers to buy and sell products but scammers are also lurking on many sites.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce offered the following tips to avoid scammers:

  • Do research before buying from or selling to anyone. Search the buyer’s or seller’s name, email address and other identifying information online to see if it’s trustworthy.
  • Ensure the value of the products to avoid a "too good to be true" scam.
  • Read reviews about the seller to get feedback on quality and trustworthiness.
  • Review policies about accepting payments, as each site may have unique rules or tips for online users. For example, Facebook Marketplace notes the importance of receiving a buyer’s payment before shipping anything and reminds consumers that cashier and certified checks can be counterfeit.
  • If accepting payment via a money transmission app or payment site, look carefully at emails regarding payments. Is the email address legitimate, does it have grammar and spelling errors like many scams and do the emails look like previous ones you’ve received?
  • Don’t rely solely on emails for payments. Log into your account directly, don’t click links in emails and ensure the proper funds are in the correct accounts. Also, contact the money transmitter directly by phone, email or chat support found on the company’s website, and check to make sure it matches any emails sent.
  • Don’t send money to receive money. Some scams involve overpaying for items and asking for refunds on the overages. By the time the initial payment bounces, the scammer can already have received the payment for the difference. Also, be wary of emails insisting payment for an account upgrade fee or "certificate."
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Any problems and questions regarding money transmission can be directed to the Minnesota Department of Commerce by calling 651-539-1600 or emailing

The Better Business Bureau also tracks scams and takes reports here.