Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Philippine Online Sellers Beware

After posting my previous article, I learned that another online seller was contacted by the scammer. He did not send the item to South Africa as instructed, but she managed to hijack his Paypal account in the process.

The modus operandi was the same. However, she was able to get his email and full name. As expected, he received emails supposedly from Paypal confirming payment of the agreed amount. Unfortunately, she was able to take over his Paypal account and change his security questions. Fortunately, he was able to cancel the card linked to his Paypal account. Surprisingly, his account worked after she emailed her that he could not send the item since he cannot login to his Paypal account.
Honestly, I am impressed with how they work. It reminds me of street chess puzzles where you seem to lose whatever move you make. In this case, they can do several things depending on how you react.

  • They use a Gmail account to contact you. Gmail hides the IP address of the sender if the email was created using webmail. The sender’s ISP cannot be extracted from the email headers of Gmail users.
  • They will ask for your full name and Paypal email so they can send you a seemingly legitimate Paypal notification. Clicking on a link will lead you to a fake Paypal site that will capture your account details. After hijacking your account, they use it to pay for online purchases, which they reverse after shipment confirmation.
  • They will send a fake Paypal notification that payment has been made, but it will only appear in your balance after providing the tracking number for the item sent. Do not expect to be paid after shipping the item.
  • If you did not fall for the phishing email, a stolen Paypal account will be used to pay for the purchase.
  • If you decide to send a payment request, the Paypal account they will give you could be from a stolen account.
  • The scammer may create a Facebook account, possibly to communicate with target sellers. I typed the scammer’s email in Facebook and it shows that she has Filipino friends, one of whom looks familiar. I checked an FB buy and sell page and confirmed that her friend is a member.
Unfortunately, these are just a few of their modus operandi, based on Google searches I made. It also does not mean that all Paypal transactions are fraud. To be safe, here are some guidelines to follow.

  • Never ship to an address that is different from the Paypal account’s registered address. Unfortunately, I have no idea if it is possible to confirm this since I have never tried accepting payments via Paypal.
  • Paypal buyers do not need your real name. They only need the email address linked to your Paypal account.
  • Paypal will not ask for the tracking number before a payment is credited to your account. This is a trick for you to send the item without receiving the payment from the buyer.
  • When accessing Paypal or any financial site, never click on an email link. Always type the URL in the browser’s address bar. Unfortunately, legitimate Paypal emails have links in its email to customers. If you really have to click on an email link, verify that the domain name is correct.
  • Pay attention to grammar errors when reading email from Paypal and other financial institutions. They are usual indicators of phishing.
  • Be wary of offers to pay more than the known required amount to entice you.
  • Create a different email account for Paypal, and never use this to register in any forum or social media site. Scammers can only send you email if they know your email account.


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