Bidder Due Diligence - 10 Steps On How To Avoid Getting Scammed
  • Hey all,

    Here's a post that I published on BHW some time ago - thought I'd post it here as well as quite frankly proper due diligence is unbelievably important in this area of business.

    So here are some tips on how to avoid having to deal with scammers - as it's becoming a HUGE problem over there (as everybody who has sold more than a few sites recently can confirm).

    To get started - the very first thing to do is NEVER enable the "Accept all bids" option, even when you're off to bed for the next 8 hours or out of town for a day. Having this option enabled is a surefire way to attract loads of illegit bids, as bidders are informed about the fact that their bids gets automatically accepted BEFORE they place their bid.

    That said, here's my personal checklist that I go through, each and every time I get a new bid (this applies to bids that are in excess of $500 - with smaller auctions, I tend to go with a more relaxed approach as time is money):

    1. Open up the bidder's account information page and check the general information, such as a) what's the age of their account; b) how much feedback do they have; c) if they've been actively bidding on other auctions.

    2. If the bidder has some feedback, I take a closer look at what's written, as well as check the profiles of those who have left the feedback to make sure that they're legitimate accounts (click on the "View feedback history for [username]" button).

    3. (Optional) In case of high amounts ($1,000+), combined with some doubt, i.e. the bidder has only a few pieces of feedback, I sometimes go the extra mile to actually PM the people who have left them feedback, asking if everything actually did go as planned. This is an important step, because more often than not, feedback is left right after the completion of a sale, and it can't be easily edited in the future, even if the buyer files a PayPal dispute a month later!

    4. In case everything checks out, the account is at least a few months old and there's some positive feedback, I go ahead and accept the bid.

    5. In case there are doubts (very new account, some negative feedback, etc.) I tend to ASK FOR A DEPOSIT (a small sum, usually between 5% and 10% of the bid, maximum $100) before accepting the bid. It's pretty simple really - I just tell the bidder to deposit a small amount via PayPal to guarantee their bid. Of course, I thoroughly explain the need for this and pay the money back promptly after the auction ends or after they've been outbid.

    Just in case some are wondering - I've had a chat with Flippa's staff about this and they have told me that they're fine with this - however (and that is important) in case you require deposits, you need to make sure that both your site's traffic details and revenue details are 100% correct and proven by screenshots! Also, Flippa obviously reserves the right to close down your account permanently in case you fail to return any of the deposits within 48 hours of the end of the auction.

    NB! SPEND A LOT OF TIME PREPARING YOUR DEPOSIT REQUEST PM! I can't stress this enough - most buyers on Flippa are complete newbies and can't even think of any scamming possibilities, meaning that unless you make things very clear, YOU will be the one suspected in a scam attempt.

    Also, it's most certainly not a good idea to ask for deposits if your own account doesn't already have extensive history and a nice amount of feedback.

    6. If the bidder refuses to pay the deposit then I ask if they have any alternative options to prove their legitimacy and if they don't then tough luck. Sure, you'll lose a bid or two every now and then but considering the amount of time (and money) it takes to relist an auction (as well as the fact that it will show as a relisting and, talking from experience, relistings tend to sell FAR worse than original listings, it makes sense to sacrifice a few bids.

    7. Once the deposit is paid, I approve the bid instantly and also check the "Approve all bids from this bidder" option to allow him to continue bidding without the need for further manual approval.

    Some additional tips:

    * DO NOT trust Flippa's ranking system. Flippa gives enormously high ranking boosts for very simple things, such as connecting an established Facebook and Linkedin account (while the account details are only visible to Flippa themselves), allowing scammers to acquire a trust rank of +12 with minimal effort.

    * Don't pay any attention to the country the bidder displays. Flippa's phone verification is extremely primitive, and it's very easy to specify US as your country even if you verify your account using a Lebanese phone number, for instance.

    * Nowadays, I always add the following paragraph in the beginning of all my listings:


    IMPORTANT: If you’re one of the “Before I pay, I need you to fill such and such Identity Check offer” scammers then don’t bother bidding. I know this scam and won’t fall for it. Based on this, I will be EXTREMELY selective when it comes to bidders with no prior bidding history on Flippa.



    Happy selling and let's keep our arses safe!

    Bryan
    Post edited by Unknown User at 2010-05-19 06:29:33
  • Luckily Flippa now offers an (overpriced) Escrow service making it a notch easier to keep your transactions safe, considering that using Escrow.com isn't really a feasible option unless both the buyer and the seller are US-based.
  • Bryan, thanks a lot for this really helpful article! It prevents me not only from beeing scammed, it also helps to detect "potential" scammers.

    On the other side it could help me to avoid my account beeing considered as a scammer, which I´m obviously not and don´t intend to be.

    @bryan: some months ago I informed myself about what a scammer is (never heared that word before), so couldn´t you also say a bidder (you consider as a potential scammer) that he won´t get the homepage untile the withdrawal-phase on paypal has ended? Couldn´t be scamming avoided by this meassure, too?
  • [quote="blackheader"]
    @bryan: some months ago I informed myself about what a scammer is (never heared that word before), so couldn´t you also say a bidder (you consider as a potential scammer) that he won´t get the homepage untile the withdrawal-phase on paypal has ended? Couldn´t be scamming avoided by this meassure, too?


    Not that simple I'm afraid. Firstly, it doesn't matter much whether you've withdrawn the funds or not - if you're taken the funds off your paypal account and then get a dispute/chargeback then your account will simply go into negative - making your account useless until you've paid up your debt.

    The only close solution would be waiting until the dispute period (45 days) ends, but this is obviously way too long time and no sane buyer would agree to it.
  • [quote="bryanon"]
    The only close solution would be waiting until the dispute period (45 days) ends, but this is obviously way too long time and no sane buyer would agree to it.


    Exactly, this was what I intented to ask. Just didn´t knew the exact name "dispute period", not withdrawal. But as this timespan is fixed on 45 days, yes thats way too long.
  • Further to this, 45 days is the limit only in some situations. Credit card chargebacks, for instance, can come through even up to 6 months after the transaction.
  • Thanks, very nice post! Will definitely help avoid scammers!