A personal experience of online scam
I read about the horror stories of dealing over the internet. I have had a few transactions selling mundane used items such as tablet and mobile phone that I no longer needed after upgrading to newer models. Never would I think I would experience the online scam myself.
About 6 months ago, I was thinking of selling my car online while comparing the price from physical used car dealers. So I listed my offer on the online classified. In minutes I had an offer.
There were several inquiries of the usual kind regarding the condition of the car and pricing. One that caught my eye is an offer from an email address firstname.lastname@example.org but it was signed as Fatimah. Claiming to be a local lady who would want to purchase the car as a gift for her daughter.
My instinct kicked in when selling any item over the internet, hence I insisted to establish contact for face to face transaction. Nonetheless, this “buyer” was so insistent with offers of higher prices and emotional plights that the item is a secret gift for her daughter.
Sensing something amiss when recalling that there are international online scams. Therefore, I proceeded to reply the email in local language. However, the “local lady” now claims to be an expatriate working in the country and speaks only English. With many red flags in the process, I decided not to reply.
Why am I surprised?
In this case, the item to be sold was a car. I would have thought that it would be easier for online scammers to target small items to be shipped. How wrong I was, the scammer was relentless. My conclusion is they will try this on whomever they could email. I believe they casting the net wide with large number of emails daily. So what are the steps you should take to limit your risk?
Steps to safeguard yourself
Here are some of the take away from my experience:-
Be alert of deals that are too good to be true.
When the offer is significantly higher than the market, watch out.
The online scam revolves around a surprise gift, somehow your item is special to the purchaser, it means so much to the family member etc. It is easier to be a scam victim when your judgement is impaired by emotions.
Shipping address is always out of the country
Be extra careful when the shipping address is a P.O. box address. More often than not a P.O. box address, to avoid detection and a trail.
Complete transaction in person if possible.
There is no better victim than a victim you never met. There is no trace at all other than a shipping address and an email. The authorities are unable to take any action with so little information.
Ensure you have receive FULL payment before sending the item.
Written proof of claims without actually seeing the money in your account is the usual. It would come in a form of image altered Photo-shopped proof of payment. An official looking written email from the “bank” is also commonly sent by scammers.
It is frequently stated that the bank would need time to clear the payment. Wait until the amount is fully cleared before sending the item.
Use payment intermediary service such as Paypal
The fee charged is usually worth it rather than the hassle of being a online scam victim. There is an avenue to follow up in case of dispute with a third part intermediary.
Check reputation of seller
Look for past reviews and verification from the website as an approved seller.
Trust you instinct, do not proceed when in doubt
Your instincts are there for a reason. There are always others to sell to or buy from.
Never try to outsmart a scammer
While there are many steps that you could take to avoid being scammed. Hold strong to your instincts if you have to take too many precautions around the red flags. You must know that the scammers are experienced themselves and have the answer to every single question. Therefore, cut off all communication like what I did.
You have read that highly educated people have been scammed. While it may seem that online scams are obvious when observing as a third party, yet people do fall for it.
Why? The reason is the more communication continues, the higher the chance of you falling for it. The experienced scammers work on very logical arguments and manipulate your emotions. I have to emphasize, cut the communication.
Protect your friends and family who need this reminder by sharing with Facebook and Twitter on the side bar.