Selling graphics cards: how to avoid common scams [Guide]

As the leading seller of GPUs online, we’ve seen the gamut of buyer-side scams, return fraud, and false misdelivery claims. I wanted to put this guide together because a lot of folks contact us looking to sell a single GPU, and our service is not designed for that. The overwhelming reason they cite wanting to use our service is that they are aware of the risks & hassles of selling it online themselves, and would rather not deal with the headache. I’m hoping this guide can

Common Buyer-Side Scams involving shipped items

If you find yourself in any of the following cases, the best thing to do is to contact the marketplace (eBay) or, in the case of a peer-to-peer transaction, the payment processor (PayPal), and open a dispute. It’s best to be proactive as time is not your friend in these situations.

Payment Method Scams

These scams take many forms but are fairly easy to spot. Still, they can be tricky, because you’re hoping to sell your graphics card, so a prospective buyer messaging you is a welcome event.

Payment method scams are mainly a problem when selling on a peer-to-peer marketplace like Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, or Reddit Hardware Swap.

How it Works: You are contacted by a “buyer” who is barely interested in the item. They are mainly interested in the payment, offering to pay in advance. Their main objective is to get you to reveal account information for your Zelle account or Venmo/Paypal that they can use to gain access to your account. You will likely receive a fake text or email directing you to divulge or change account information. You should never divulge account information or change your settings in response to any request by a prospective buyer.

As soon as a buyer expresses more interest in paying you than the item itself, a red flag should go up that they are a scammer. Make sure to state that you need to complete the transaction in-person.

For peer-to-peer transactions, do some basic research on the person you’re dealing with. Hardwareswap has a rep system that can be a good indicator of trustworthiness. Facebook Marketplace should be connected to a Facebook profile of a person that is not immediately suspicious. Scammers often use Instagram messenger as the accounts are easier to create and fake a profile (typically with lots of followers, but little content).

Escrow scams

Recently, the prices of graphics cards have soared and the secondary market is now much more prevalent than in the past. It is now more common to see deals completed using an escrow, a third-party service that ensures the transaction is completed as agreed in advance by both parties before releasing payment.

How it works: The buyer insists on using an escrow. The escrow is not an impartial service, but someone in on the scam.

Escrow is a headache that is best avoided for smaller transactions. As soon as a buyer mentions escrow, you might as well be using Paypal Goods & Services or eBay.

Item Received Was “Not As Described”

This type of scam takes advantage of buyer protections that are used to protect against sellers who bait and switch or provide misleading information about the condition of an item.

How it works: Buyer receives the item and states that something is missing, or is in worse condition than you described.

In many of these cases, you’ve shipped it well and have done everything possible to ensure safe arrival, it arrives safely, and then there has been some user error on their part. Building a PC offers many opportunities for inexperienced builders to destroy perfectly good components. Unfortunately, some buyers blame the seller, sometimes without realizing they were the one who bent the pins or underpowered the system.

Item Not Received, False PayPal Claim

How it works: The buyer claims they never got the item, or that the box was empty.

Shipping with tracking is your best friend here, however, it’s not bulletproof. You should also have all details and weight of the shipment on hand as the scammer could accuse you of providing a fake tracking number. Research how to provide “proof of delivery” with your preferred carrier in advance of shipment.

When it’s not a scam: In many cases, tracking information will show the item as delivered, but a porch pirate has stolen the item from a porch or vestibule. If you ship with a delivery signature required at an additional cost, this outcome will be less likely. It is important to note that since the COVID pandemic the USPS signature policy has allowed mail carriers to sign on behalf of the recipient. This will show up in the tracking as “signed for by agent”.

How to protect yourself from PayPal buyer scams

  • Take detailed, timestamped, undoctored pictures of your item right before you ship it. Be clear about any defects in writing. Hold on to the pictures for 180 days, which is the length of time a buyer can initiate a claim on Paypal.
  • Take time-stamped pictures of the serial number, but do not provide them to anyone else unless you find yourself in a PayPal claim. Many scammers will return a damaged GPU instead of the one you shipped.
  • Pack the item well and take timestamped pictures of the packing job so that shipping damage will be difficult to prove.
  • Ship with tracking only.
  • Ship with tracking and declare full value. It will cost a bit more, but will be worth it. You can also optionally buy carrier insurance, although carrier insurance claims are often difficult to win a claim.
  • Make sure that you record the tracking information and have it handy.
  • If there is a complaint or a return, make sure that you obtain the tracking number of the return package ASAP. Many scams involve a faked tracking number.

Handling online peer-to-peer transactions safely

Scammers abound in the peer-to-peer markets, and although communities within Reddit have implemented guidelines and rep systems to deal with scammers, con men are still watching those forums closely. Even PayPal G&S, which offers buyer protection in the form of transaction insurance, doesn’t always return your payment. You should be familiar with the Terms & Conditions of buyer protections of any payment provider you use.

Prepare to vet any buyer using these helpful guidelines:

  • Make sure that you have a reliable contact method (phone number)
  • Buyers insisting on non-cash payment, or paying later. Agree that payment will be made on the spot using a payment method you’re familiar with.
  • Buyers who won’t agree to a price before meeting up. Some people use intimidation when haggling or don’t react maturely when negotiating in-person. It is best to avoid handling price negotiation in person.
  • Buyers insist on using an escrow service that you aren’t familiar with
  • Buyers who insist on meeting at your house or a place you’re not comfortable with
  • Do not ship your hardware locally before payment is made
  • Buyers that sound intoxicated
  • Buyers that make you uncomfortable or throw off red flags. Above all trust your instincts.

Prepare for a safe in-person transaction:

  • Discuss all details of the meetup beforehand
  • Take your mobile phone and ensure that it is charged
  • Check the reputation or online profile of the person you’re meeting with. Look out for an unexpected mismatch when you meet in-person.
  • Ensure that you meet in a public place. Some municipalities provide a dedicated location for peer-to-peer transactions, often at the local police station.
  • Ensure that someone else knows where you’ll be and keep that person updated before, during and after. Better yet, enlist a friend to go with you during the transaction if possible.
  • Never divulge personal information, such as your address, workplace, or any type of regular schedule of your whereabouts. Often information gathering will be disguised as friendly banter or nervous small-talk. If you feel pressured, be prepared to give false information and leave the situation ASAP.