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I'm selling an item online. Someone contacted me and, after a question about whether the item is available, said the following:

"Good,Am okay with the price. but right now am currently out of the country for a business trip ,I want you to help me shipping it out to my colleague as his birthday gift to WEST AFRICA.I’ll paying you €100 EURO which includes for the shipping fees through the POST OFFICE, can I send you the money through western Union money transfer?"

The item costs 8€. Shipping costs around 30-40€.

My question is, is it a scam and, if so, how does it work?

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  • Does shipping make up the rest of the 100 euro?
    – Lawrence
    Nov 5, 2018 at 13:02
  • No, there is still a 50 EURO difference. Nov 5, 2018 at 13:07
  • Now it’s starting to sound like a scam. What does he want you to do with the extra 50 euro?
    – Lawrence
    Nov 5, 2018 at 13:11
  • 1
    Please see my answer on similar question money.stackexchange.com/questions/97535/… Nov 5, 2018 at 13:25
  • 13
    The goal of including "West Africa" in the message is to weed out careful people (like you). Scammers want to focus their time on the gullible. That's why we say "if it looks like a scam, it definitely is one".
    – MSalters
    Nov 5, 2018 at 13:44

4 Answers 4

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My question is, is it a scam and, if so, how does it work?

Yes this is a scam. No one pays EUR 100 for a EUR 8 item.

There are different ways this can proceed, once he knows someone is hooked into it.

  • At some point there will be a request for refund as the transfer was by mistake for a larger amount,
  • or indulge in identity theft; request for identification documents saying Western Union needs it
  • or ask you to purchase few more items from someone, pay directly and he will cover this off and ship together as it is cheaper
  • or show fake failed western union transfer
  • or progress to asking your bank account credentials to make direct transfer as western union is becoming too clumsy ... etc

Stay away from these things.

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  • Too bad you didn't setup shell accounts to sell your items. You could've tried to mess with the scammer and waste his time.
    – Nelson
    Nov 6, 2018 at 4:26
  • The item is not EUR 8. It is a 38~48 CIF item. EUR 8 is just the seller's "profits" (minus whatever the item cost him). On international shipping the CIF is what matters. Nov 6, 2018 at 11:15
  • @Mindwin Agree CIF is what matters. Certain small items that can't be sourced at all; one may be willing to pay huge shipping [compared to cost] ... example a small piece of music instrument that is not popular/available locally ... or an electronic switch for a dated equipment ... etc. However from OP I don't see such kind of info. It seems more like routinely available item.
    – Dheer
    Nov 6, 2018 at 11:26
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    "No one pays EUR 100 for a EUR 8 item": That's wrong. Once I sold a game of Suikoden for Play Station 1. I put a 150 € price tag for instant buyers on it - I did not really expect anyone to pay that; it was just sales tactic (basically like pricingwiki.org/Anchor, I intended to get bidders into the auction). Guess what, someone bought it instantly for 150 €; an item you get for 5-10 € at flea markets. And personally, if I want something really, really hard, and if I can afford it, I would pay 10000% or more.
    – phresnel
    Nov 6, 2018 at 12:33
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    @phresnel The point is not someone paying more than the item is worth, it's offering way higher amounts than the listed price. When you listed your item for 150 €, no one in their right mind would tell you they want to give you 1875 € for the item, right? That would be the equivalent of OP's "buyer"'s offer.
    – sǝɯɐſ
    Nov 6, 2018 at 13:42
16

This scam is a common one, typically called overpayment fraud. The usual route is the scammer sends you a money transfer for an amount much larger than the total cost of the purchase. They will then ask you to give them back the difference.

The scam is that a short while later, the cheque will bounce or payment will in some way be revoked, so you will be short not only the amount the scammer 'sent' you but also the difference you gave back to them. The form of payment varies, but they will always ask for a refund.

Simply insist that they send only the amount to cover the items and no more. As you said, that is about half of the amount they are trying to send you. There is simply no legitimate need to send any more than necessary.

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  • 38
    This is a great and correct answer, right up to the point where you suggest "Simply insist that they send only the amount to cover the items and no more". If you believe with reasonable certainty that someone is attempting to scam you, you should simply discontinue communication. Allowing them to purchase your item at your asking price still exposes you to a scenario where you ship your item and then the payment bounces.
    – Sam Hanley
    Nov 5, 2018 at 21:48
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    The "buyer" suggests payment by Western Union -- how can he/she reverse such a payment?
    – mustaccio
    Nov 5, 2018 at 22:13
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    It smells like an overpayment scam, yes, except for the part about payment being through Western Union. How do you make a Western Union payment bounce?
    – Mark
    Nov 5, 2018 at 22:36
  • @Mark Fake Western Union payment, maybe? I'm not sure, though.
    – anon
    Nov 5, 2018 at 22:49
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    Get agreement based on WU transfer, then switch to a different payment method for some supposed reason? Nov 5, 2018 at 23:06
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Yes, it looks like a scam.

Normally, overpayment scams are said to request Western Union transfers from the victim so it cannot be reversed while the original payment to the victim can and is reversed. This leaves the scammer with whatever they paid the victim, plus whatever the victim paid them.

In your case, the original payment is said to be from Western Union. Here are some traps to watch out for:

  • they ask you to make payments of any kind before paying you: your payment might never arrive;

  • they paid Western Union from someone else’s account: you will be helping them gain access to someone else’s money; or

  • they money was in their possession but was acquired illegally: you would be involving yourself in money laundering.

Now, there is a chance that this is legitimate, that they really want to pay you €50 including postage, and have the rest accompany the product as a present to the recipient. But this is unlikely, and you’d be taking a huge risk if you chose to participate in their scheme.

If you are earning €8 gross, your profit margin isn’t a lot. By the time you factor in your inconvenience with money handling etc and perhaps even fuel costs to drive to the post office and back, you might have been better off just throwing the item away - even if the buyer is legitimate.

Paying €42 postage for an €8 item sounds excessive. Adding an additional €50 of messy money opens the way for all sorts of scams, including money laundering.

To maximise whatever profit you get out of the €8 item, you are better off selling to a more straightforward cash buyer, especially if it is a one-off sale.

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  • While this is a good option you shared here, it does not answer the question in any way. I don't know why this answer is betting upvotes.
    – ulmas
    Nov 6, 2018 at 19:28
  • @ulmas Thanks for your comment. I’ve made my answer more direct.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 6, 2018 at 22:30
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As everyone has mentioned, this is most likely a scam.

Personally, I like to go through all the steps until the fateful moment where YOU have to take out money from your pocket, so then I can analyze the scam and be more aware later on.

Once you know it's most likely a scam, and if you have some time to spare, you might find it useful to know how this works.

In your case, since he is mentioning Western Union, I don't really see how he would get his money back - up to you if you want to down the route and find out, or just stay away from it.

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