Guide to Safe trading on Dakka
Trading on the internet is always a risky business. Even on supposedly reputable sites like Ebay, troubles can, and do occur over transactions. Just in my time here on Dakka, I've seen at least half a dozen ways scammers have ingeniously attempted to part people from their possessions at little or no cost to themselves. And as a site where all trading is Caveat Emptor (buyer beware), there is little recourse at the end of the day should a scam occur. Police departments tend not to want to handle small cases of mail/internet fraud, it's too time consuming, and the value of the transaction tends to be too small. Public naming and shaming has can have little or no effect, depending on the trader. If an issue between you and another person is genuinely an unfortunate mishap with no genuine attempt to scam, it can be worthwhile, as nobody wants their online credibility ruined. However, a genuine scammer will simply take the hit, and then attempt to pop back up under another online persona. Overall, the most effective method of dealing with internet fraud, is simply to ensure it never happens in the first place.
The most efficient way of doing that is to make several checks before agreeing to anything. Whilst its still conceivably possible that one could do everything I am about to list, and still get scammed, the simple fact is that 99% of bad trades or scams are pulled off successfully, simply because people neglect to cover themselves adequately and ensure the other trader is a good 'un. Scammers work on the ignorance, gullibility or negligence of their trade partners, and by following a decent procedure, you can immunise yourself against most risk. What I shall detail is aimed specifically at ensuring a safe and successful set of trades here on Dakka, however the general principles could be copied on most trading sites on the internet. So, in numerical order....
A profile on Dakka is an insight into someone's personality, and what they intend to get from the website. So when considering offering a trade with someone, or a a trade offered to you, your first step should be to survey their profile. Take a look at their username. What does it say about the person? Have they taken the time to fill out any personal details, such as age, location, likes and dislikes, and so on? Have they added a profile picture, and writing or a banner in their signature? All these things indicate a time commitment to a website, and an interest in participating in the community. Someone who has done all of the above is someone who has invested time in their profile, in anticipation of spending more time on the website. This indicates a certain attachment to the site in question, which is desirable in a trade partner on here.
Your second port of call when examining a profile is their username. Whilst not always a good indicator of the reliability of a trader (and certainly, you should never discriminate based on this alone), someone with a username along the lines of 'funboy34623' is generally going to be less reliable, and less attached to the website than say (to pluck a few random names), 'Tironum', or 'Kanluwen'. Literacy is always a desirable trait in anything in life, and I've noticed in my time as a SwapMod, that those that who possess it tend to be of a more mature, trust-inspiring type. Such a thing always bodes well for a transaction. For someone investing their time and energy somewhere, their web 'handle' (or username) is usually something they take a short while to think about, in order to create something that sounds acceptable to them, that they are happy to be addressed by. An illiterate, off the sleeve web handle is an indicator of poor commitment to the site, once again. As mentioned, this is not a solid gold plated law however, more of a generalised rule of thumb.
Finally, someone's post history should be examined. Where are their posts? How many of them do they have? Do they have a well established presence on the site already? 'Johnnyboywutlol456' who has one post, which is offering a £400 transaction in the swapshop should be scrutinised with care. To reiterate again (although I don't wish to belabour a point), attachment to a website is very much desirable in a trade partner, as it means they are less likely to suddenly cut off contact, and ensures that they check the site regularly also. Someone who has a thousand posts, spread across all areas of the site over several months, that are well thought out and written, is eminently more trustworthy than someone who has five barely readable posts, all made on the same day that they offered the deal up in the Swapshop. Again, this is no gold plated rule, but something that can help you filter out potential problematic trades before they occur.
All in all, a thorough profile examination is something that should be examined before even entering into correspondence with a potential trade partner. Someone who ticks none of the above boxes, is someone who should be treated with much greater care and suspicion that someone who does. Not overtly of course, as said, these are not complete gurantors of untrustworthiness, and rudeness is never desirable, but a greater wariness and caution should be in order.
So, you've found a good looking trade, and like the look of his profile. Your next stop should be the Reputable Trader Thread. Has the chap made any transactions before? If he has thirty odd previous transactions, you're probably in safe hands. If he has, say four, its an indication of good previous activity, but should not be taken as a guarantor. After all, credit can be awarded for simply buying goods from another trader. Some few simple transactions, whilst a nice indicator, is not necessarily an assurance in and of itself, and a reason to throw caution to the winds. If they're in the top ten traders list in the RTL (Reputable Trader List), you can probably dispense with most of your worry, but anything under twenty or so transactions, and you're justified in maintaining your caution. (if they tell you they have good trade rep outside Dakka, ignore it. Ebay credit works on Ebay, Bartertown credit works on Bartertown, Dakka credit works on Dakka. What they've done outside is of no relevance here)
If they have just a few past transactions, speak to the people they did it with. Message them. If your potential trading partner has 5 credit gained from buying small value items from other traders, and they're offering you a large quantity of goods for a lot of money, those previous five trades are as good as worthless in judging their trustworthiness over the current kind of transaction. If you message their previous trade partners as well, you can find out other things, such as the reliability of a trader, posting speed and so on. Most people will have no problem with telling you what kind of transaction they made with your potential trading partner, and of any issues that might have cropped up. Such information is invaluable when gauging the trustworthiness of a deal.
Your next stop is the Transaction Report list. Now having a transaction report filed against you is not a black mark in and of itself (I've seen several reports which made me determined never to trade with the person who opened it as opposed to the person it was opened against, due to them clearly being impatient/unreasonable people).Nonetheless, if someone has a record of unreliability, or taking liberties with describing their items, you'll want to know about that before proceeding, and the TR list is the best place to track down that sort of information.
So. You've decided to want to initiate a trade with a person. However, before a trade is ever agreed, usually comes the haggling/negotiation over how the trade is going to work. This is the time to take stock of your partner in a few other ways before finalising an agreement. Your first consideration, should be on how long they take to reply to your messages. If they reply twice a day, it's a good indicator of reliability. If they reply once every three days, not so much. Secondly, how good is the deal they offer? If it's too good to be true, it usually is, to steal a maxim. Nobody is going to honestly sell you an old Armorcast titan for fifty quid. Very rarely, you will come across a complete bargain, but it tends to be rare. If something is ridiculously cheap, and the reason seem to be something other than the seller being genuinely unaware of the value of their goods, stop to question why. To quote a conversation I heard once;
Salesman: 'I must be an idiot or insane to be selling this to you this cheap!'
Buyer: ' So which are you? Either one doesn't exactly fill me with confidence about the goods you're selling'.
Another good tip is to acquire a landline number of your trade partner, and ring it at least once to verify it. This is because a landline number is not easily changeable, and by doing so, you have a concrete number that can be used to trace an address if a trade goes sour. This can, of course, be handy when you end up trying to retrieve your goods.
So. You've haggled each other into an agreeable deal. How do you ensure they don't take everything and leave you with nothing? Trusting a stranger can often be hard, and with good reason. Negotiating who posts first is often a bone of bitter contention.
As a general rule of thumb, if they have twenty feedback, and you have none, they're in a position to request you post your end, or send your money first. However, conversely, if you have twenty feedback, and they have only a few or none, you too, are in a position to demand they fulfill their end of the bargain first. In the eyes of the community, you have pretty much established yourself as a decent trader, and they are the unknown factor. If they get shifty over that, then you should consider pulling out. If you are established, you have nothing to prove, and everything to lose.
However, maybe the other trader is simply uncertain of online trading and doesn't want to take the risk. Let's say everything else is fine, but neither you want to take the risk of first posting. Perhaps neither of you have positive feedback. Maybe the deal is too high value with either party wanting to take the risk. Your first solution would be to see if you can meet up in person. If that's not a possibility, than maybe the deal could be broken down into several transactions, so that if any part of it goes wrong, your risk is minimised (so several payments, and several posted sets of goods).
Failing all else, cancel the transaction. Don't take the risk. If they're not agreeable to a halfway compromise, pull out. If you feel they're a little shady, pull out. You're under no obligation until the goods have been sent from either end. Dickering over a trade is fun, but an end result is not compulsory.
If you follow all these procedures, you should be safe from most scams and scammers out there. It's not an iron clad guarantee, at the end of the day, your own caution and instinct is just as important, but by following the above procedures, you can reduce your risk factor for bad trades to an absolute bare minimum.