We found ourselves often trying to get rid of some old stuffs, stuffs we no longer use or that we have upgraded. Whichever is the case, many of us don’t just want to give our things away since they costed money, leaving us with the decision of selling them to ANYONE who would buy them. Now since internet is amazing, what’s better than selling online, right?
At the end of December 2014, my old Macbook Pro (15″ late 2011) stopped working. I did what I could to bring it back to life without luck. I took it to a genius bar to check if it could be repaired, but while I was there, I fell in love with the new one (retina) which was lighter and faster. I ended up taking a new one and leaving the old one at the Apple Store for a logic board replacement.
A couple of days later I picked up my old Macbook which was now in perfect conditions. I listed it on eBay to get back some of the money I invested in the new one. Surprisingly for me, the next morning I woke up with this email from eBay saying that my computer was sold. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Some guy named Tim Colley (firstname.lastname@example.org) was interested in my beautiful computer.
I checked the user’s reputation on eBay –just in case– and everything seemed good. The guy had some reputation. After this eBay email there was another email from eBay with a message from this ‘Timothy Colley’ guy saying:
Hello, I just won your item on eBay and i will like to make immediate payment for it but i needs this further information: 1.Please send me your PayPal email or send me a PayPal invoice from your paypal account to my PayPal email ID:(email@example.com) 2.Provide me your ITEM NUMBER just to be sure am making payment to the right person. 3.Also Send me an email about condition of the item to my email and probably the actual picture for confirmation.Timothy Colley
This message looked very suspicious to me. The reasons?
1- The first thing that caught my attention was that this guy’s english was weird/poor. Not that mine is outstanding, but you know what I mean.
2- The way eBay works is: customers pay eBay for your product via PayPal, eBay notifies you about the payment and send you the money once you have shipped the product and the buyer has received it.
3- Seems the guy was really interested in obtaining my email address. Probably to skip the eBay communication channel.
At this point I was sure I was dealing with a scammer.
If the platform provides you with a communication channel, stay in that channel.
Platforms like eBay, craigslist or Amazon have their own communication channels which help you prevent being scammed and keeps your identity private. Most scammers will try their best to avoid these channels, trying to trick you into giving them your email addresses or phone number. This is one of the first red flags when dealing with a scammer.
When the platform has a communication channel, stick to it. Only share your contact information when is extremely necessary.
Look up the buyer on google
If the buyer has provided any information like name, email address or phone number, look for each of those on google. Sometimes people write about their scam experiences detailing the scammer information (which is obviously fake, but scammers tend to use the same fake identity until is too exposed) and you might find something. Also look on the social network, see if you find a real person. Common sense tells me that when a person is real they tend to have friends and some social activity.
NEVER share your email address, personal phone number, bank accounts or anything related, with any buyer.
If you are listing on eBay, whoever buys your product must complete the payment through eBay using PayPal. After you ship the item and the buyer receives it, eBay waits a couple of days in case the buyer has any concerns, if they don’t hear from the buyer or the buyer leaves you a positive review regarding the item, they will clear the money right away to the PayPal account you provided in your eBay account. Amazon works almost the same, but they use their own payment system instead of PayPal (I will talk about Craigslist below).
That being said, nobody must ask you for your email address, bank information or any contact information in order to send you a payment.
I gave this guy my email address to see how far he would go and what was the scam method he used. After I gave him my email address, I received an email from ‘PayPal’ saying that Tim Colley just sent me a payment. The name of the sender was ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, but when I clicked on ‘details’ to see the actual email address, it was from ‘email@example.com’. It wasn’t even caught by gmail’s spam filters. And it was honestly good looking, having used PayPal frequently, I knew it was exactly as a PayPal email notification.
There are many ways to detect whether an email is authentic or not, but regarding this matter of payments I suggest you to login to whatever payment platform you’re dealing with and check whether the money is there or not (PayPal, eBay, Amazon, etc). Also, if you have to deal with the buyer by email, text message, or even through the communication channel of any of these sites, NEVER click on links sent by the buyer. If they are scammers, they will try to trick you through a fake website they could send as a link.
Do NOT ship in advance
Scammers want you to send them your item as fast as you can. They will always have stories like: I need this as a gift for my son’s birthday which is in two days. It’s urgent. Could you send the item via Fedex 1 day air? I will pay you for the shipping.
Do NOT send your item before you get a real notification of the payment or you won’t see either again.
Use common sense and trust your instincts
If you are dealing with a buyer who is not giving you a good feeling, trust your instincts. If you’re not feeling comfortable, it’s more likely you’re dealing with a scammer.
I love craigslist for selling and buying products and services, but from all the platforms, craigslist could be the riskiest one to get mugged / scammed.
Since craigslist is an open public space to list items and services for free, it doesn’t have a process tracking, and the informal negotiation involving emails and text message lends to be riskier than other platforms for people with no experience in the subject.
For people listing or buying in craigslist, I suggest:
– Remember everything I said above.
– When you buy, never pay in advance.
– If you are selling or buying an item, meet with the person on a public safety place to concrete the negotiation. Do NOT take them home and do NOT go to anyone’s home.
– If meeting at someone’s home is necessary due to the size of the product, ask one or two friends to go or stay with you while dealing with the exchange.
– Cash only: do not accept PayPal transfers, checks or wire-transfers.
Before leaving, make sure everything is ok
– The money is good and right (double check those bills).
– The item is in the conditions you’re paying for.
– If you’re buying electronics, turn them on, check them meticulously. If you’re buying a computer, check you have the administrator password and all the ports work ok (take a pen drive, earphones, cd, etc with you to check every single port), also check the serial number and look it up on google. You don’t want to help a thief.
– If you are buying a mac computer or an iPhone, make sure they clear their apple id.
– If possible, agree with the person to record a video where both parties talk about what they’re buying / selling, under which conditions, how much money is involved and that both are so far satisfied with what they’re getting.