In this year of COVID, many people are looking for ways to avoid crowds.
So buying a boat or camper might sound like a great option to keep your family safe on vacation, as long as you avoid getting scammed.
Tracey Beers is a single mom and watercolor artist who wanted a way to spend more time outdoors.
Her dream was to take her kids boating and camping this summer to avoid the risk of coronavirus.
But the problem was prices at boat dealers were too high, with demand so strong right now for boats and campers (just like pools and bicycles).
So she turned to Facebook Marketplace, where she found many better deals.
There, she spotted a 2011 pontoon boat for just $1,800, along with a camper for only $1,000, several states away.
So she messaged the seller, asking why the price was so low.
"The woman said her husband had passed away a month ago," Beers said. "She said there were too many memories, and she needed to get rid of the boat as soon as possible."
That made sense.
Also giving her confidence: The seller was using eBay to handle the transaction, with a request for eBay gift cards as payment.
"She said to purchase eBay cards, and give her the numbers when you scratch off the back."
Beers found that confusing, but assumed it meant eBay was protecting her.
"They said we're not going to give the person the money until the product is delivered."
But after spending almost $3,000 on gift cards for the boat and camper, Beers says the seller ghosted her.
"The phone number was changed. It was disconnected."
Scammers repost legitimate ads
Beers had fallen victim to what's called the "Facebook Marketplace scam."
The ad for the pontoon boat had been copied from a real listing, then reposted at a much lower price.
That pontoon boat for $1,800? We found the same model for $18,000, 10 times the price.
Her money was gone. eBay does not refund gift cards, even if they are sent to (and cashed by) a scammer.
"I think it's horrible they are doing it," Beers said. "I am hoping I can help someone else."
The warning signs of a scam:
- The price is too low, compared with others for sale.
- Someone in their family just died, or shipped off to military service.
- The item is far away, so there is no way you can see it in person.
- If you want to drive to see it, the seller makes excuses why you can't.
- They promise to ship it to you, perhaps even free of charge.
- They want payment immediately via gift cards or a wire transfer.
Bottom line: Whether it is a boat, camper or car, be suspicious of anything that seems too cheap, especially if you can't see it in person.
That way you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
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