Avoiding Garage Sale Scams

by Christina Heiska


Yardsale and garage sale season will soon be in full swing. Most times they are positive experiences, but as Mickie recently shared in "My Story," anyone holding a garage sale may be the victim of a scam. If you recall, Mickie helped some pushy customers load their purchases in their vehicles, and then they later returned and very loudly complained that they hadn't received all their merchandise. This tactic is used to try to intimidate/embarrass the seller into giving an undeserved refund. If you are planning on holding a garage sale this year, here are some things to be aware of.

Distraction is a common tool that yard sale thieves use. Sometimes they may bring a small child and let the kid loose at the sale. They are hoping that either the seller will "ooh and ahh" over the child while they are busy shoplifting a few small items or 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 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 little fib and say that you need to check all the items because you are selling some items for a friend and have to keep 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!

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 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.

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. Scam artists may have stuffed a bunch of unpaid for items inside.

When selling small valuables, such as jewelry, it's best to designate one 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 items, the seller was too harried to realize it until after the fact.

For safety reasons, it's best to have another person helping you conduct your yardsale. If you can't, and hold a yardsale by yourself, 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!


Christina Heiska runs The Yardsale Queen website at yardsalequeen.com. Visit the Yardsale Queen for free tips on having a great yardsale and being a smart yardsale shopper.

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