I was the victim of a scam attempt this month, on auction website eBay.
The scammer plagiarized eBay and Paypal’s email designs to try to get me to send the item I was selling all the way to Nigeria.
Here’s what happened. I put my iPod touch on eBay (because I got a new iPhone, yay!) on the 18th of August 2009, with no reserve and a starting price of £0.99. The auction would last 7 days. I monitored a couple of other similar iPods in the meantime to see what they were going for. I was expecting a final auction price of around £150.
As the auction took place, I got a few watchers and eventually a few bidders. As often on eBay, most of bidding occured towards the end of the auction. I got a couple of people to bid just above £100, then someone at £155, and then, someone at £815!!!
I thought, “hang on, who can be stupid enough to pay £815 for a used iPod when their retail price is around £200???”. The person’s username on eBay was “richard.carpentier”, which at first sounded like quite a generic name. I almost immediately got an email from this Richard Carpentier, asking me to transfer them my paypal details so they would be able to proceed with the payment.
I emailed this person through eBay, asking them whether they were a genuine buyer or a scammer. Never got a reply. What I got was a fake email from Paypal, stating that I’d received the funds on my Paypal account and should proceed with shipping the item. If you have a closer look at the image on the right, you’ll see that the email isn’t directly from Paypal, it’s from this “firstname.lastname@example.org”… not quite Paypal, huh?
This Richard person (who I suspect is probably more a small organisation) was hoping that I wouldn’t log into my paypal account to verify the money had been sent properly. Instead, they hoped that I would just read this email, trust it, and, hang on, ship the iPod to Nigeria! Who buys iPods in Nigeria on eBay these days? None, from my experience!
Worst even, I got another fake email from eBay threatening me on a strike for the item, if I didn’t pay promptly! This was the best part f it. The design of the email was so convincing, anyone could have been scared and paid the money straight away. Although I must say being threatened usually gives me suspicions on the real intentions of the buyer.
This type of scam is pretty simple. The scammer hooks you by offering you a lot of money. They then use the technique of plagiarising the look and feel of the emails they will send to pretend they are genuine. They divert your attention by offering a very decent amount of money, whereas all they want is the item. You will never see the money in your account, but you’ll happily send them the item, if you don’t check your real account.
In this particular case the scam was quite obvious – no one would pay more than market value for an iPod on eBay! But what if their bid was just over the price for which I sold it for eventually? What if they’d put a bid on for £165, instead of £815? Then it would have been difficult to spot the scam. After all, what they get at the end of the day is just the value of the iPod, nothing else.
Bottom line is, if they’d thought things through, they could easily have scammed me. Luckily they were stupid enough not to! From now on I’ll be very careful with eBay and Paypal. If you’re reading this, you should also be very vigilant. Easy money online is usually fake money, at least that’s what I like to think!
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