Craigslist, Ebay and other online buying/selling scams.
#13485 by Samantha Sun Aug 30, 2009 9:17 am
Some auction scammers are trying to steal your item.

While the majority of scams targeting buyers or sellers on auction sites are only interested in stealing your money (please see this link), some scammers do try to steal goods and products.

These scammers buy auction goods hoping that sellers will ship their items without receiving legitimate payment. Such scammers typically pretend to be in the US or UK but are usually based in Africa, Malaysia, and other areas.

Scammers tend to focus on small but expensive items such as phones, laptops or jewelry, which can be easily shipped. Here are some warning signals to be aware of:
  • Poor grammar; a supposedly American or British buyer will write in awkward English
  • Wanting the item to be sent to Africa; often using the excuse of "business travel" or a "gift" to a friend or relative
  • Referring to whatever you are selling simply as "your item"; their emails are usually generic, copied and pasted to many different sellers
  • Creating a sense of urgency in asking for immediate shipment
  • Offering to pay extra for your "trouble"
  • No questions about the condition or other characteristics of the object you are selling
  • Some scammers will want to pay by (fake) check. Please read this post to educate yourself about fraudulent checks.

NOTE: any buyer requesting shipment to west Africa is automatically suspect and should be carefully checked out. However many scammers exploit victims in other countries through "work at home" scams. These victims will receive packages on behalf of scammers, then reship to the scammer's country. (See this link for more information about reshippers.) Just because the buyer gives a US or UK address does not necessarily mean the transaction is genuine.

Further in the scam you may see;
  • Fake emails ostensibly from Paypal confirming the payment, but sent from a free email provider
  • "Paypal" emails claiming your funds will not be credited to your account until you send proof of shipment in the form of a tracking number
  • Fake emails ostensibly from the auction site suggesting that you are obliged to send the item or they will take action, again sent from a free email domain

NOTE: Any payment sent to you through Paypal will appear in your Paypal account. ALWAYS confirm by going directly to and logging in. NEVER click on a link in an email purporting to come from Paypal, eBay, or elsewhere; always go to the site through your normal browser to confirm its validity.

In some instances an auction site like eBay will become aware of the fraud and contact you to inform you that the transaction has been flagged as fraudulent and/or the buyer's account has been suspended.

See this link for an example of an actual scam.

Use search engines to seek evidence of scamming
Many scammers use similar copy and paste "scripts". One very common phrase is "I would like to proceed with the payment. I'm buying it for someone special as a gift." If you see a phrase that appears scripted, try an Internet search by putting the short phrase in quotes. Here is an example of such a search. If you have any doubt, select a generic-sounding sentence and do a search to see if you find evidence of a scam.

Scammers will often try to extort money from you after you have shipped an item
  • They may contact you pretending to be from eBay or Paypal and saying a "refundable" fee needs to be paid before your payment will be credited.
  • A fake Paypal email may indicate that the buyer "accidentally" overpaid for your item and insist that you return the alleged overpayment by Western Union or Moneygram before your account will be credited.

NOTE: Paypal will never ask you to send money through a competing payment service like Western Union.

Scammers routinely change eBay IDs and free email addresses and will attempt to re-scam previous victims. If you have been the victim of an auction scam, be on the alert!

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