Ale was very happy yesterday because he had sold his old iPhone on eBay for a great price. Last night he asked for my help to send the buyer an invoice. I was about to do it when I realized the buyer's address was in Nigeria. Oh, oh. Not good. Did the buyer have a credible reputation on eBay? Nope. Brand new account. A quick online search exposed the scam: buyers from Nigeria send sellers fake PayPal receipts asking for shipping tracking numbers in order to clear the funds. The products are shipped and the money is never sent. Fortunately we caught this one in time.
What are warning signs of scams?
- Deals that are too good to be true often are... The buyer had offered to pay the full price plus a generous shipping premium.
- Lack of reputation. Try to do business with people you know or whose reputation you can somehow validate.
- Unusual stories should arise suspicion: in this case, the buyer was supposedly sending the iPhone to her aunt who worked at the US embassy in Nigeria.
- I often sell my used kitesurfing gear online. Sometime scammers contact me and they usually use language like "I am interested in your item". No legitimate buyer would say that. Legitimate buyers ask questions about my kites and boards, their use and other such things.
I mentioned to the boys that iPhones and kites are relatively trivial things - worst case we lose a few hundred dollars. But the stakes can be MUCH higher. Plenty of people have lost their life savings to unscrupulous scammers, and not just from Nigeria. Remember Bernie Madoff & Allen Stanford...