Drive through any suburban neighborhood on a Saturday or Sunday in the spring or summer, and you’re sure to find plenty of garage sales. Or yard sales, tag sales or rummage sales.
Whatever you call it, selling your unwanted stuff is a great way to make some extra cash.
But if you’re not savvy about the tricks of yard sale con artists, you could end up at a loss.
Here are 9 top garage sale scams to arm against.
1. The quick-change scam
You’ll need to have some cash on hand for shoppers who don’t have small bills.
Beware of shoppers who try to double team you. One will try to pay for an item while a second shopper asks you lots of complicated questions about items for sale.
The one who is paying may flash a $20, but then only hand you a $10, and then tell you that you shorted them on change. They may make the moment heated and try to embarrass you in front of all your other customers.
To avoid a conflict, never take the money they’re offering until you have the change ready. If they hand you a bill, keep it out in the open — maybe sticking out from under a paper weight — so there’s no question about what kind of bill they paid with.
2. Plain old theft
Assign one salesperson to handle the money. This will help you avoid being tricked by a buyer who says he already paid someone else.
Then make sure you’re careful with your profits. Don’t use a cash box, but instead, use a pocketed apron or a fanny pack so the money is close to you at all times.
Be sure to run the money you collect into your home every hour or so. This way, your losses will be minimal in the case of a traditional hold up.
3. Beware of counterfeit money
Head to your office supply store to purchase a counterfeit money detection pen. You can find them for anywhere from $5 to $40. It’s a small investment to help you to be sure any large bills are the real thing.
Or you can simply choose not to accept large bills.
Learn more about how to spot a counterfeit bill, courtesy the Secret Service.
4. Distraction scams
Hucksters know how to distract you so their partners can abscond with the goods.
Keep a special eye on large groups of people who arrive at the same time, shoppers who have a young child toddling through your sale and those who ask you to help put their purchases in their car.
Each of these may distract you from seeing what the real thief is grabbing when you’re not looking.
Your best defense is a good offense. Ask several family members, neighbors and friends to help staff your sale.
5. High-priced item scams
If you have higher priced items such as jewelry or DVDs, consider renting a glass case so people can’t see the item up close (or snatch them) until you show it to them. Or place the items behind the cashier table so you’ll know when someone wants a closer look.
Don’t hand over pricey jewelry until the buyer pays.
For DVDs or CDs, consider just showing the box. You can keep the disc in a safe place and just display the empty case. After someone makes the purchase, you can put the disc into the proper holder.
6. Math scams
Lots of innocent shoppers may try to help you to calculate the total price of their purchases.
Don’t let them.
While most shoppers will do they best they can to move things along so they can go home and there may be honest math mistakes, some shoppers with bad intentions may tell you they owe the wrong amount on purpose. Don’t let them rush you. Take your time, use a calculator or ask a math-happy friend to help you.
7. The big item scam
Watch out for items with pockets, drawers or box-like capabilities. Unsavory shoppers may stuff objects they haven’t paid for into pockets and drawers, trying to get away with some “free” stuff.
8. Price tag switch scams
It’s pretty easy for a shopper to switch price tags when you’re not looking. To combat this, again, have several people working the sale with you.
9. A bigger scam
Never allow anyone into your home, whether it’s for a bathroom or to try on an item of clothing. Just say no.
At best, the shopper is only looking to steal an item by wearing it under their clothing, hiding it in a hat or sticking it in a bag. At worst, the person is casing your home for a future break in.
Let’s not even go there. Keep the doors locked and don’t make any exceptions.
Also be sure to keep your garage closed and make your garage sale more of a yard or driveway sale. Lots of homes offer access to the main house from the garage, and you don’t want any unwelcome visitors wandering in when you’re not watching. Lock it up.
Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller atBamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. FindBamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.