Scam Warning

Posted: 01/12/2011 in idiots, Oiks
Tags: ,

This isn’t so much a guest post as opposed to me reblogging this post from friends Caroline and Craig who were unlucky enough to nearly be caught out.

Please be vigilant.

Ah something to break the blog boredom!

On Tuesday evening I put our old camera on eBay.  I started an auction with bidding at $50, and set a “buy now” amount as $150.

I was surprised the next morning to find that someone had bought it at the buy now amount.  I duly started to interact with the buyer, although I did notice something strange, that I was asked by the buyer to email them directly to confirm something.  Not having used eBay before (I had used a similar service in South Africa), I didn’t think it was a particularly weird request despite their request to quote the item number in the subject.  I should add that at this point everything seemed legitimate from the eBay website.

I received an email from the “buyer” saying that they normally reside in Australia, and that they are currently in the US performing audits for the nuclear industry.  They wanted to buy the “item” (i.e. no specific mention that it was a camera) as a gift for a cousin who is a missionary in Nigeria, and that they would be happy to pay the amount for the item, plus $150 for international shipping.  Alarm bells went off with two keywords in my brain – item, and Nigeria.  Why do scammers always seem to use Nigeria for their nefarious activities?  The email address for the buyer did not match the name of the buyer – not inconceivable that this could happen, but suspicious.  In any case as long as I had the money before shipping it didn’t really matter where the people were or where they wanted me to send the “item”.  I checked with Australia Post that $150 would be sufficient, and it is.  Shipping a 1kg box to Nigeria will cost approximately $95.  Cool, after the cost of the box and packaging I get to make a little bit more profit.  They also wanted me to confirm that the item was in good order as they didn’t want to send their cousin a dud gift.  I confirmed that it was ok, but mentioned that the camera did not have a lens and that this would need to be purchased separately.  In the email they wanted me to confirm that it was ok to pay via PayPal or whether I would prefer a bank deposit.  I indicated that it was fine to pay with PayPal.  I heard nothing except for an email from eBay and from PayPal to say that the buyer had paid and that I was now required to send out the goods.  Everything seemed good … or did it?

The first thing I noticed in the generally very professional and authentic looking emails were a few errors such as specifying my name as the buyer, and the word ‘you’ being spelt with a capital Y.  Upon closer inspection the email address that the emails were sent from were suspicious.  So far, all communication from eBay came from an address at ebay.com.au.  The email that I received, supposedly from PayPal, came from an address at accountant.com, and the email supposedly from eBay came from consultant.com.  By this time I am very suspicious that something is not right.  I log in to eBay and of course there is no mention of this email.  I log in to PayPal and there is no payment.

eBay and PayPal have an email address that you can send a suspected spoof email to, to verify that it is legitimate.  I sent both of these emails to the addresses at both eBay and PayPal, and received a reply from eBay that the email was indeed a spoof and that I should be very careful about continuing the transaction.  Really? :-)

Next I receive another spoofed email, supposedly from PayPal with the title, “You received a payment from your eBay buyer – SHIP NOW”, again from accountant.com, followed from a direct email from the “buyer” stating that they had paid and that I should send the item, and giving me an address in Nigeria (which when I checked on Google Maps appears to be valid).  Since they already have an email address for me I thought I would lead them on a bit, so I replied saying that I had not seen the money in my PayPal account and that I would only ship once it was showing on my side.

The reply from the “buyer” duly came stating that the money had been deducted on their side and that I need to send the item, and then send the tracking number to PayPal for them to release the funds.  Yeah, sure, how gullible do they think I am?

I replied once more saying that I would go to the post office later in the day and send the item.  That’s the last email I was prepared to send to them.

In the mean time I looked up the name of the person whose account it was on eBay and matched the address to the same suburb that was listed as the original shipping address.  There was no exact match, but there was a match for the name at a different street in the same suburb.  I called the number but got no reply.  I wanted to find out from the person whether they did indeed have an account at eBay and warn them that it had been compromised.  What I guess had happened is that somehow that person’s eBay account had been compromised, and the scammers had taken over their account (and their good standing 100% positive eBay record), and changed the email address to point to their own address at yahoo.com.  This is why the name of the account and the email address did not match.

I then received an email from the scammer saying that they would wait for me to go to the post office (no choice there really), but asked that I do it quickly (in their words “as fat as I can”). (I wonder why?)  I did not respond.

By this time, I had already wasted half of the day dealing with this, so I got to doing some work.

A little later I received a legitimate email from eBay stating that my eBay listing had been removed and that all transaction fees would be refunded.  The reason, “The listing has been cancelled due to bidding that took place without the account holder’s authority”.  They continued, “We have temporarily suspended the account used and are working with the account holder to prevent any further unauthorised activity”.  They then warned me again not to continue the transaction.  Good on you eBay.

I figured that was that, and that I could now re-list the camera, but they literally meant it when they said my listing had been removed.  There is now no trace of it, so I will have to set it up again from scratch.  No problem, but if this keeps happening it’s going to be a bit of a pain.

Did I mention that I thought that there would be nothing further?  Yes I did.  I was wrong!

A little later while I was at dinner, I received an email again supposedly from eBay.  ”Restoration Of The eBay Listing Purchased by …” was the subject, and went on, “This is to inform you that we have restored the eBay listing involving you and … Which has been removed back on the eBay database.  We have investigated the issue and have found out the original buyer and owner of the account purchased the item before a third-party had access to the buyers eBay account.  We sent you an email regarding the purchase and the buyers eBay user account.  These issues have now been resolved and you are required to continue with the transaction.  You must remove the item or stop the sale of the item to any other buyer if you have re-listed the item before receiving this message.  eBay is officially guaranteeing you that security measures will be put in place in order to receive the payment for this transaction securely.”

I’ll give them full marks for persistence, and about 80% for grammar and syntax.  Of course a check of the email address shows that the email again came from consultant.com.  IGNORED!

Exactly ten minutes later (a tip that the whole thing is computer controlled), I received another message from the “buyer” stating that I need to send the item and tracking number quickly as the account had been hacked and that they needed to make sure the transaction was completed before the account was hacked again.  IGNORED.

I haven’t heard from them again, yet.

Persistent little buggers, but I like to think I’m impervious to scams.  Perhaps one day I’ll be proved wrong, but it’s not like I go looking for them.  It is clear though that this trail is designed to tap into insecurity about being a new eBay user and not really knowing exactly how things work, and I’m guessing also hoping that the person doesn’t really know how to recognise spoofed emails.  They really are the low lifes of the world.  Scammers I mean, not Nigerians, as this may not have even involved Nigerians.  However, the point of this whole exercise was to get me to willingly send an item to an address (in this case an address in Nigeria), and them ultimately not have to pay for it.  That item will then be received and most likely sold at a local shop to some unsuspecting buyer.

Oh lookie here.  Someone else has mentioned the scam on the web.

And in other news we went to a Korean restaurant for dinner, but you can read about that on our food blog!

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