How to safely buy from a community source

The main rules to remember are:

  • Always pay with PayPal Goods and Services
  • Always get full tracking and insurance for expensive items

There are circumstances where not paying with PayPal Goods and Services(G&S) can be fine, such as when you buy from an extremely well-known artist with a great reputation, or from someone you know very well personally. But I would never recommend anyone buying from another person online, for example a seller on Facebook, without PayPal Goods and Services.

If you join any of the Buyer/Seller beware groups on Facebook you will see the same story over and over and over again:

I bought this doll from X seller who seemed really nice but it's been Y amount of time now and I haven't received anything. When I tried to contact the seller they gave a lot of excuses and now they're not responding. I paid PayPal friends and family(F&F)/bank transfer. Is there anything I can do?

Short answer to this question: No.

PayPal Goods and Services includes buyer protection which means if something goes wrong, you can get your money back by raising a claim with PayPal. If you pay friends and family you're saying to PayPal that you know the person, you're not sending money for transactional reasons, and you don't need buyer protection. If you pay via bank transfer it totally depends on how good your bank is about covering you in cases of fraud, but often you'll find there's no way to retrieve your money.

Scammers will use lots of excuses to try and get you to pay without buyer protection, because it makes it very easy for them to keep your money. If you want an item and they ask you to pay PayPal F&F, ask if they'd be willing to accept G&S if you pay a bit extra to cover the PayPal fees. If they still say no, that's a massive red flag. Walk away. The doll will show up again. It's not worth getting scammed over.

Sign warning of scammy behaviour

Another thing to watch out for is scammers that try and keep your money with delay tactics. There are some time limits on when you can raise a PayPal claim, even with G+S and dolly scammers will try and run down that clock if they can. Often the excuses used come in forms that are designed to make you feel bad. Common excuses are:

  • My child is in hospital suddenly so I haven't been able to send X but I will soon
  • I've been very sick but I'll post X as soon as I can
  • I asked my husband/partner to post it so I need to chase up with them because I have health issues
  • I had a personal emergency and forgot but I'll make sure to post X tomorrow

Sometimes people do have genuine life crises and difficulties so it never pays to be rude. But if you've been waiting longer than a week for them to post your item, it's okay to say that you can't wait anymore and you'd like to cancel your sale for a full refund. If they're not willing to refund or try to delay further, raise a PayPal claim to get your money back with G+S saying they haven't sent the item.

If the seller has sent the item, depending on location and the state of the postal services or couriers used, it can take weeks for some items to arrive to you. Be patient. See if you can find information from the postal service or courier used about estimated delivery times, and check tracking for your item. If what you've bought is expensive, make sure it's sent with tracking and insurance for the full cost of the item. It might be more expensive, but it ensures you stay informed and know the seller can be compensated if something happens in transit. This means there's no excuse for you not getting a full refund.

If you've waited longer than is reasonable for the expected transit time of your item, or if tracking has stopped updating for a long time, contact the seller. If you don't hear back from them, or if they aren't willing to help you chase what's happened to the item, raise a PayPal claim saying you haven't received your goods.

If you do get scammed (and I really hope you don't) check out the policies for the doll group you met the scammer in. Some groups are more actively moderated than others, but most moderators will kick known scammers from the group to protect members.

It's definitely worth looking up some of the popular buyer/seller beware groups on Facebook to join. These are good places to look up the name of the seller you're buying from to make sure they're not a known scammer. They're also good places to help you familiarise yourself with new tricks and excuses scammers are using to try and make quick money off our community.

Here are a couple of groups I'm aware of:

Happy buying, and stay safe!