1. Always look closely at what is allegedly an official email from Amazon, PayPal, eBay or another entity. If you find misspelled words or awkward grammar, the email is very likely a fake.
2. If you've sold before, compare previous "your item just sold" emails to the ones you just received. It only took one look at my last Amazon sales email notification to know I was dealing with a swindler this time. Check out the excerpts below of the scam email and a similar, legitimate email I received from Amazon back in May. Notice the grammatical error in the second sentence ("Fund in your Amazon Payments account is deposited...").
3. Look at the sender's email address. In this situation, the alleged Amazon emails, upon closer inspection, were not from an Amazon.com email address.
4. Before taking action, verify the transaction by logging into your account at the site you're selling through.
5. If someone contacts you outside of the official Amazon, eBay or other seller messaging system, be wary. There's rarely a good reason for this.
6. If you see some odd explanation for why they want the item shipped as soon as possible, it's probably a hoax.
7. If you want to avoid the risk of a scam altogether, just sell your gadget to Gazelle, USell or another similar company. You might not make as much money as selling it yourself, but you don't have to worry about fraud. In my experience, selling to Gazelle is extremely easy. For more details on iPhone resellers, check out my colleague Bill Snyder's recent article, "How (and Where) to Get the Most Money for Your Old iPhone."
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