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Yardsale Scams

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Who would have thought that there are actual yardsale scam artists? With high-tech cameras in retail stores, a yardsale may seem like easy pickings thiefs and scam artists. Here are some things to watch out for when having a yardsale - and also what to watch for if you are a yardsale customer.

Be wary of the pushy customer who orders you around and asks you to personally load their purchases in their vehicle. What may happen is that they will return - often when your yardsale is still in full swing - they will very loudly complain that they hadn't received all their merchandise. This tactic is used to try to intimidate/embarrass the seller into giving an undeserved partial refund.

Distraction is a common tool that yardsale thieves use. Sometimes they may bring a small child and let the kid loose at the sale, hoping that either: 1) the seller will ooh and ahh over the child while the thief is busy shoplifting, or that 2) that the seller will keep an eye on the child to make sure they don't bump into the table of glassware giving the scam artists opportunity to shoplift or switch price tags.

A shoplifter may try to be less obvious by just taking the actual item (like pocketing a DVD or video game but leaving the empty case), or opening a box with an item inside - pocketing the item - and then leaving the empty box on the table so it doesn't appear obvious.

If you are selling a lot of high priced video games, you can take the disk out (and put in a safe place) and then just have the the case on display for people to look at. Then if a customer does want to buy it, then you can get the disk out from your safe location (which should be easily and quickly accessible to you only.)

A scam artist may try to "help" the seller by totaling the prices of their items they want to purchase. Probably 99% of the time, it's an honest buyer just wanting to save time and be helpful. But if something doesn't feel right, you can tell the customer a white lie and say that you need to check all the items because some items belong to a friend and have to keep all the money straight.

Another scam is for a customer to ask the seller if they have change for a $100 bill because they want to make a purchase. They purposely show the bill and flash it. As the seller checks their cash, the customer quickly puts the bill back in their pocket but holds their hand out, hoping that the seller will be confused and give change back for the bill that was never given to them!

If you are selling a lot of high ticket items, you may want to get a counterfeit money detecting pen (available at office supply stores). You can also hold a bill up to the light (or sun) and make sure there is an appropriate security thread runningvertically on the bill.

Sometimes an unscrupulous seller may try to cover up a defect, chip or stain with a price sticker (or tape). Then when you get the item home, you discover their sneaky practice. A friend bought a ceramic honey pot with lid. The lid was heavily taped onto it. When my friend got home and unwrapped he tape, she discovered it was a mis-matched lid that didn't fit properly. Look everything over good and don't hesitate to check under a price sticker. But you don't want to look like you are switching prices.

Keep your money guarded 100% of the time. It's best to wear a carpenter's apron or fanny pack. When someone hands you a large bill to pay for item, leave the bill out in plain view (sometimes I will put it under a coffee mug or other heavy object so it doesn't blow away in the wind) until the change has been made. Then put the bill away. A scam artist may try to claim that they gave you a $20 bill when they actually gave you a $10.

If you see a vehicle stop at your yardsale and a large group of people get out all at once, be on high alert. One person in the group may try to distract you while the others shoplift. When someone buys a large item (such as a laundry hamper), it's always good to check inside of it. You can just say that you want to make sure you didn't leave anything in it. A dishonest person may have stuffed a bunch of unpaid for items inside.

When selling small valuables, such as jewelry, it's best to designate one (or more) person to watch over the table. I arrived at one yardsale after a group of scam artists had just left. The seller had placed various pieces of jewelry in individual plastic baggies and priced the baggies. What the scam artists did was switch the jewelry within the bags and paid the lower prices for the nicer jewelry. They arrived as a large group and distracted the seller asking questions about various items, the seller was too harried to realize it until after the fact. You can also say that only 2 customers (or whatever number works for you) are allowed at the jewelry table at a time. That would prevent a big group working together to swarm your jewelry table at once.

For safety reasons, it's best to have another person or persons helping you with your yardsale. But if you can't and have some scary looking customers, you can pretend to have someone else with you - just yell into the house "Hey Rocky, bring me a soda when you get a chance". It's wise to have a cordless phone or cell phone on you (in your carpenter's apron) at all times. But don't set it down, because someone will want to buy it!
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