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A family member of mine (female, not sure if that's relevant) was contacted via a listing on Facebook for an item of clothing by a someone (male) who then sent through their credit card details.

The messenger encouraged my family member to use the card, saying that he liked to perform random acts of kindness this way. That was the only reason he provided.

My family member took him up on it and made a reasonably expensive purchase (approximately $200).

This whole situation reeks of scam and potentially fraud. Is this something that anyone has seen before?

The obvious risk that comes to mind is that the credit card details might not even belong to the messenger (although their Facebook name matched the card & the profile was created in 2009).

Is there any other major risk in doing what my family member did?

Extra details after initial question

I figured I should add some extra details that transpired after I made the initial post.

The "gifter" continued to try to converse with my family member via Facebook Messenger.

The "gifter" asked my family member to get her friends and people she knows to log into their (the gifter's) Facebook account. The reason he provided was that he "liked the idea of her controlling his stuff", and offered more money.

I suspect this is the gifter's attempt to establish a false narrative that his Facebook account was attacked & compromised. Once he has plausible deniability of being in control of his Facebook account he will notify his bank of bulk credit card fraud, and some of the transactions involved would likely be legitimate transactions he initiated but cannot pay back.

To be clear on my role in this situation, I have no influence or control over this family member's behaviour. I am just a fly on the wall that knows of the events as they are transpiring.

Update from late 2023 (18 months later)

Wow this question kind of blew up, over 10k views at the time of editing.

It appears the messenger (who I suspected of being a scammer) really did just want to be financial controlled. Nothing happened to my family member, it seems like this was a bizarre case where both sides got something they wanted out of it and then moved on with their lives.

Perhaps the messenger used this transaction for some other purpose, but there was no blowback on my family member (that she is aware of).

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    FYI, consider a possible motive for the stranger; financial domination is a real thing; to read a good version of it, read the second letter here. In addition, there are sugar dating relationships. Of course, it is good to consider the risks when starting any relationship, including ones of these sorts. If it is this sort of thing, your family member should request a card in her own name. Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 11:32
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    "their Facebook name matched the card". How do you know? Did they send a picture of the card, or just written details? Even if a picture that can easily be changed. Alternatively, it might be the real cardholder, and they could be trying to get more information about her. They'll now where the purchase was made, and they can try to contact the store to get more info "hey I've got a charge on my card I don't recognise". Not sure the store would give them much info, but depending on the store some scammers can extract quite a bit more info than you would think.
    – jcaron
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 12:45
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    I suppose one possibility is that a wife caught her husband cheating, has filed for divorce, painted "Cheater" on his car, put all his stuff for free on Craigslist....and is handing out his credit card number.
    – B. Goddard
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 22:30
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    "The reason he provided was that he "liked the idea of her controlling his stuff", and offered more money." <- believe it or not, this is an actual fetish that a surprising number of people legitimately have. (In which case this behaviour is creepy!) Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 10:51
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    @user253751 in any case this behaviour is creepy
    – stanri
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 13:05

5 Answers 5

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Is there any other major risk in doing what my family member did?

Of course. The real owner of the card will dispute the charges as fraudulent, and the police will probably not believe this story and will hold your family member accountable for the theft.

The person may even be real and the credit card may even belong to them, it doesn't matter. They would, for example, use this way to create many fraudulent transactions and then dispute them all and some non-fraudulent as well, hoping the bank will refund the transactions in bulk. That way the scammer uses your family member as a scapegoat for their own theft.

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    @ChrᴉzremembersMonica: "...and some non-fraudulent as well, hoping the bank will refund the transactions in bulk."
    – Heinzi
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 6:53
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    @AndrewLeach "their Facebook name matched the card & the profile was created in 2009"; though it's not entirely clear to me how easy it would be to change a facebook name; it might be possible that the attacker used an old account and changed the name to the name on the card?
    – tim
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 10:24
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    The facebook account can be stolen together with the card.
    – fraxinus
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 11:08
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    @ChrᴉzremembersMonica many scams have several steps, to gain the trust of the victim, to evaluate that trust, and so on. The next step could be "oh while you have the card, can make this payment for me". Also they make come back the next day saying "oh dear I made a mistake, I gave you the wrong card, can you please refund me (using some non-reversible means), I will give you another card/send you some money through other means". Endless possibilities.
    – jcaron
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 12:38
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    I run an online shop, and I once had a purchase rejected because the card was reported stolen a day or two later. The thief wasn't interested in the goods, or in monetary gain: they were interested in revenge. They had been sacked, had walked out with the boss's credit card, and they were making random purchases out of sheer spite. Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 14:35
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A stranger messaged someone I know via an online listing and gave them their credit card details and encouraged them to use it. Is there a scam here?

There is no free lunch, period.


A family member of mine (female, not sure if that's relevant) was contacted via a listing on Facebook for an item of clothing by a someone (male) who then sent through their credit card details.

Yikes, creepy.


The messenger encouraged my family member to use the card, saying that he liked to perform random acts of kindness this way. That was the only reason he provided.

Do you really think there's no ulterior motive?

  • Blackmail: I'll expose you to your family for needing money from strangers
  • Guilt: I was being such a "nice guy" and you won't even meet me for coffee?
  • Threats: I'll report you to the police for fraudulently using my card unless you do "things" which may or may not include sex, money laundering, drug trafficking, or worse
  • Extortion: You've just incriminated yourself by making an illegal purchase, send me $5,000 and I won't report you
  • Future sex request
  • Pimp/sugar daddy relation

My family member took him up on it and made a reasonably expensive purchase (approximately $200).

Yeah, go ahead and return that merchandise.


This whole situation reeks of scam and potentially fraud. Is this something that anyone has seen before?

Something is fishy, when is the last time you wrote a blank check to a stranger out of the goodness of your heart?


The obvious risk that comes to mind is that the credit card details might not even belong to the messenger (although their Facebook name matched the card & the profile was created in 2009).

Umm, it's fairly trivial to change your name on Facebook after creating your profile.

The FB could be hacked (or original with name change to match stolen credit card) and the credit card was stolen from the same person or any number of people with the same name.


Is there any other major risk in doing what my family member did?

There's a small chance that the person could figure out where your family member lives based on shipping details or purchase location and begin stalking her.

Also, refer to "ulterior motives" from above.


So, what is really going on you ask?

We don't know and we'll probably never know unless your relative continues to engage in the situation.

Safety is rooted in knowing when to disengage in a situation.

You don't have to incur a stab wound just so that you can reflect on the situation and say to yourself "I probably should have moved away from that guy with a calm demeanor on the subway who was casually holding a knife".

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    Another ulterior motive scenario: "I just lost my job / my daughter got diagnosed with cancer / etc., and now I can't pay my credit card bill (which is a lie since it will be a stolen credit card). Could you please wire me back the $200 via Western Union?". Since it was never the scammer's card, they were never on the hook for the $200 purchase, and now have stolen $200 from OP via the wire transfer.
    – bob
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 17:06
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    Or "they might say "I'm from the FBI, this was a sting operation to bust up a credit card theft ring; you're in big trouble! Wire me $10,000 dollars to make this all go away (I want to help you out), or you'll spend your life behind bars...". The possibilities are endless.
    – bob
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 17:08
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    @bob Thanks, I added "extortion" to the bullet list.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 17:18
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    Also: "My [family member] is going to have a [birthday/other celebration] in a few days, but I forgot to go shopping, can you pick up a $200 [brand] gift card and send it to me? Just put it on the card." (Gift cards are commonly abused as a means of money laundering - scammers will resell them slightly below face value.)
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 0:04
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While this is almost certainly a scam of some kind (even if you can't figure out WHAT scam it is, it strongly smells of one) there is a tiny chance that it could be legitimate as the messages you mentioned point to someone who has a kink of the "control me" kind, which can include financial control.

This is a rare thing and even more rare to involve strangers online, but it wouldn't be entirely unheard of. Even in this case, however, I would advise staying away as there is a good probability the person is not entirely mentally stable.

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    This appears to be have been the right answer in this situation!
    – Cold Fish
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 5:06
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I have not used Facebook in years and even when I had an account I used it quite rarely. I do know however that Facebook as well as Google and many other online servi allow you to download 'all the data' that they hold on you. From memory this contains a terrifying amount of information, including all your contacts with their names, their appropriate linked Facebook accounts on any phone on which you login into that account, and location history.

My guess from the information given is that this assumed man is probably going to get your family members to login so he can then retrieve the user data picked up off of those phones - again including location history and will simply make a claim to have as much money returned as may be possible.

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  • I disagree. ...allows you to download all the data they hold on you but get your family members to log in so he can retrieve the data off of their phones? Anyone else can download all my data if he wrote me a message on facebook?!? Also, this situation got nothing in common with OPs problem but using facebook. Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 8:28
  • @ChrᴉzremembersMonica The victim and her friends logged into the scammers's account. The scammer must have sent them his password. So their location, and possibly much more, is now stored in the scammer's account. By downloading all the data that Facebook holds on him (that is: on whoever logged in), the scammer will know something about the victim and her friends. Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 9:24
  • @FabiosaysReinstateMonica True, he asked them to log in with his account. But loggin in with his account only reveals the logged in ip along with information like device, time, location. But I doubt that, as long as the family member doesn't do "sync my contacts with facebook", any of that information of that kind is saved in facebook. Neither are any information given about other facebook accounts and their friends. Imagine you log in to facebook at a public pc and get everyone else's facebook informations. Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 9:32
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    @ChrᴉzremembersMonica: “…as long as the family member doesn't do "sync my contacts with facebook"” — but it’s easy for the spammer to prompt them to do that, and a fair proportion of people may accept the prompt out of habit/naïvety. Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 10:01
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Let's imagine the credit card is stolen - there is a scam where people use stole credit cards and pick the packages in front of the door as they arrive.

Let's say your family member orders and signs for the first order and in future the other persons checks the box online for "leave in the following place", orders something expensive, steals it - much more likely that the police would see your family member as the culprit.

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