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I was selling a low value item (a tv stand) on a local Craig's List equivalent, and received a couple of scam attempts.
One of such asked for me to reserve the item and said they would do "a direct bank transfer".

You don't have to tell me it's a scam. Of course it is.

There were a number of clues.

  • They were repeating either the name of the item exactly as I used it in the ad, or would just call it "the item".
  • They gave their address in the first reply, unprompted.
  • They were not local (still in The Netherlands, but about 200km away) while using a very local site (even more local than Marktplaats; typically about a 50km radius).
  • They used the term "direct bank transfer", translated too literally to Dutch, which sounds awkward.

I just answered "no" and moved on, but I do wonder what their angle was. I was only asking €10 (roughly equal to $10), so it was not about the stand itself.
A bank transfer (and I've confirmed this with my bank) is pretty definitive in The Netherlands. They wouldn't be able to get the money onto my account for it to dissolve again. If it's in my account, that's it.

Would it have been an overpayment scam, perhaps from a stolen account? Would they have pivoted to another scam? Would they have tried to convince me the money had in fact transferred, even though I wouldn't have been able to see it on my account? Would they have asked transfer a cent to them first, to prove I'm trustworthy, with a false link?

Has anyone ever encountered this type of scam?

Note that this is in The Netherlands; assumptions about US banking may not hold. Also Venmo or Zelle are unavailable here.

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  • "If it's in my account, that's it." - are you absolutely sure there isn't something in your bank account T&Cs that allows for 'incorrect' deposits to be reversed? I bet there is, not least to cope with times when the bank accidentally gives you 100x the interest they meant to, or similar.
    – AakashM
    Jul 19, 2023 at 8:23
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    @AakashM of course there is, but it's not as easily done as I gather it to be with American banks. Excluding the bank itself, if someone transfers money to me, they can't just claim "oops, my bad" and have the bank undo it. Even in the case of obvious mistakes, it has often taken a court case to reverse.
    – SQB
    Jul 19, 2023 at 8:41
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    @AakashM As SQB says, Dutch banks will only reverse transfers that were provably unauthorized (either because the source account was somehow hacked, or because a bank messed up). If you just make a mistake (of trusting the wrong person, or typing an extra trailing zero and thus transferring too much), the only way to get your money back is to convince the recipient to transfer it back to you. They're basically legally obliged to cooperate and not keep money that they know isn't theirs, but the bank is not going to arbitrate your dispute, you might have to sue the recipient.
    – TooTea
    Jul 20, 2023 at 10:14
  • @TooTea different province. I've updated my question to clarify.
    – SQB
    Jul 20, 2023 at 10:46
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    Most likely "Oops sorry I messed up and transferred you 1000 instead of 10 [from someone else's account that I had fraudulently obtained the login details for], please could you send me back the other 990 by Western Union?"
    – Vicky
    Jul 20, 2023 at 11:55

2 Answers 2

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The initial bid on your item is not yet the scam. But it should be seen as a fairly typical first stage of a phishing / payment scam.

The progress of the scam will be that the interested buyer won't actually make the (indeed non reversible) banktransfer to your bank account.

After you've provided your bank account (IBAN) and name to the interested buyer, they will claim that their payment got rejected for [plausible reasons], or at least plausible to slightly more gullible people than yourself. (For example: "their bank couldn't match your IBAN with the name you supplied".)

They'll claim to still be very interested in the item and will propose a "solution".

Expect that their "solution" will be the actual scam. Many scenario's can then play out.

See (in Dutch) for example: https://www.fraudehelpdesk.nl/alert/valse-betaalverzoeken-via-handelssite/

A common progression in the Netherlands will be that the buyer will ask you to please make token ( € 0,01 or similar small amount) payment to them first.
They'll claim that once their bank has received a payment from you, the buyer will have your correct details and you as the seller will have proved your bona fides. Then they'll be able to pay you and will transfer the agreed sales price and will pay back that extra € 0,01 too.

They'll conveniently provide a falsified payment link and will attempt to use that to trick you into for example paying them much more than the agreed € 0,01 or trick you into entering your online banking credentials in a falsified form.

A different current variant: https://www.fraudehelpdesk.nl/alert/nieuwe-variant-phishing-via-marktplaats/

Trick the seller in to paying for "shipping" the item first via the provided link to a falsified courier service site and "of course" the buyer will then "afterwards" (i.e. never) pay the total amount of item+shipping.

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  • But is the scammer's time worth it for an item of only 10€ ?
    – vsz
    Dec 12, 2023 at 7:40
  • @vsz Responding to to the sellers add is the just the way to establish contact with (hopefully from the scammers perspective) a gullible mark. The goal of the scam is not to actually obtain the item that was put up for sale (without paying or at all) , but for the scammer to defraud the seller in a different way.
    – HBruijn
    Dec 15, 2023 at 17:29
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Here is the US your "head scratching" occurs with me as well. The only way the scam can work is, as you say, the can convince the seller the transfer went through although it didn't.

I feel like this involves a bit of bait and switch on the scammers part, that is they say it is a direct bank transfer but then change to other form of payment method that is easier to spoof. Perhaps if one were desperate for money and gullible does this has the change to succeed. Even then what does the scammer gain? Only the item that has to be resold. Potentially the delivery address can be tracked by police. (Although in the US, the police rarely investigate such scams.)

Overall I feel like the goal is to initiate a gift card scam. That is the scammer can convince you to somehow buy gift cards for them and give them the number.

So I feel like the goal of the overpayment and "direct bank transfer" is to start a conversation that will lead in a very different direction. That direction will lead to a scam that is easy to execute.

The only way to know for sure, is to sell an item that is interesting to scammers and allow it to follow its course. The seller would have to make sure the funds have cleared his account prior to shipment. However, I doubt it would get that far.

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    It's not about the item, though. I can't imagine scammers being interested in a €10 tv stand. So there must be a way to pivot to somehow sending them money.
    – SQB
    Jul 20, 2023 at 7:35
  • @SQB yea I think that is it. "How about I give you $200 for your TV stand and you get me $100 worth of gift cards. Please send me the gift card details as soon as you get them".
    – Pete B.
    Jul 20, 2023 at 13:11

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