I recently listed my iPod on eBay and it sold for a tasty Â£205. I was a little surprised that it went for so much, but was definitely happy about it. I started to get suspicious when i got an invoice request from the buyer with the following message:
Dear Seller, Am happy to be the winner of your item and am sorry for not reading the item description ,so i will be sending it to my Store in Abroad,so i will be responsible for the shipping costs and i will be paying you via PayPal ONLINE PAYMENT,so i want the shipping via ( Royal Mail First Class Delivery ) so get back to me asap You can email me to my private email address firstname.lastname@example.org You can call me on +447024061033
As a grand master eBayer myself, i thought this was a little strange. Giving an alternate email address and phone number in the email was a little odd, as was the bad English and unclear message. I promptly reported this to eBay’s Trust and Safety department to have them look into it, and requested the buyer’s contact details before heading to bed.
The next day i awoke to a plethora of emails in my inbox regarding this. eBay confirmed that the buyer’s account had been breached and therefore the sale was invalid. They then removed the item from eBay altogether so that i was not able to give a ‘Second Chance Offer’ and sell to the next highest bidder, or indeed hit the ‘Relist’ button to save me re-writing the auction description.
The rest of the emails were from the fraudsters; both from eBay and PayPal which look very genuine and ask me to ship the item to an address in Nigeria and then enter the tracking number into my PayPal account (they don’t mention where in my PayPal account since there is certainly no box to do it). Upon entering this information, the funds will clear into my account.
What interests me about this whole fiasco is the following:
- as an eBay seller who has sold an item to a fraudster, i’m basically slapped back to where i was 5 days ago before i listed the item. I’ve lost out completely. If i was leaving the country tomorrow, i wouldn’t be able to re-list and sell my item, instead, i’d have wasted my time and still have whatever i was trying to sell. Not great service from eBay there!
- the persistence and skill of the fraudsters, yet their inability to write a clear email in English! The emails i received were all fairly well designed (though many of them were picked up by my crafty Gmail Spam filter) but all had terrible grammar mistakes and sections which didn’t make sense.
- Nigeria! What on earth is it about Nigeria. This seems to be a fairly common problem on eBay, and it always seems to involve shipping to Nigeria!
- the number of people that must fall victim to this type of crime. If i was less eBay savvy and didn’t use Gmail, i could easily have thought these emails were real, and shipped my Â£200 iPod off to the other side of the world.
It therefore appears to me that this is a rather serious problem that eBay (and possibly the Nigerian Government) need to be looking into a little deeper, and doing something about. I’ve been contacted by eBay before to say that my account had been breached and that i should change my password immediately. Even i used to use a short, common word as my password. I promptly changed that one to a unique 12 digit alpha-numeric code and have thankfully since been fine.
Do you use 1 password for everything? Have you thought about changing it recently? A piece of paper on your wall with all your 12 digit alpha-numeric passwords written on it is probably a lot safer than using your name for them all!
EDIT: The most recent email i’ve received (because yes, this is still ongoing!) is that eBay will take legal action against me if i do not ship the item in the next 24-48 hours! This is serious harrassment! It doesn’t bother me that much, but think if this was your granny trying to clear out her attic! Because the internet is faceless, this is no different to conning old ladies out of their pensions, or robbing disabled people because you know they can’t get up.
2nd EDIT: It’s getting a little ridiculous! I’ve not been told that legal action is being taken against me, and i’ve had an email from the FBI who will presumably (because i didn’t read it) be looking into the transaction and prosecuting me!
Glad to see you’re de-appling brother! 🙂
Spotted a wee typo, I think you mean crafty:
eBay seem to be quite heavy handed with all matters relating to terms violations / fraud / etc. I know they’ve been quick to remove your listings in the past because of apparent terms violations, without any real investigation or discussion.
I think this problem is endemic in any “private” community like eBay. It’s a bit like what I was saying about Google. eBay have created their own private world. They are the absolute masters of their land. The corporation is an absolute dictator.
Strictly speaking, eBay is governed by the law. But technology is a new frontier, the internet a new land to be conquered. The law doesn’t always apply, or isn’t always clear regarding modern transactions. eBay is a world-wide business, so it spans any single legal jurisdiction. The corporation is largely unanswerable to it’s customers, to the people, the users, it’s population.
I dare say, as with any tyrannical regime in history (except perhaps the current ones), it will fall in due course. People will only accept oppression for so long. Sooner or later something will be done.
PayPal, Google, eBay, Second Life, they’re all good examples of a new Machiavellian frontier. Conquer and keep lands, maintain absolute dictatorship for as long as possible. Generally keep people obedient and in line.
The beauty is that these systems work. They work well, efficiently, and arguably more efficiently than the chaotic alternative. A system that allowed free trading between parties on the internet would surely cause chaos. Fraud, scams, and other trickery would surely be rife. So in giving up our freedom, our autonomy, our rights, we do make a significant gain.
In my opinion, that trade is not a lasting solution though. Such is the nature of things, those in power will slowly accrue more power, provide less efficiency, and so create their own undoing.
“For we fight not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, but for freedom alone, for which no good man gives up except with his life!”
Sorry to hear about your scam experience. You might enjoy this:
It describes the story of a guy who fought back against the scammers.
@Callum – de-appling? Don’t tell me El Spelling Guru made a typo there!
Hi.. thank you very much for posting this!
I was contacted by the SAME email address for my iPhone eBay listing, asking if they can pay me outside of PayPal. Did a Google search for the email address to see if it was known anywhere, and your blog came up! I read about the scam and promptly deleted that message.
Thank you for saving me a lot of trouble and possibly money!
@Aaron – no problem at all, glad you found it.
Putting my West Africa hat on, Nigeria does get a bad reputation, but it is a little unfair, I think. With the largest population in Africa, 140m plus, and a high literacy rate in English ( subject to some grammatical idiosyncracies ! ) you might expect more crooks from that country. I doubt if they are inherently more criminal than anywhere else.
i was emailed your link from my brother , a bit concerned that the address ‘laura’email@example.com shows up as the address that any forwarded messages from my yahoo account comes from. I was affected by an attempted a few ebay scam a few months ago, i guess this may be linked, not sure what to do about the yahoo address, any comments would be appreciated, james