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Someone close to me was scammed the following way and I'd like to know which course of action to take is best.

The buyer is based in Denmark and bought a product from Yahoo Auctions (Japan). To do this they used a proxy because Yahoo Auction sellers in Japan don't sell internationally. There are companies that offer to bid for you and forward you the package for a fee.

The buyer saw a listing for 10 pokemon card boxes (the usual way to sell them to distributors is in a box with 10 pokemon card boxes). The seller had 50+ positive reviews with text from previous buyers and the translated description looked ok. The picture showed a pokemon card box.

The buyer bids. They get outbid but the higher bid gets removed and the auction closed before the scheduled time. The buyer pays the proxy service and the seller sends the item. (around USD 3000)

The proxy receives the item, takes a picture of it for the buyer and it turns to be 10 empty boxes (a relatively common scam). The listing mentioned boxes but not empty of course. On close inspection, the seller's positive reviews come from 1 yen transactions purposefully made to get cheap positive reputation in Yahoo auctions.

The buyer hasn't requested the proxy to ship the empty pokemon boxes to the buyer as there is no point in paying to ship an empty box across the globe. So the package is sitting in the proxy's warehouse in Japan.

Yahoo auctions take no responsibility for scams and proxy service also specifies no responsibility for scams. Buyer contacts proxy and proxy refuses to help or contact the buyer.

Do we have any good options here?

  1. Try to get proxy service to push the seller to return or cancel the transfer to the seller. They declined responsibility when answering emails and on their terms.
  2. Try to get the Danish bank to revert the transfer to the proxy service on the basis that the transaction was a scam. Unfortunately, the proxy service gets in the middle of it here and they have a claim for the money due to their TOS. But this might get them to do something. If the transfer was from buyer directly to seller then reverting it would fix the issue, but in this case the proxy is inadvertently protecting the seller. It can also get messy with international regulations.
  3. Something else? Contacting Japanese police doesn't seem an option for foreigners, and the seller's data is minimal. The proxy service might have tracking number or a "from" address, but it being an obvious scam I doubt we can find the scammer.
  4. Give up, and take it as an expensive lesson learned?

Edit extra info:

The proxy (Buyee) seems to have a subsidiary in the UK (Tenso UK Ltd.), but not in Denmark as shown here: https://buyee.jp/help/common/company

Buyee TOS: https://buyee.jp/help/common/terms?lang=en Relevant sections:

12.1 After the Products Etc. have arrived at the Company, the Company shall inspect the Products Etc. with the aim of checking the contents. At this time, the Company will on occasion remove or add etc. packaging as the Company deems necessary. However, the Company bears no obligation to carry out an inspection and the result of the inspection does not guarantee the quality of the product, presence/absence of defects, or authenticity of the product or that the said product does not violate the relevant laws or ordinances of the originating country, transit countries or destination country.

12.2 The Company will carry out the process described in Subarticle 12-1 based on the standard prescribed by the Company. The said process involves verification of the identity of the Products Etc.; that is, that there is no apparent discrepancy between the Products Etc. and the description of the Products Etc. (the "Product Description") stated by the Seller. The Product Description refers only to text written by the Seller and does not include the output of automatic translation.

12.5 Even if the result of the verification process finds that a Member has been defrauded, the Company does not bear any responsibility whatsoever except for actions that come under the Company's responsibility.

Yahoo auctions TOS (Japanese): https://auctions.yahoo.co.jp/special/html/guidelines.html

9.1 We are not involved in transactions between customers or the contents of products. Therefore, the seller or the winning bidder agrees in advance that the Company shall not be liable for any transactions or products between customers. However, this does not apply if it is caused by our intentional or gross negligence.

9.2 We do not guarantee the quality, safety or legality of the products exhibited in this service. In addition, regarding the reliability or accuracy of the description of the product, etc., whether the product, etc. presented by the seller can actually be sold or provided, or whether the successful bidder has the ability to pay for the product, etc. Is not guaranteed at all.

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    A close review of the terms of service would be in order. I think that linking to the TOS entries for Yahoo and the proxy would be OK for this question. Quoting relevant portions would be helpful. Can you make an edit to name the service(s) involved and cite their TOS?
    – Freiheit
    Jul 14 at 20:50
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    It may also be necessary to check the tracking numbers and the reported package mass between each party in the transaction. If the box shipped from the Yahoo seller was heavier than that of the proxy it may suggest the proxy is stealing. Similarly if the mass is consistent with empty boxes from the proxy to you, that puts you in the clear for trying to claim empty boxes when you really got the shipment (I am not implying that you are, but any fraud investigator would probably consider that when addressing the case).
    – Freiheit
    Jul 14 at 20:52
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    Does the proxy ONLY have a business presence in Japan or do they have other locations? Is one of those locations in Denmark?
    – Freiheit
    Jul 14 at 20:52
  • Answered to 1 and 3 in question, checking on 2.
    – Mintxo
    Jul 15 at 6:47
  • We don't have tracking numbers so can't check on the weight.
    – Mintxo
    Jul 15 at 10:30
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I think you should start with your second option. Contact the relevant bank or credit card issuer and dispute the charge. That is the only participant in this circus that would seem to have any hope of working for the buyer. It would be a good idea to review those terms of service before contact too.

A companies terms of service may say "we're not liable for anything ever" but that may in turn go against the terms of the credit processor. Such terms may also not be enforceable or legal either.

The buyer should be prepared to provide as much evidence as possible that they received empty boxes. The empty box scam can work both ways, a seller can send empties or a buyer can claim they got empties but really stole the merchandise and lied about it.

A deal which requires intermediate services who won't (or can't) take responsibility is a significant risk for the buyer. These risks are why merchants who deal with international orders of uncommon merchandise can charge a premium for that merchandise once it gets to a local buyer. There are risks in just acquiring the merchandise plus additional risks in finding a local buyer.

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  • Thank you for the answer. Your point regarding the legality of the TOS makes sense, and given the complexity of the situation and legal jurisdictions, the situation would require a very specialized lawyer to process. Its also become clear that an intermediary like this increases risk significantly. To clarify: the intermediary hasn't sent the package to the buyer. They just sent a picture with the empty pokemon card boxes so there is no point in shipping an empty box across the world. I'll clarify this in the question.
    – Mintxo
    Jul 15 at 14:34

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