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How to Sell Your Stuff (Safely) Online

Use these expert tips to avoid scammers and bring in cash for your castoffs

2. Auctions

With online auctions, you sell your item to the highest bidder. The website comes to most minds first, but there are others out there, such as and

Step one is to set up an account. Make sure to read the fine print on listing and commission fees charged by the website. Ready? Photograph your item and write a detailed description. Buyers have a right to know if your glass coffee table has a minor scratch, so be honest. Decide on a bidding price strategy: Set the opening bid low to attract buyers, perhaps, or put it at the minimum you’ll accept.

For a gauge on pricing, do a search of your item online to see what other people are selling it for. And figure in what it will cost to ship your item to the winning bidder.


  • Check to see whether the auction site offers feedback or ratings of buyers. If so, do a little digging to find out whether your buyer has received negative reviews.
  • Once you’ve got a bid winner, use a secure checkout process to collect your payment — either a credit card that offers theft protection or a third-party billing company such as PayPal. When using PayPal, link it to a bank account that doesn’t hold your life savings.
  • Beware of “spoof” emails that pretend to be from people at the auction website or some other reputable organization and try to pry information from you for identity theft. “EBay or PayPal will never ask for personal information,” Lombana says.

3. Online marketplaces

You can list your used books, CDs, cellphones and such on virtual marketplace websites such as or Just as with an auction site, you’ll pay a small commission when your item sells. Essentially, you’re paying a middleman — the marketplace operator — for handling the transaction for you in a safe and secure manner. In return, you get access to millions of potential buyers.

To get started, register with the website, then follow instructions. In some cases, you won’t write your own descriptions; you’ll use a description provided by the website. No need to upload a photo. But you’ll have to answer questions about the condition of the item, which will be added to the description.


  • Be a trustworthy seller. On many sites, you’ll receive a rating on your customer service. Maintain high standards to help make your next selling experience as good as the first.
  • Buyers have the option to contact you by email. Keep your conversation strictly professional. If you become too chatty, you may unintentionally divulge information about yourself.

Stacy Julien is a writer and editor at AARP Media.

Remember to go to the AARP home page every day for tips on keeping healthy and sharp, and great deals.

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