Monday, May 19, 2014

I was Almost Scammed by an Online Buyer

I received an inquiry for an item I posted on a local buy and sell site recently. Here is how I discovered that it was an attempt for an online fraud.

I am not new to buying and selling used items, and my transactions as both buyer and seller these past years have been smooth. That means I am no stranger to buyer inquiries, and I take time to answer all of them. I believe that one should establish good online credibility, and promptly answering all queries is the first step. However, there is something unusual about my latest inquiry.
Asking for the present condition, even if already stated in the description, is normal. Asking for the final price is also expected. However, the name Rose Morgan does not sound like someone from the Philippines, although I have Filipina friends who are married to foreigners. I answered her questions.
Her request to pay via Paypal bothered me since that would mean extra charges would be applied and it would take some time before I can withdraw the payment. However, what trigged my internal alarm is her request to get my full name. From what I remember, only the email address is required for Paypal payments.
I was also concerned about her payment terms. She wants the item shipped to her cousin and she is paying a shipping fee amount that is almost twice my selling price. She may have accidentally added an extra zero to the amount so I replied by asking for her cousin’s location.

Her latest reply was strange. Why would she buy a common item from the Philippines and have it sent to South Africa. It would be cheaper to buy a brand new smartphone in South Africa. I told her that I do not ship internationally.
I have a Paypal account, but I have not used it to buy or sell items. A quick search for Paypal fraud confirmed my suspicion. Here are ways they could have defraud me.
  1. The receiver’s address is different from the Paypal address. She can claim non-receipt of the item and Paypal will reverse the payment even if I have proof of delivery since the addresses are different. Worse, Paypal will still debit my account for the transaction charges. This got me thinking. As a seller, can I check on the buyer’s registered Paypal address? I have to re-read the Paypal terms and conditions.
  2. Paypal does not send generic emails. A typical Paypal email starts with Dear <Customer Name>.  She can send me a phishing email that looks like a legitimate Paypal notification if I give her my full name.
  3. She can send a fake Paypal email informing me that payment has been made. If I click on the link, I will be led to a fake site that can capture my Paypal credentials. If I do not click the link and just believe that payment has been made, I would have delivered the item without payment.
  4. She can use a hacked Paypal account, stolen using the phishing method above, to pay me. The real owner would then reverse the charges.
  5. She can use a real Paypal account to pay me an amount that is in excess of the agreed price. She can then ask me to return the excess amount through another payment channel. After payment, she will ask for a reversal of her original payment (see #1) and I end up losing the item and some cash.
Online sellers beware!

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