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My wife fell victim to a scam that she will not let go of. She was looking for a bicycle online and came across what appeared to be a legit web site. My wife assumed that it was safe to use Paypal because recipients would not get her credit card number and in the past, PayPal has refunded charges when she was scammed.

The listed price was suspiciously low and I assumed that it was a Prime Day deal and I didn't question it. I later found out that the purchase wasn't from Amazon or any other notable bike seller that I have heard of.

After two weeks we received a package from China that contained a pack of face masks in Chinese writing. The sender's address matched the name of the "bike shop".

I have heard about other mask scams where people use sock puppets (an online identity used for purposes of deception) for such scams. I immediately checked out the site saw immediately that it was a clumsily assembled WordPress site. The TLS cert was legit and the only pay option was Paypal which was a red flag.

We submitted a dispute. A few days later we received an automated email stating that they have contacted the seller and that we have to work with them for a refund (yes, go work with the fox to get your hens back... Great idea Paypal!). For weeks we heard nothing after emailing them almost daily. We finally got an email entirely in Chinese which I think says that we need to ship the masks to another address in China, but we honestly don't know how to address it. I guess we could print out what I think is the address, cut and paste it to the envelope, and take it to the post office and ask them for help?

Further attempts reaching out to Paypal have led to nothing. What is the best course of action is for us at this point?

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    "...they have refunded her from scammers in the past.". Maybe you and your wife should address this, repeatedly falling for scams and expecting PayPal to keep you safe seems like a bad practice.
    – Kat
    Jun 27 at 22:36
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    @Kat Yeah we had a talk. lol! Jun 28 at 0:40
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    From a seller's perspective, I should say Paypal is even more harsh on that side. Don't fool yourself they are "working together", actually Paypal has a strict procedure that penalises a seller even if they refund you a payment in the end. I know this doesn't help you much, that's why only leaving a comment, not an answer. Probably, this time their procedure didn't work – I'd guess the scammer creates many Paypal accounts and uses them one-off. They definitely need to do something about it. Good luck to you and you wife!
    – caffeinum
    Jun 28 at 6:02
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    What I don't understand about this scam is why bother sending a box of masks?
    – jwezorek
    Jun 28 at 21:28
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    because if the seller can't produce a mail tracking number when PayPal requests, PayPal will automatically rule in the buyer's favor. Literally - that is an aspect of the dispute process they can automate via scripts, no human need be involved. Jun 28 at 21:49
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PayPal has a couple of articles that discuss the dispute process. One is addressed to the buyer, and the other is addressed to the seller. The seller’s article is perhaps more informative: it discusses the process and the differences between a dispute, claim, chargeback, and bank reversal.

From your question, it seems that you issued a dispute. After you issue a dispute, you are supposed to try to work it out with the seller. If you can’t come to a quick agreement, you can elevate it to a claim within 20 days of filing the dispute, and PayPal will look into it.

If 20 days has already passed without you escalating, your dispute has probably been closed by PayPal. If it has, you may need to file another dispute, then quickly escalate it to a claim.

If you feel that PayPal is not being responsive, and if you funded your PayPal purchase with a credit card, then another option is to initiate a chargeback with your credit card company. But, if I were you, I would give PayPal another chance to do this right first, making sure I filed the claim correctly (not merely a dispute).

If you funded your PayPal purchase with a checking account, then unfortunately, a chargeback is not an option, and neither is a bank reversal. Banks only reverse charges if it was an unauthorized transaction, and this charge was indeed authorized by your wife.

PayPal’s ultimate deadline seems to be 180 days from the payment date, so get this resolved before then.

Also, I would not bother trying to send back the masks given the information you have received. You really don't know what the Chinese e-mail you received is actually saying, and I think it would be a mistake to attempt to send the masks back to China with that information, especially since it is most likely all a scam anyway. In my opinion, if you send a business a customer service request in English (or any language), and don't receive a reply in the same language, it is really the same as no response at all.

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    Thank you, I asked her to follow the next step after reading about this. She actually just got a call back that said they are refunding her the amount as the company was already under investigation. I am glad it is resolved but if they already knew this company was under investigation then why would thier dispute process not check for this automatically? Jun 28 at 0:48
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    "PayPal’s ultimate deadline seems to be 180 days from the payment date, so get this resolved before then." The credit card deadline is 60 days from the statement date that the charge appears on, so if it's not resolved by then, a chargeback should be made. "if you send a business a customer service request in English (or any language), and don't receive a reply in the same language, it is really the same as no response at all." The primary issue isn't what language the request is made in, but what language the business is done in. Jun 28 at 3:01
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    @maple_shaft I am assuming that the shell accounts that these companies set up with Pay Pal do not last long. An initial scam may not have had any dots to connect to, but they may be there now. This does seem to be the kind of scam that Paypal is having a very hard time dealing with. (I am someone who fell victim to this scam. Paypal handled my claim quite quickly, but for all I know, I was on the tail end of the scammer's hit list, so maybe it was easier then)
    – Cort Ammon
    Jun 28 at 4:27
  • "(...) and neither is a bank reversal. Banks only reverse charges if it was an unauthorized transaction, and this charge was indeed authorized by your wife." For which country is this? Because for example here in The Netherlands it's perfectly possible to reverse an automatic withdrawal (incasso storneren). And you'd still owe PayPal the money of course (also true for a CC chargeback), you might want to mention that in the answer, because it just shifts your problem when PayPal will send it to collections.
    – BrtH
    Jun 29 at 22:01
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+1 to @Ben Miller for explaining how to file a dispute with PayPal.

Last year I ordered a FlashFish Power station. The price was suspiciously low but the web site appeared legitimate. They provided me with a USPS tracking number and every few days I received an E-mail update as to which city the package had passed through. Eventually I received a confirmation of delivery (bogus) that the package had been delivered to my mail box. Not only did I not receive the package but it was impossible for something the size of a car battery to fit in it.

I called my local post office and they verified that they had delivered the battery to an address in an adjacent town.

Next, I contacted my credit card and submit a dispute. Although it took two weeks, they resolved this issue and refunded the charge.

The one piece of mind that I had was that I used a one time virtual credit card number (VCCN) for the amount of the purchase which meant that the recipient could not charge anything else since the VCCN ceased to exist after being used once.

While my answer doesn't help you resolve your current problem, a VCCN is a safe way to place online orders and should you run into similar difficulty again, the ability to dispute a charge is easier with a credit card and they are more effective at resolving such issues promptly.

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    How did you get a virtual credit card number?
    – xxbbcc
    Jun 28 at 15:05
  • I'll add that you'll still want to avoid scams though. It's not painless to dispute a charge via credit card. You have to document a good-faith attempt to resolve the issue with the vendor before your credit card company will do the chargeback. And of course scammers aren't acting in good faith, so it's still a painful process. I love the VCCN idea though; at least you know a criminal doesn't now have your credit card number.
    – bob
    Jun 28 at 15:45
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    @xxbbcc - A virtual credit card number is a service offered by a traditional credit card. There's no fee for my card. You log into the web site, click the "request VCCN", indicate a dollar amount and if I recall correctly, set a time limit. The specific details may vary among cards that offer VCCNs. Jun 28 at 17:03
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    @BobBaerker Can you be more specific - are you talking about US and if yes, which credit card and issuer? I'm asking because Bank of America used to have this service (I used it all the time) but it was discontinued a few years back. I'd want to use this if available but I haven't found this service since then.
    – xxbbcc
    Jun 28 at 18:31
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    Do you know the size of your mailbox? Would something "the size of a car battery" fit in it or not? Jun 29 at 21:35

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