It’s well-known that there are risks to buying online, but a lot of online sellers wonder if they can be ripped off by scammers too.
Selling on Etsy is no exception, so it’s worth learning about things to watch out for if you’re selling online at all, and on Etsy specifically.
Table of Contents
- Is Etsy safe for sellers?
- How do I protect myself as a seller on Etsy?
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links that will pay me a small commission if they’re used to purchase something. To see the entire affiliate policy click here.
Is Etsy safe for sellers?
Selling on Etsy is generally safe because Etsy takes care of verifying payments, but any time you sell anything online there’s a chance that you can be scammed by someone posing as a customer. There are some simple things that you can do to protect yourself when you’re selling online, and Etsy has put a lot of safeguards in place that can help.
Some of the policies around Etsy fee evasion actually prevent sellers from getting ripped off, which is something that people don’t seem to realize.
Etsy also put the Purchase Protection Program into place recently, and it’s another safeguard for sellers.
They also provide some information about scams and how to avoid them, with a pretty good walkthrough of one of the most common scams in the Etsy help section here: Suspicious Messages
Knowing what to watch out for is the first step in protecting yourself, and there are some fairly simple things that you can do to make sure you don’t get ripped off!
How do I protect myself as a seller on Etsy?
The best way to protect yourself against scams aimed at Etsy sellers is to keep all transactions and conversations on Etsy, and to not take payments outside of the Etsy payment system.
You should also be careful about changing the addresses on orders, and you should try not to ship orders immediately since the charges can be reversed if Etsy detects payment fraud.
Keep transactions on Etsy to prevent fraud
Some seller-aimed scams involve customers asking to purchase off of Etsy, which will basically put the seller in charge of verifying the payment.
Etsy has policies in place for this to prevent sellers from avoiding fees, but by keeping all of your transactions on Etsy you can also avoid a lot of scams.
If you ever feel like there’s something weird about a message that you receive from a potential customer who asks you to sell to them off of Etsy, tell them that you need to keep everything on Etsy because that’s their policy.
Chances are that a scammer won’t pursue it past that, because if you refuse to leave the Etsy system they know that they won’t be able to manipulate you into taking a fake payment.
Since Etsy verifies payments, scammers usually won’t be able to place an order with a stolen credit card or a fake account number if the payment goes through the Etsy system.
Sometimes they will make it through, though, possibly because the payment was made before the card was reported stolen, or for whatever reason…If that happens, an order can be canceled by Etsy, so the other thing to do to protect yourself is to not ship orders out immediately!
Wait to ship to prevent chargebacks.
Etsy recently started canceling orders after they were approved, which is unusual. Usually the orders just won’t go through, or they’ll have a note that says “payment pending” next to them, then they’ll disappear if the payment method wasn’t valid.
Etsy will sometimes allow an order to go through, then it will reverse the charge and pull the payment out of the seller’s account if a fraudulent payment is caught after the fact.
This usually happens with no warning or explanation, but a lot of sellers have reported shipping orders, only to have Etsy reverse the payment. That means that the seller is out the product and the payment.
Something that I’ve started doing because of this is to ship a little slower than I used to. I still ship orders fairly quickly, but I used to ship things out the same day and I wait at least 24 hours now.
Right after I made this video that mentioned this happening, I had an order that Etsy reversed! So I’m glad that I had waited, and I would advise other sellers to do the same thing to avoid getting scammed by fake payments.
Another shipping scam that happens isn’t about payments, but it’s about the address used to place the order.
Ship to the order on the address to prevent being scammed.
When an order is placed, the customer has to enter the address unless it autofills, but they’ll still be able to see what address the order is going to. Because of Etsy’s Purchase Protection Program, it’s important to ship to the address as the customer entered it, but that’s also a good way to avoid being scammed.
The only legitimate reason why a customer would need to change the address on an order is if they messed it up when they placed it. If that’s the case, a customer should understand that you need to cancel and have them place the order again so that the Purchase Protection will be in effect.
If a customer places an order then asks you to send it to a different address, you should explain that you can’t because of that protection guarantee, but it’s also a way to prevent dropshippers from using you as their go-between. It will also prevent people from using stolen credit cards then shipping the package somewhere else.
There are situations where Paypal will revert to the address that they have on file, so if a customer says they put in their address but their old address came up, that could actually be what happened.
You should tell them to make sure that they check their address that’s on file with Paypal or their credit card to make sure everything is consistent.
Scammers won’t be happy if you tell them that you can’t ship to a different address, but customers who just made a mistake should understand, and it will keep the protections for both of you.
Don’t get scammed if the customer claims they didn’t get the package!
This happens occasionally, but nine times out of ten the customer is telling the truth. There are a lot of reasons why a package would say that it was scanned in when it wasn’t, so don’t immediately assume that the customer is lying to you.
Unfortunately, the postal service in the US is always having trouble with staffing and budgets, so deliveries are sometimes marked as delivered when they really won’t be delivered until the next day.
If a customer says that they got a message that their package was delivered but they didn’t get it, or if there are other shipping problems, explain the postal problems to them, but be prepared for them to not believe you. You can tell them to call their post office to ask for the GPS coordinates of the delivery, because that will tell them exactly where the package is.
Let’s say that this is a scammer, though, for argument’s sake. The one thing that I find when I go through the “check to make sure nobody else brought the package in” kind of advice is that adding something about mail theft being a federal crime usually weeds out people who genuinely don’t have the package.
Generally, any mention of law enforcement and the fact that you understand how the postal system works will make a scammer drop the issue. Don’t offer a refund until you’ve exhausted every option for finding the package, and definitely not before they give the post office a couple of days to find the package.
Also, remember that Etsy might cover the cost of a refund if the package was actually stolen or misdelivered and the post office isn’t helpful.
As long as you’ve gone through the post office process to find the package first, the customer can open a case with Etsy to submit a purchase protection program request. As long as the shipment meets the other criteria (sent with tracking or Etsy labels, sent to the address on the order etc.) Etsy might cover the price of a refund.
Unfortunately, scammers know that too, so we might see an uptick in claims of non-delivery. Let Etsy figure that out, though, because they’ve said that if someone abuses the system they’ll deal with it!
Payment and delivery scams aren’t the only things to watch out for. Another way that Etsy sellers can be scammed is to fall for a fake charity donation request, so be on the lookout for those.
Don’t be scammed by fake charity requests.
There are a lot of people who write to Etsy sellers and ask for free products to use for charity events. This isn’t unusual for real charities to do, but you shouldn’t feel that you need to donate just because someone asks. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who think it’s fine to pretend to represent a charity when they’re just trying to scam people out of products.
If someone writes to you on Etsy and asks for free merchandise, tell them that you’re unable to donate because you have commitments to local charities that you donate to and your budget is set. If the request is legitimate they’ll understand, and you’ll be able to avoid a lot of people who are just trying to rip you off.
I had one woman who would write to me every year with the same story about her sick grandchild who was on his deathbed but who really wanted a specific birthday cake, and could I give her free decorations for it?
This went on for three or four years, and every year she would direct me to a Facebook page that talked about the child’s health and life in the hospital.
The problem was that the kid never got older and never got out of the hospital, and the letter was the same every year. It was clear that it was a fake page that she had set up to try to make her scam look real just to get free stuff from vendors.
There are no limits to how low some people will go, and even though most people aren’t dirtbags like that, there’s no reason why you should send people free merchandise.
Another related scam is the blogger/influencer who asks for free products to review…
Don’t fall for fake influencer requests.
It’s fairly common for wanna-be influencers and some bloggers to write to people to ask for things to review in exchange for free products. Even though this might look like a good deal, you need to be careful that you’re not sending free merchandise to someone for no reason.
If you do get a request for free merchandise, look at the person’s social media to see what level of engagement they have with their audience. Not the number of followers, the level of engagement.
That means that if someone has ten million followers, but only gets three comments on every post, it’s probably not a good bet to send them free merchandise. Those are either fake followers (you can buy those) or the people who do follow them aren’t interested in what they have to say, or a little of both.
If you do recognize the person and you can guarantee that it’s actually them and not someone pretending to be them, you can offer them a discount for the product, and tell them that since Etsy has an affiliate program, you’d be glad to offer a discount code for them to promote to their audience so that they can get affiliate referral income.
This is a perfectly legitimate way to handle it, and any legitimate influencer will understand an affiliate arrangement.
Having said that, if a major media outlet contacts you and asks for samples for a gift guide or something they’re doing, do a quick Google search to verify that the person is on staff or works for them, then act quickly.
There are people in my EShop group who have had their products featured on television and in major media publications (myself included) because we acted quickly when contacted. Just be careful and don’t assume that people are who they say they are!
If you ever receive an “invitation” to provide merchandise for Hollywood goodie bags for events, watch out. Sometimes this is a legitimate opportunity, but honestly, it rarely works out in your favor. There’s always a cost to it and it usually doesn’t end up being a big breakthrough for your business.
Just be careful and weigh the offers as they come. Check in with some other sellers who might have more experience with this kind of thing to see what they think, and don’t be afraid to pass on “opportunities” that might not actually be worth it.
There are a lot of ways that people will try to scam you as a seller, because there are always going to be that kind of people in the world. If you do get tricked at some point don’t feel too bad about it, just take it as a learning experience.
However, always be careful and don’t ever give anyone any of your personal information, or send them money! That’s just basic common sense. If you do wonder about a message that you received, feel free to post about it in my public Facebook group if you’re a member, or post a message on Youtube to get feedback from my community before you respond to it!
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