I live in Croatia and my family breeds dogs. When we have puppies we list them for sale on a Croatian website similar to eBay. Every once in a while for the past year or two we get a message from a US based phone number wanting to buy our puppies.

The story is almost always the same, they live in USA, our price is great, they want to buy usually 2-3 puppies but they can't come to pick them up. They will transfer the money to us via Paypal (or Western Union or something similar) and arrange for a shipping company to come pick up the dogs and they'll arrange everything else for a shipping company to deliver the dogs to them in the USA.

Now, I would never agree to something like this, I'm not stupid. I understand they would probably transfer the money and get a refund really soon. But I'm curious how this scam would work. Are the scammers actually in Croatia (or somewhere close) pretending to be somewhere else and not able to come, and after I agree they would send someone (or come themselves pretending to be from a shipping company) to get the puppies from us or what?

  • 17
    Rememeber that paypal usually sticks the short end on the seller. Mandatory news link. Oct 21, 2016 at 12:49
  • 3
    The people who are contacting you may be scammers, particularly if they are overpaying or asking you to pay shipping. For what it's worth though, lots of real people buy dogs over the Internet. I did get one dog through an online rescue service (rare breed holdovers at a former breeder). I spent a lot of time talking to the breeder, but the entire transaction was online, including arranging for the dog to be sent as living freight.
    – Eric
    Oct 22, 2016 at 12:36
  • 3
    I'm not positive, but I think if you get a Western Union payment they can't reverse/retract etc. Oct 22, 2016 at 15:44
  • 3
    @AbraCadaver: Exactly. That's why scammers want you to pay using Western Union, because you can't get your money back. But if they pay you using Western Union, I thought that money is in your pocket.
    – gnasher729
    Oct 23, 2016 at 12:19
  • 1
    The most common implementation of this is that they send you payment via some method that takes significantly longer to actually clear the banks as a fraudulent payment than it takes for them to make it available in your account; A great example of this is cashier's checks. They actually take weeks to process, but they're in your account fairly quickly, 'trusting' the issuing bank. Something happens before the check clears in which scammer requests you send some amount of money back to them. Your payment to them clears before their fraudulent check bounces on your account and is reversed.
    – schizoid04
    Jun 14, 2017 at 17:27

7 Answers 7


I think you're overthinking it. They are likely nowhere near you and they don't actually want any puppies or the hassle of coming in person.

The likely way it works is: they wire you the money and tell you the shipping company will pick the puppies up. Then they email a bit later and say "oops sorry, shipping company can't do it after all, please send us our money back" which you do. Then they reverse the original transaction and you are out of pocket for the amount.

  • 6
    Haven't thought of that, you're probably right now that I think of it. No point in taking the puppies and going through all that hassle when they can just say the deal is off and ask for a refund from me and then get the original transaction refunded as well. Oct 21, 2016 at 8:35
  • 20
    Then why doesn't OP just reverse the send-money-back transaction? makes no sense. Oct 21, 2016 at 16:47
  • 32
    @GillBates They send the money in a reversible form (Paypal, cheque that would eventually bounce etc) but insist OP "refunds" in a non reversible form (Western Union). It could also be a "I accidentally paid you more, could you refund the difference" scam. As always these scams rely on OP being not so smart (which in this case is not true).
    – Nivas
    Oct 21, 2016 at 20:25
  • 11
    That wouldn't work because if the scammer said "just send my money back", he'd go into PayPal and cancel the sale, reversing the original transaction. I do this all the time, most retail payment methods (Square etc.) provide a way to reverse a transaction, want you to use it, and require you use it (least if you want seller protection). The scam would only work if the scammer convinced him not to use this feature, and talked him into repaying as a gift (no protection), Western Union etc. Oct 21, 2016 at 21:26
  • 5
    @Harper You do realise that these scams work precisely because the victims don't know that the transactions can be reversed? By your logic no scam would ever work.
    – Lilienthal
    Oct 23, 2016 at 13:58

There is actually a popular Paypal scam that operates differently from Vicky's answer. They will send you ask you for your Paypal email, and send you an email invoice from a site that looks like Paypal, but actually isn't. It's a spoof page. The attack is twofold:

First, when you enter your account information to "login" to "Paypal" you give them your Paypal info and they can now access your accounts.

Second, if you're tricked into believing that they actually sent you the money, you will ship the product out. Turns out, you've shipped the product out to them, and you're left with a fake invoice (and no payment).

  • 22
    @NuWin, if we're going to get into semantics, the method is phishing, but the page is a spoof page. Oct 21, 2016 at 17:52
  • 1
    @njzk2 the email they send you looks sort of like a Paypal payment transaction receipt. It also usually includes some version of the phrase "Please log-in to confirm that you have received the payment." Once you log-in, obviously, you have no money, but they now have your information Oct 21, 2016 at 18:17
  • 5
    @njzk2: It's trivially easy to spoof the "from" email field, so you get a real-looking email "from" Paypal.com, asking you to click a link to paypaI.com (that's paypaI.com) which looks like the real Paypal site. Technical ways to avoid these scams: Use a password manager like Lastpass to avoid phishing sites; enable DKIM in your email client to verify Paypal emails really come from Paypal. Oct 21, 2016 at 21:13
  • 4
    @JanDvorak One thing it might do is that it recognizes the URL for the site you are trying to log into. It will not recognize a fake URL so will not fill in your username / password for you automatically.
    – Eric
    Oct 22, 2016 at 13:46
  • 2
    @cybermonkey having seen one of these in reality, the email is a fairly convincing copy of a PayPal notifcation. If it leads to a successful phishing attack that may be the icing on the cake, but the email itself is intended to convince you. When I saw this, my friend was already alert enough for a second opinion, and already had the PayPal app installed, which meant no temptation to click on a phishy link (it's not easy to inspect links in emails on an iPhone)
    – Chris H
    Oct 24, 2016 at 8:15

I have experienced this scam (but not fallen for it) when I sold my old car. The "buyer" says they will pay for the shipping. They send you payment in a form that can be reversed. They then say that they are unable to forward payment to their shipper, and would you please sent the shipper the money (included in the payment) via Western Union. Eventually, you find out that the money sent you is no good - cheque bounced, Paypal reversed, etc. However, Western Union payments are not reversible, so you are out the "shipping charges".

  • Not sure I get it: there is a third party shipper that you as the seller don't choose?
    – njzk2
    Oct 21, 2016 at 18:12
  • 1
    @njzk2 You are correct. The buyer indicates that they have already made arrangements with a shipper. Of course, the "shipper" is themselves.
    – user19474
    Oct 21, 2016 at 19:37

They don't care about the product (puppy). The scam is this:

  1. They send you money. Your bank accepts it.

  2. They ask for part of the money back. Either they overpaid you somehow, or they send you the shipping money and ask you to pay the shipper. Their shipper.

  3. You send/give the extra money.

  4. HAHA! They are gone! Their shipper was a fake.

  5. After awhile, the original payment (in #1) is reversed. Cashier's check bounces, PayPal reversal, etc.

Where did the cash come from? Any scheme that will seem legit at first, and then fail.

  • Something that takes awhile to identify as fraudulent (commonly a forged cashier's check with the correct routing codes so it takes a very long time to bounce - these guys are very good at forging these).
  • Real money they can reverse. (commonly they hacked some poor victim's PayPal account and this is the victim's money, which PayPal will claw back. As a legit merchant there is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent this claw-back.)

It's also possible it's a money-laundering scheme; offer you £2000 of dirty money, ask you to give £1000 back, they now have £1000 of clean money, and you have Interpol banging on your door asking about the £2000.

What about the puppy? They don't care. No one will ever come for the puppy.

Connections to Croatia? Probably not, they target every country.


I've also experienced this scam before (I knew what it was when I saw it, but I played along to see what the scammer would try) and the PayPal email they sent appeared to be from a genuine PayPal email address (on the 'paypal.com' domain).

However GMail's DKIM protection snuffed out the real source from the email's header (which includes the source IP) which is a great feature for the regular joe who doesn't know about these things.

There are a few variants of this scam, the one I experienced was:

  1. Selling an item on eBay/whatever site
  2. Scammer messages you and claims that they live in another country and will pay over the odds for the shipping
  3. You agree- the scammer sends you a fake email from PayPal/whatever claiming that the money is on hold until you send the item and provide tracking info. This part relies on the presumption that the victim does not check their PayPal account first.
  4. You send the item, provide tracking, and the scammer never replies.
  5. You give up and go into PayPal, to find that there's no trace of the transaction.

They may claim that they won't pay for postage until after you've sent (which is an instant bad sign even for a genuine transaction), so you'll be out-of-pocket for that, too.

In my case they sent a fake PayPal email but created their own escrow site with login options such as Facebook, so this method could be used for identity theft too.

To help prevent this:

  • Always check your PayPal account for the transaction first
  • Send to the address that the buyer specified in their PayPal payment
  • Always post via a tracked method
  • Take a photograph of the item in its packaging
  • Keep proof-of-postage such as receipts

I have been using craigslist.org for many years and I have had my share of scammer inquiries. Lately though upon posting a craigslist ad for a motorcycle, I have had 12 inquiries and none of them from a legitimate buyer. They are all either from dealers, re-sellers, or scammers. The scammer inquiries came despite the below notice that I posted in the ad, which makes me believe that the scam inquiries are semi-automated bot algorithms.

"CASH ONLY!!! Local Pickup Only!!!

Please Note: We have been receiving many inquiries for this and other craigslist ads from criminals trying to effect a scam pre-pay, over-pay and reimburse, and other types of fraud. For those of criminal intent, be on notice that we are coordinating efforts with law enforcement to bring you to justice."

A legitimate buyer will ask questions about the item itself, and will usually try to bargain with you on price. A scammer will not ask many questions about the item for sale nor haggle on price, he will ask questions about payment procedures and your financial account (WU, paypal, bank account, shipping, etc).

There are myriad of ways the scam is done once you fall for it. I am not a criminal, nor do I think like a criminal to detail the mechanics of these frauds.


Are the scammers actually in Croatia (or somewhere close)

Possibly yes, they are close by; they would pick up the puppies and then ask PayPal to reverse the transaction as the item was not shipped / delivered. The paperwork they would have given you would be of no use as it would be some fictitious shipping company.

  • More than likely that the scammers do not care about the puppies at all. Oct 25, 2016 at 14:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .