A blow by blow account of how an ebay scam works

My friend who works in our company asked me one afternoon to check out an item he is about to purchase. He said he is reluctant to send the money because what is involved is a very big amount. What he was buying was not some cheap items like a box cutter. He was buying a very expensive item. He wanted my opinion on whether the transaction he is about to enter into is a scam or not.

Knowing that I do a lot of online transaction he wanted me to checkout if what he is about to enter into is an ebay scam or not.

His ebay scam story began when he ran across an ad for a very expensive camera. The camera market price for the camera is more than a P 100,000.00. But this second hand unit sells for more than half the price at only P 45,000.00. He needed the camera because he had a studio business as a sideline. Little did he know that this transaction would soon expose him to a very dangerous ebay scam.

The ad was displayed on free ads, buy and sell Philippine based website, sulit.com.ph. The website does not take responsibility for “any consequence relating directly or indirectly to any action or inaction you take based on the contents, information, services or other materials” found in the site. This is a self moderated forum. Some ads may be used as an ebay scam, while some may be legitimate. In short, caveat emptor. “Let the buyer beware.“

At first it did not seem like an ebay scam, because it did not involve ebay. Later on you will see how the scammer capitalized on the ebay brand to strengthen his ebay scam tactic.

Believing in good faith that the ad may be legitimate, my friend sent out an email to the person who was running the ad. This started a series of correspondence between them. I am publishing here the original correspondence between my friend and the scammer in order that you might understand how the ebay scam is done. Nothing has been altered. However, names, emails, telephone numbers are abbreviated or masked to protect the confidentiality of my friend. His first email reads:

On Fri, Jun 27, 2008 at 8:38 PM, <*************.com> wrote:

good day id like to buy the unit d3, pls contact me ***********. i can pay
u today.

BA

The ebay scam mastermind replied:

—– Original Message —-
From: Pro Teck
To: **************.com
Sent: Saturday, June 28, 2008 1:40:11 AM
Subject: Re: d3 buyer pay today The item is around 3 months and it is located at the Philippines border in an UPS
Warehouse, so if you decide to buy,it can reach your home address in 24-48
hours, with all delivery taxes payd by me.

It has international warranty until August 2009. Along with the package you
will receive the warranty papers and the receipt. I’ll pay the shipping taxes ,
and you can test it before i can receive any money. The warranty is transfered
to your name after we complete the transaction.

If you agree with the price in the posting, let me know and I will try to reply as
soon as possible with more details about how we can make the transaction.

Waiting reply

Thank you,

Sounds like a very nice deal. Imagine, getting to test camera delivered at your doorstep without him receiving the money. Although this is possible with an arrangement called “escrow,” however, it is very easy to know whether the purported escrow service is part of an elaborate ebay scam or not. I’ll explain this later. My friend replied back:

On Sun, Jun 29, 2008 at 8:23 AM, ************* <***********.com> wrote:

can i ask again for ur link on your post? sorry i forgot the link. can i ask contact number for quick transaction thank you.

The ebay scam mastermind wrote back:

—– Original Message —-
From: Pro Teck
To************ <****************.com>
Sent: Sunday, June 29, 2008 8:36:14 AM
Subject: Re: d3 buyer pay today http://www.sulit.com.ph/index.php/view+classifieds/id/505953/Nikon+D3+Digital+Camera+Body+with+12.1+MP+FX+D-SLR+Lens

OK, the transaction is handled by eBay because they offer better protection ( i have
delivered a digital camera 3 weeks ago in Barcelona and i don’t have the money until
now ). So, if you are decided, I will need you to send me your full name and address,
so I can deliver and after I will make all the arrangements, you will receive full payment
and insurance instructions, along with my complete details from my eBay trading assistant.

First Name:
Last Name:
Street Address:
City:
Postal Code:
Country:

Waiting reply,

At this point, the ebay scam mastermind seems to have him hook line and sinker. This is where the ebay scam comes in.

My friend wrote back giving out his personal details:

On Sun, Jun 29, 2008 at 10:23 AM, ********** <************.com> wrote:
First Name:************
Last Name: ************
Street Address: *********
City: Cebu
Postal Code: ***********
Country: **************

can i ask why are you selling it for a cheap price? can i buy it for only Php 45000?
so i’ll make it clear your gonna send me the item first before i’ll pay it right? please email me your contact number before we make this transaction. thank you

The ebay scam mastermind replied:

—– Original Message —-
From: Pro Teck
To: ******************
Sent: Sunday, June 29, 2008 10:46:32 AM
Subject: Re: d3 buyer pay today Ok, I can sell it for 45 K. And yes, you are right about the payment, I will not be able to pick up the money before you have the item home and test it, and only if you decide it’s ok, than I will receive the payemnt details from the ebay trading assistant. You will see it is very decure for both of us, because you can not trick me, just as I ca not trick you.

The reason for selling is because this is mainly what I do: i buy different products from people who need money urgently and than I resell for a moderate profit. Now that I have your details, I will make the delivery in the morning, and if all goes smooth during tomorrow or maybe on tuesday morning you will have it home.Oh, and my contact nr is 0040726844495.

Thank you and I hope we will have good business together.

Hmmmm . . . . . . sounds like a very convincing story on why he can sell it so cheap. The only good business that could come out of this is for his benefit to the prejudice of my friend. They say that when it’s too good to be true it is most probably not true. In this case I would say if it is too good to be true, it is probably an ebay scam. My friend wrote back:

On Sun, Jun 29, 2008 at 6:19 PM, *********** <***********.com> wrote:

sir il wait for your confirmation email that you already sent the items.
Thanks

The ebay scam mastermind replied:

—– Original Message —-
From: Pro Teck
To: *******************
Sent: Monday, June 30, 2008 12:51:31 AM
Subject: Re: d3 buyer pay today I have made the delivery and sent the tracking number to ebay. You shoul receive
a notification from them pretty soon.

Thank you.

Hmmmm… sounds very legitimate. Imagine receiving a tracking number from ebay. It sure looks like a professional deal, sadly it turned out to be a professional ebay scam. My friend wrote back.

—– Original Message —-
From: Pro Teck
To: ***************** <**************.com>
Sent: Monday, June 30, 2008 2:08:43 AM
Subject: Re: d3 buyer pay today I have just received email from ebay now, our transaction is approved ! Do you have any news from them yet?

Waiting reply.

My friend received an email from a certain Anna Sanders. The email probably orginates from the ebay scam mastermind himself. The heading looked like this:

From: anna.sanders@ebay.com
Subject: eBay Important Notice !
To: *********************
Date: Monday, June 30, 2008, 4:18 PM
The rest of the body of the email looked like this:

If you can notice, it looked like a legitimate that came from ebay directly. At first glance does not look like an ebay scam. It has the ebay logo and all of the ebay bells and whistles. But take note of the email used. The ebay scam mastermind or his accomplice purposely made his name anna.sanders@ebay.com to make it appear that it is coming from ebay. At first glance it seems that the email comes really comes from ebay. However the underlying email address is really sales@ebay-transaction-confirm.com, which of course has nothing to do with ebay. This is one sign that what you are getting into is an ebay scam.

My friend sounded very excited to receive the shipment. The ebay scam mastermind wrote back:

— On Mon, 6/30/08, Pro Teck
wrote:
From: Pro Teck
Subject: Re: d3 buyer pay today
To: **********************
Date: Monday, June 30, 2008, 5:21 PM You must follow the instructions in the email and make the payemnt, than send the payemnt details to ebay, so they can verify. If all is OK, you receive the package (maybe this evening or tomoroow morning), and if you are satisfied with it, ebay will send me the details, so I can pick up my money. Let me know if you understand.

Waiting reply

My friend was confused. He thought, why would he say in the previous email that there is no need for him to send the money until he has inspected the camera? Now the ebay email was telling him to “send payment to the seller in maximum 2 days, otherwise the transaction is cancelled. “ Obviously the ebay scam mastermind has not explained the concept of “escrow” very well. The ebay scam was not very well coordinated. The ebay scam mastermind should have asked my friend to send the money to an “escrow service” to make it look like legitimate. My friend smelled something fishy, he is thinking that it might be an ebay scam, so he asked for my help. This is an awfully big amount of money. P 45,000.00 is a lot of money for people here in the Philippines. It’s about one year salary for some people.

I pointed out to him why the email was an ebay scam. I did further research and showed to him why this transaction was an ebay scam. In particular this is a typical ebay escrow scam, one of the many popular ebay scams.

To further understand how the scam works, you will first have to understand what escrow is. Basically escrow works like this, the buyer gives money to escrow service. The seller sends the item to the buyer. If they buyer finds the item satisfactory, the buyer then informs the escrow service to release the money to the seller. If the buyer finds the item unsatisfactory as to what is agreed, he would have to return the item to the seller, the seller will then instruct the escrow service to return the money to the buyer.

Sophisticated scammers first set up a fake escrow company and then put up some fake auction in some online auction site like ebay. The not so sophisticated scammer just capitalizes on the good name of ebay and tells the unwitting buyer that ebay acts as the escrow service between them. Take note, ebay never acts as an escrow service. They have a list of recommended escrow service but they never receive in trust money from their members. Any email that tells you otherwise is an ebay scam.

We sent back an email to the scammer and told him that we uncovered his ebay scam. The ebay scam mastermind used to reply immediately after every email. But after we sent the expose, he never wrote back. I have decided to post this in the hope that you won’t be the next ebay scam victim.

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4 Responses to A blow by blow account of how an ebay scam works

  1. Iris says:

    I utilize eBay to buy or sell on a regular basis. So far, all sellers have honored their transactions.

    Speaking of fraud, I advertised my BMW 328i for sale at cars.com several years ago and received several foreign emails with offers to buy my car. It stated that they would provide me a check for an amount more than my asking price; however, I need to wire them the difference. For instance, if the asking price is $15,000, they will send a check for $20,000 and I will have to wire them $5,000. Moreover, I will have to turn over my car to be shipped to Europe, which did not make sense because Europe is filled with BMWs. In fact, BMWs and Mercedes Benz in Europe are used as taxi cabs. They are that common so why buy a BMW from the U.S.? You see, for any sane person, this screams “SCAM”!

  2. zigfred says:

    Iris: Did you get to sell your BMW already or are you driving a new car now ? What’s your car model ?

    Yeah I can’t believe what great lengths people will go to just to scam somebody.

  3. Iris says:

    European cars (Mercedes Benz, Audi, Volkswagen, etc.) are over rated. The BMW was fun to drive; however, it was the most unreliable car I’ve ever owned. It spent many days in the repair shop. So far, I’ve owned a Mitsubishi Eclipse, a Honda Accord, a BMW 328i and currently, I drive a Toyota Solara (.http://www.findbestsellingcar.com/images/ToyotaCamrySolara.jpg) From experienced, Japanese cars are very reliable, but a bore to drive.

    Every now and then, I’m tempted to buy another vehicle – either a Lexus RX330 or an Infinity FX35; however, these are SUVs and I would have to spend more on gas, so considering gas prices at $5.00 per gallon x 25 gallon tank for each fill up = $125. Most SUVs are rated at 16 mpg – 21 mpg. Therefore, if I drive 100 miles per day that equals 6.25 – 4.76 gallons of gas used every day. I would have to fill up every 4-5 days and spend $600-$700+ on gas monthly. So at this point in time, it’s not worth getting an SUV.

    I will wait until car manufacturers are able to sell hybrid vehicles at a much lower price. By the way, I’m able to pump out 32 – 37 mpg on my Toyota Solara through hypermiling. Saves me money.

  4. sandrar says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

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