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My sister is selling her old dirt bike through Gumtree. She got an email this morning saying the following:

Cheers for the prompt responses! please consider it sold and cancel every other appointment regarding it, I am buying it for dad moving to a new house and I am ready to pay your full asking price, I have read through the advert and I'm totally satisfied with it and I will be glad if you can get back to me with some pics if available, sadly I won't be able to come for the pick up due to my disabilities, I loss my hearing and being on a wheelchair but I have a courier agent that will help me to pick it up at your preferred location. Regarding the payment I can only pay via PayPal or direct deposit ETF at the moment and I will be responsible for all the PayPal fee/charges on this transaction kindly get back to cme with your PayPal email and the pick up location so that I can the courier agent about it now?

This is a classic scammy email:

  • Prompt responses? What prompt responses? We don't know you.
  • Disabilities that prevent you being here in person? Hmm, ok.
  • Get back with some pics? We had lots of pics on the listing.
  • You'll be responsible for the PayPal fees? Sounds like you want to do "friends and family" instead of "goods and services", for whatever reason.

Is this a common/normal scam? How does it work?

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    Yes, it's common for scams to start like this. Figuring out exactly what variant this is requires you to get deeper into it, which you don't want to do. You can find plenty of examples via a web search (eg "craigslist scams"). Just walk away. – glibdud Oct 26 at 0:39
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    Note how the e-mail never names the item or the actual price. It's all "buying it", "full asking price", etc. – void_ptr Oct 26 at 15:35
  • @void_ptr Yes, that's another great clue. – Clonkex Oct 26 at 23:44
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Yes, it's common for scams to start like this. I would be suspicious first the email/Message is pretty lengthy. Here is how the scam would most likely play out.

Step 1: Send Paypal or Bank Transaction.

Step 2: Courier agent picks up bike

Step 3: Cancel/Reverse Paypal/Bank Payment

Step 4: If you complain they will just say they never receive the bike/goods and Paypal will side with them and you will lose the money.

If you feel they actually interested ask they bring cash or certified check(in usa this called cashiers check)

But just walk away if they are still interested they will re-contact you

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    Another variant I've heard about is the "courier" shows up and claims there's some kind of service fee he was expecting you to pay. The amount forwarded by the "buyer" doesn't cover it, and you have no way of getting an immediate response from them. Either give the courier the amount he asks to complete the transaction, or cancel the transaction while you're still holding on to the buyer's money. This relies on people thinking the latter option "feels like stealing" and therefore being inclined to go with the former, hoping to recoup the money from the buyer later. And of course he's gone. – Steve-O Oct 26 at 13:50
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    I would avoid getting paid by "movers" as described here money.stackexchange.com/questions/97535/… – SZCZERZO KŁY Oct 26 at 14:00
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    Oh we have no intention whatsoever of replying to the scam email. I was just curious about how it could work. – Clonkex Oct 26 at 23:48
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The "deaf person in a wheelchair" has been buying a lot of stuff for years! Actually, the scammer doesn't want your old dirt bike, and no one is going to show up to retrieve it. The scam is ultimately to steal money from you, either by identity theft or tricking you into sending them money. The message you received has been copied and pasted in various forms into emails for years, and the reason it doesn't mention the item is because the item isn't relevant. (They don't know you posted a lot of pictures, a human didn't read your post.) Here's an example of similar text from 2015 (emphasis mine):

Great! please consider it sold as i am willing to pay your full asking price because i need to buy it for my cousin asap, i have read through the advert and i'm totally satisfied with it,sadly i would not be able to come personally to collect due to my hearing loss and me being on wheelchair. I would appreciate if you email me with more photos (if available) since i'm unable to see it in person. I have a courier agent that would help me to pick it up at your preferred location after you have received your money and i'll pay you via PayPal today. Where is the pick up location so that i can inform the courier agent about it now?

The scam takes on multiple forms. If you don't have a paypal account they may send you a link to sign-up for paypal, but it's a phishing link. If you fall for this they likely can scam you without any more involvement on your part. The other attack is regardless of how you elect to be paid, they attempt to get you to pay them for some reason (insert any excuse related to the courier, "agent fees", etc). They may overpay you via reversable bank deposit or with a stolen PayPal account, or simply send you receipts that makes it look like you've been paid via PayPal even though you really haven't, and try to convince you to pay them something.

The obvious question to ask is, "They are buying from me. Of course I'm not going to fall for this if they ask me to pay them something. Why do they even try it?" And the answer is that they respond to hundreds of thousands of items for sale with the canned text every day, and all they need is one person to bite to make it worth it.

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  • That's really interesting. It's almost exactly the same text. "They don't know you posted a lot of pictures, a human didn't read your post." Yep, that was my point. – Clonkex Oct 26 at 23:52
  • @Clonkex exactly. Of your 4 bullet points that make it scammy, that is the one that "proves" a human didn't read the listing. – TTT Oct 27 at 21:52

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