All that glitters is not gold: Buy-back scam bilks millions from consumers

By Dennis Horton
Director, Rockford Regional Office
Better Business Bureau

For those individuals who upgrade their technology frequently i.e. smartphones, tablets, or laptops, there are a number of sites on the internet that offer to pay “top dollar” for your old equipment. Given the cost of buying new equipment, it seems like a great idea. However, the FTC found that “top dollar” isn’t always what is promised and has filed a lawsuit to shut down some of those sites.

With consumers having lost millions of dollars, a federal court has issued a temporary injunction putting a stop to the scheme.

In a nutshell after the online company received the seller’s equipment they would hold the equipment hostage; offering to pay the seller just a fraction of the original offer quote. This is a classic bait and switch scam.

Also, in this buy back scheme the sellers often found themselves in a no-win situation. They were given three to five days to accept or reject the new lower offer. The big problem was that, efforts to contact someone at the business often failed. And to make matters worse, the time period included weekends when they were closed.

There are many buy-back programs available to consumers. However, to protect yourself you need to do some research. The Better Business Bureau recommends that anyone considering a buy-back program do the following:

Read the fine print. Even with legitimate programs, many buy-back options have conditions and constraints that could ultimately keep you from being able to sell back your used gadget or get the best price.

Remember that the interest of the retailer is usually at heart. In exchange for your old gadget, your return will come back in the form of a gift card more times than not. This plan and gift card means you are locked into the issuing retailer for your next technology purchase.

Sell it yourself. Consider using a site like eBay or Craigslist to sell your equipment. In most instances you could get more for your electronics by using these sites than opting for an online buy-back program.

Remember. Before selling your electronics be sure to take care of your personal data. Many electronic items such as your smartphone, tablet or laptop can hold a great deal of personal information. If this information gets into the wrong hands, your identity could be compromised. Be sure to fully wipe out all personal data before reselling.

Donate. Contact local charities, they may accept used technology equipment for their use or as a clearinghouse for others.

Scam Tracker. If you are a victim report the incident to BBB Scam Tracker.

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Dennis Horton is Director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau.

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