74

I'm in the process of selling some furniture online.

I use a website called dba.dk, which is the Danish equivalent of eBay (it was actually bought by eBay some years ago). The website is mainstream (almost all Danes use it from time to time) but is also known for being used by scammers, mostly from foreign countries.

I received a message regarding one of the items I'm selling:

Hello,

It is my pleasure to read from you once again. In regards to your email, i am ok with the price and the condition of the furniture as you have stated in your email and i will like to get it as soon as possible. I will be paying via PayPal (www.paypal.com), because it is an Instant payment and secure for online purchases and The furniture will be picked up from you by a private transport company after i have completed all the payment and you have gotten your money. So kindly get back to me with your PayPal details as listed below (Name, PayPal Registered Email & Tel) so that i can proceed with the payment through PayPal.

I wait to read from you.

The message makes me suspicious.

  • It's written in bad English. The text has probably been translated using translation software.
  • The buyer does not want to meet in person but wants to use private transportation. This is especially suspicious in Denmark where private transportation is expensive.

Reasons why I think it might not be a scam:

  • Buyer wants to use PayPal

    I'm afraid this scam might be a version of this.

Any input is much appreciated.

  • 15
    "The furniture will be picked up ... after ... you have gotten your money. " Oh it's definitely a scam. Same as the craigslist scam here ("I will send you money first" etc.) The payment they sent will be reversed (yes payment through PayPal is still reversible), or in the case of checks/money orders, fake. – xiaomy Jan 16 '18 at 17:18
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    If it smells like a scam, it's a scam. – BlackThorn Jan 16 '18 at 19:19
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    "via PayPal (www.paypal.com), because it is an Instant payment and secure for online purchases" Oddly defensive, no? – Alexander Jan 16 '18 at 21:01
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    Would a real buyer have to justify using PayPal and would they have to explain how a purchase works? – user253751 Jan 16 '18 at 21:56
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    Holy crap! I have no experience with online sales, but I thought I wasn't that gullible. Instead, at the end of this question, I was thinking: "Why do you even worry? They are using PayPal, it can't be a scam!". Boy, was I wrong! And to think that I even know the trick behind these scams - Reading "PayPal" made me turn my brain off. Shame on me! Really, really thank you for asking this question!!! – Fabio says Reinstate Monica Jan 17 '18 at 1:14
90

The way this one works is interesting, and there's a variant of it in the 'states as well:

You receive more money than you're asking for with this item. They ask you to pay their private transport using the 'extra' money they sent you, and maybe even leave a little extra for you for your troubles.

After you send the payment to their 'private transport', a separate entity, the transaction they sent you reverses, even though your transaction to this private transport does not.

It's as if you just paid some random person X amount of your own money.

It's not about the item you're selling. They don't care about it or what the cost is.

The entirety of the scam is getting you to forward some money that doesn't exist (and therefore is covered with your own) to the scammer.

The key to this scam to look out for is there's almost always a 'shipper' or in your case 'private transport' or other separate party that needs to be paid to complete the transaction. There's no legitimate situation where they'd need to send payment to you and have you forward it to someone else, yet most of the time when you get a message like the above, and respond to it, you'll find some barely-reasonable explanation of why a situation like that is going to be necessary.

The first email you receive from a scammer in this kind of situation is fairly hard to identify.

I had a similar one a while ago, but the scammer actually posted an ad claiming to be selling an RV at a too-good-to-be-true price to lure in contacts for the scam.

There's arguably hundreds of variations on this scam, anything from buying/selling an item to being overpaid with a fake cashier's check / money order, etc.

I've had family members actually receive cashier's checks addressed to them in the mail, and followup letters demanding they send a portion of it back, as it was a 'mistake'. The base thing you're looking for in a scam, like this or otherwise, is how they're paying you and whether at some point they try to get you to send money somewhere else.

  • 6
    I don't see how this explains the scam. Either you get a Paypal transfer or you don't. Can Paypal transfers be reversed? – Martin Argerami Jan 16 '18 at 17:57
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    @MartinArgerami In the event of fraud, Paypal transfers can be reversed. Hell there's a lot of consumer protection and dispute stuff that can reverse them, too. It's relatively simple enough to get a compromised Paypal account on the black market. – user17781 Jan 16 '18 at 18:24
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    @MartinArgerami yes, they can, and PayPal tends to side with the buyer against the seller, and always goes against the seller if the account credentials/card was stolen, especially if there's anything shifty-looking about the trans. Their view is the seller should've known. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 16 '18 at 20:29
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    @Harper: could you expand briefly on this? Because it sounds crazy to me. You are saying that if someone clicks on "buy now" on eBay, and pays with a fraudulent account, the seller (which didn't even know of the transaction at the time) is considered "at fault" by Paypal (who got the fraudulent transaction through) because "the seller should have known"? – Martin Argerami Jan 16 '18 at 20:57
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    @MartinArgerami seriously? This is widely known to every practitioner in the field. here paypal.com/us/webapps/mpp/brc/… here paypal-community.com/t5/Archive/payment-reversal-scam/td-p/… here paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/chargebacks – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 16 '18 at 21:14
58

Yes, the scam is PayPal is going to reverse on you eventually. Either they are going to reverse the charge, (a buyer can reverse a PayPal payment if they claim fraud), or they used a hacked account or stolen credit card data in the first place.

Meanwhile, they'd have you irreversibly send good cash money.

Once they've got you on the hook by sending you money, the next "sabot" to drop will be you finding they overpaid you. They will explain the excess money is for shipping (perfectly reasonable for buyer to pay shipping, yes?): it is for you to give to their shipping company.

Of course their shipping company will want to be paid in advance, and they will follow with instructions for you to pay their shipping company, via some method like Western Union or PayPal gifting which is irreversible.

Once you have irreversibly paid, they will reverse the PayPal payment to you.

The shipping company is a fake, it just went into their pocket.

PayPal's view will be that you, as a seller, should have known better given the underlying facts you just gave us in your question. And most likely, PayPal's TOS has clauses covering this situation, taking them off the hook.

  • This answer is not adding nothing new that is not already in the top answer. – Rui F Ribeiro Jan 16 '18 at 20:48
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    @RuiFRibeiro I get right to the point. The answer you're referring to vaguely gropes around the entire area and makes it hard to understand where the scam is. I feel there is a great deal of room for improvement. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 16 '18 at 20:56
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    A shipping company asking to be paid in form of gifting or money transfer would be a huge red flag in itself. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jan 19 '18 at 9:29
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    @DmitryGrigoryev indeed, if the seller noticed that detail. The buyer insisting on using his shipping company (you never heard of) would also be a red flag. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 19 '18 at 15:09
  • @Harper Not necessarily. I once bought something over the Internet and was insisting the seller uses the shipping company I suggested, because it was twice as cheap compared to regular post or DHL. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jan 20 '18 at 12:23
36

When you get an email like this, try searching for some of the text of the email. In this case I searched for "because it is an Instant payment and secure for online purchases" (with the quotes to search for the exact phrase).

The first two matches were links to this very question, but there were a couple more that were interesting:

Vmax Club Sweden • View topic - VARNING FÖR PAYPAL LURERIER PÅ BLOCKET. (2012)

Predaj bajku do zahranicia - Príspevok od majorkucera | Fórum MTBiker.sk - Slovenský bike web (2016)

The text in both is identical, and also identical to the email you received except for the word "bike" vs. "furniture":

It is my pleasure to read from you once again. In regards to your email, i am ok with the price and the condition of the bike as you have stated in your email and i will like to get it as soon as possible. I will be paying via PayPal (www.paypal.com), because it is an Instant payment and secure for online purchases and The bike will be picked up from you by a private transport company after i have completed all the payment and you have gotten your money. So kindly get back to me with your PayPal details as listed below (Name, PayPal Registered Email & Tel) so that i can proceed with the payment through PayPal. I wait to read from you.

Definitely a little sketchy!

See the other answers for how the scam works; I just wanted to share this little research tip.

  • 4
    try searching for some of the text of the email - Excellent suggestion. – Vector Jan 20 '18 at 20:22
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    @Vector Thanks, I'm glad that was helpful. It has certainly saved me from falling for a scam a couple of times. :-) – Michael Geary Jan 20 '18 at 20:23
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    I just follow my mother's advice: Never talk to strangers. :) – Vector Jan 20 '18 at 20:55
  • Your mom's advice was very sound: never talk to strangers. But you can talk to me, of course. And you can believe me, because I never lie, and I'm always right. – Michael Geary Jan 21 '18 at 7:42
  • Very good use of search engines. +1. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 23 '18 at 22:42
7

PayPal transactions are reversible.

You get the money all squared away and they take your items. Maybe they will accidentally pay you too much and ask you to put a check or cash in the desk drawer.

Everyone is happy until PayPal says the transaction was fraud, or backed by a bad credit card, etc... they take your money back or otherwise compel you to return the money.

There is no way to get the furniture/cash/check back, you are screwed.

Their private courier can bring cash if they are serious. Never accept a check, even a cashiers check for this type of transaction either... same scam.

  • +1 from me. The other answers aren't addressing that the paypal account is almost certainly hacked or backed by a stolen credit card. They'll have the sender return a fee via a different method (usually Western Mail) which effectively launders the cash. They can then continue to use the hacked account at zero risk to themselves. – Valorum Jan 21 '18 at 0:12
  • "Never accept a check, even a cashiers check for this type of transaction either... same scam." - Indeed, one of my neighbors has a hobby of collecting fake cashier's checks from scammers. He has quite a collection! – Michael Geary Jan 22 '18 at 7:51
  • @Valorum FWIW, I did in my first para. Anyway +1, this answer is excellent because it nails in the first four words, in bold the crux of the matter which so many people are having trouble believing: PayPal transactions are reversible. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 23 '18 at 22:48
  • @Harper - Sure, but if you're going to run it as a scam, if you do it more than once or twice, you're going to find your account suspended. And since the account needs to be linked to a real card, if this individual has used their own card, they'll be super-easy to locate and jail. Criminals love scams that are zero risk and don't involve their own money. – Valorum Jan 23 '18 at 23:01
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    @Valorum I agree with all of that. I presume these are stolen PayPal accounts, or stolen credit cards attached to other stolen or freshly minted PayPal accounts, etc. The scammer steals a PayPal account, issues a payment, he won't reverse the charge; he doesn't care if the hack victim does either: in which case the seller would actually be paid. That is likely in cases where the PayPal account is owned by an estate of a deceased, as the executor may not find out about it until too late. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 23 '18 at 23:21
4

As pointed out by your; the mail looks suspicious ... generally for first time deals if there is an alternate offer of payment, it should be avoided.

Typically furniture sales like you said would be with local area's else shipping would make it expensive.

This type of scam would be more of transferring the money or showing a transfer is done, and then taking away your furniture ... and you realize it later that the paypal was fraudulent.

Best avoid it, or else offer him to make cash or phonepe payment.

  • 1
    I doubt the scammers will ever come for the furniture. That would get the OP a chance to see a real person involved in the scam, plus they'd have to sell the furniture afterwards, which takes some effort and again exposes them to the OP recognizing their furniture and alerting the police. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jan 17 '18 at 9:49
4

Even simpler than many answers, people fall for fake PayPal notification emails all the time. I've seen one (not sent to me) that was quite convincing -- of course it contained fake links (bonus: phishing your PayPal logon), but the language was spot on -- probably copy-pasted from a real PP email.

Like this case, that was a furniture sale (but on eBay), complete with "I'll send my shippers to pick it up". I think that's why furniture ads are a popular target, as most people don't have big enough transport themselves.

Now imagine the email arrives at the same time as the furniture van, and you feel rushed and don't check (by logging in independently).

2

Ok, let's enumerate all the obvious signs of a scam from the email:

  1. It references an email that you never sent. You say you sell on dba.dk. Unless that involves proactively sending out emails to prospective customers, the sender could not have received such an email from you.
  2. The buyer is requesting that you engage with him to privately, outside of dba.dk, conduct a purchase transaction. So, you will lose any protections granted to you by dba.dk.
  3. The buyer offers to use PayPal for the transaction, but asks for your name, email address, and phone number. Any user of PayPal would know that all you need to conduct a transaction is an email address. Not only that, the buyer can provide you with their email address and you can prepare the invoice yourself.

The first item should be enough to put an end to things. The email starts with a likely misrepresentation about something you did. Even after giving some leeway for someone with difficulty communicating in English, and so may have wording issues, the others are also signs that you shouldn't allow to overcome your suspicions.

  • 3
    "I can't see how you even got past the first item." → perhaps too harsh. Consider: "The first item should be enough to put an end to things" or some such suggestion, rather than what could be taken as berating the OP. – Mathieu K. Jan 18 '18 at 5:40
  • The email starts with lying about something you did - How do you know that? There is no indication of it in the question. – Vector Jan 20 '18 at 22:46
  • @Vector you're right, it's not explicitly said and the email is deliberately worded in bad English which gives the writer cover for such mistakes. – iheanyi Jan 22 '18 at 16:43
  • @iheanyi which gives the writer cover for such mistakes Exactly. – Vector Jan 22 '18 at 22:14
  • @Vector Yes. . . that's how these scams work. They rely on the recipient being so nice/gullible/greedy that they discount the warning signs. To protect yourself, simply hold unsolicited messages to a "normal" standard of behavior (don't misrepresent yourself, don't misrepresent me, don't ask me to give out personal information or conduct business in ways that are obviously detrimental to me). I very much doubt people are losing money by rejecting such emails from legitimate parties. – iheanyi Jan 23 '18 at 2:09
1

Without going into any details, this is not kosher:

So kindly get back to me with your PayPal details as listed below (Name, PayPal Registered Email & Tel) so that i can proceed with the payment through PayPal.

All that's required to send money through PP is an email address. No reason for providing the rest. Clearly this is a scammer trying to get personal information from you.

Again, without going into particulars, the message has the style of an awkward and far too formal form letter written by someone who doesn't know English well. Clearly this is a message promulgated by someone targeting a large group over a broad scope, for nefarious purposes.

1

Aside from the other comments which cover the likely situation well, if "private transport" means that a non-recognized pickup company (what we'd call a common carrier) is not used, you're not covered by Paypal.

If you hand an item to some random dude who comes to the door you have no proof that it was actually delivered and Paypal is not going to accept a signed invoice from said random dude, only something like a Fedex waybill (for an appropriate weight and size) that can be verified. That is why you should only accept cash for pickups.

But mostly I think you would never see anyone come, just a variant of your standard advance fee "419" scam to rip you off for the "shipping" costs. You receive payment from a stolen Paypal account. You are asked to pay the shipping costs out of the amount to the scammer (maybe via Western Union), and the Paypal payment is reversed leaving you out the money (expensive shipping for a large item). Asking for your details is probably so they can hound and threaten you by telephone if you start to catch on. At some point the words "Nigeria" or "Benin" may come up, though I've seen scams run from New York city.

  • If you get something from the seller stating the time and date of pickup and have them send signed paperwork stating they cannot hold you responsible for it not being delivered once the chair is recieved then paypal or not they legally cannot reverse it. Furthermore, advanced payment should never be used so that is irrelevant. Buyer pays shipping. – The Great Duck Jan 21 '18 at 20:58

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