Online fraud

Over the past month of relocating, I’ve had to put up a lot of my stuff on ebay (alright, it was kijiji.ca). This is a very stressful thing for just about anybody and part of the stress come from the strange weirdos you will meet in the process. Two examples of this are worth mentioning based on the kijiji.ca listing for my car that I expected to sell for $10,000.

Case 1

I get an email from a very valid looking address: : james.plumb111 at gmail.com saying:

“Is there any other info about the vehicle i need to know of apart from what is listed on the AD ?”

Harmless right? so I reply

“Ask me whatever you want to know. Never been in accidents, no scratch – What info are you interested in?”

I get

Do you accept PayPal and Pickup ?

I say:

PayPal is OK. What is Pickup?

James says:

for the convenience of both parties i have organized with someone to come pick it up as soon as we’re through with payment… As for the issue of my details,transferring the name of ownership and signing of all paperwork will be done by the pick up agent after you have the payment from paypal. so you don’t have to worry about that. Go ahead and send me your paypal email address and the account name or invoice to remit the funds asap, so the transport company can come for the pick up at your address after you received the payment

How convenient of you to do that James, especially since we live in the same city (why else would you be responding to my ad in the first place?). By now I had grown suspicious and checked the email headers on my gmail account. (Just look for “Show Original” option). I see the following

Received: from [41.206.15.39] by web181403.mail.ne1.yahoo.com via HTTP; Mon, 12 Dec 2011 20:09:10 PST

 

Now Google tells me that this IP address is from Lagos, Nigeria. Well, I don’t have anything against that city (even lived there eons ago) but come on, why would you be buying a car from Canada when you don’t even drive on the same side of the road…

I play along

so what all information should i send to you ? email address is ok or you want more?

and then it comes:

Will you be able to help me wire the Shipping fess via western union money transfer to my shipper cos the total payment which include the shipping charges and some other commissions needed to get the vehicle to its destination would be issued altogether through PayPal

So dude asks me for my bank account info and now for some money too. At this point I stop replying to his emails and still keeps trying the following tricks:

1. Sends me an email that looks like it is from paypal (service@intl.paypal.com) and sends me $15,000 which is way more than what I asked for the car.
2. Asks me every second day in a reminder email.

Think about it, even if you don’t know that this guy is sitting far away, his desperation, no attempt at negotiating the price, no attempt to even come and check out the car, pro-actively setting up a ‘Pickup’ are all signs of something fishy.

 

Case 2

I receive a call on my cellphone that I had listed on the kijiji ad. Lady at the other end asks me very genuine sounding questions about the car and is wondering if it can be sold in the next day. I say sure, and ask what I need to do. She says that she has a buyer lined up already and is willing to pay me $13,250 for the car ($3000 more than what I asked btw) and is able to guarantee sale of the car at that price.

Wow, I say because this is clearly a lot of extra money but since it is too good to be true, I say I need time to think and ask to call me back again. My discomfort at this stage came up because I had already dropped the price of the car on Kijiji to $10,000 after having started at $14,000 and she should’ve seen it when she mentioned on the phone that she could see my car on the website. Another reason was that she called me from a private number.

I get a call in about four hours and this time I say it is too good to be true, so guys tell me what the guarantee really means. She says that she guarantees a buyer in 7 days or else the security is returned. I say what security  – Do I pay you or you guys pay me? And then it hits me, so I simply say no thanks and hang up.

Her ‘boss’ calls me up and tells me that I would be a loser if I sold the car to anybody else for a lesser price and is pretty aggressive over the phone. When I ask him for his number, he gives me a number that turns out to be Florida. Seriously dude? I hang up.

That guy calls me one last time and when I say no right away, he threatens me and screams.

Conclusion

I seldom use Kijiji or eBay but I can imagine how painful the whole experience is for genuine sellers and I am sure the buyer side has similar painful stories about fraudsters. Some trust-based account that could help bridge this trust gap is surely a great business waiting to happen while eBay is basking in the wonderful light of its success (eBay also owns Kijiji).

It has been done before. Millions of buyers buy reliably from Alibaba.com when they’ve never met before. I wonder what it would take such level of B2B service available for consumers!

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