Avoiding Scams and Frauds when Buying and Selling Websites

By | May 9, 2008

Owing to the relative anonymity of cyberspace, scams and frauds are also reaping profits on the Internet, often directly competing with legitimate online businesses. If you go into the site flipping business, you will undoubtedly come across some of these types, and it would be to your advantage if you keep in mind the following tips to avoid scammers and tricksters.

The first thing you should do when visiting listing sites and forums is to scan the lists and filter out the dross. You could easily spot these: repeated or perpetual postings and tempting offers that are too good to be true (you’re lucky as most of these scammers don’t bother to change the text of their postings). It’s always prudent to stay away from these postings.

Scammers frequent these sites so beware – they are looking for gullible people they could victimize and you wouldn’t want to be prey. Some scammers would pose as website owners wanting to sell their sites or act as intermediaries to the actual owners of the site being sold. (If you are a vendor, approaches are reversed – scammers will pose as buyers of the site you’re selling.) Some would just prey on you for some information that he will later on use in spamming, such as email address and accounts used in the site listings, while others might just be hunting for hints to go into the same business as yours.

It is important that you keep your eyes open and never fall for any of their tricks. If someone claims to be the site owner, you should demand proof of ownership and promptly verify any document presented. If a middleman approaches to sell another person’s website, you should firmly say no and tell him that you prefer dealing with the owner directly (unless you don’t mind shelling out a couple of hundred dollars more for the intermediary).

As a general rule, you shouldn’t casually divulge revealing information that can be used in any way by tricksters. You may also consider opening new email accounts exclusively for your site flipping business, to avoid exposing your personal email address to hackers and spammers. Never ever shell out any money up front or make deposits to unknown accounts, not until negotiations are over and the contract has been drawn. The best payment option in transactions like these, whether you are a buyer or seller, is using escrow accounts, as the money will only be released after the other party has complied with his part of the deal.

In case you’re buying a site and your negotiations have progressed to some extent, you shouldn’t hesitate to double-check claims made by the seller regarding site stats, traffic, revenues and other important factors. Your failure to do so may cause you your investment, as the ‘popularity’ of the site you bought may turn up as mere hype. On the other hand, if you are the one selling, verifying the identity of a buyer may require some research not only online but offline as well. Serious buyers would not hesitate to provide info for you to easily check them out and hasten the negotiations, so if the buyer opts to hide behind a cloud of anonymity, you should seriously doubt his intentions and act accordingly.

These are just some tips to help new site flippers to deal with scammers and tricksters that are mushrooming on the Internet. As the cliché goes, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.