eBay frauds

I recently posted my old laptop for sale on eBay. I have bought several stuff before (using a different account) and was aware of how things generally work. I was also aware of the number of different scams bustards use to trick both sellers and buyers. Items I bought had rather low price, thus thieves and other cheating scam had no interest in it.

This time however, I was selling a valuable laptop. It was the first thing I ever tried to sell, thus I was extra careful and checked everything and everyone.

The first wave consisted almost entirely of…

African investors

Hello Mate,

How was your Weekend..?I will like to make an instant purchase of your item for my niece who manage one of my firm Oversea,she’s been faithful and committed to service and i’ve decided to compensate her for a job well done,through her effort commitment,i have been able to expand my firm in Africa.I will be paying GBP 1,400.00 for the total cost of this item including shipping Service Parcel Force Mail Service,Got a busy Schedule so i can’t wait to look over the bid,Please indicate your interest by ending the auction,i will be paying via my paypal account,You can get back tom me through…eBay or my personal email for further correspondence and conclusion on this transaction.I’m expecting your immediate response send Your Name along your valid PAYPAL email address so as for me to remit the amount am offering you into your PAYPAL account.Kindly please,take this offer very serious and be honest with me.tspn95

Thanks and Best RegardS From: tspn95 (263)

At first glance, it looked as an OK buyer. Large number of feedbacks, good rating, registered 4 years ago. Looking closer however, you can see that last feedback was several months ago. First sign of trouble, pointing to possible stolen account.

Second sign was that he was offering way too big amount, almost identical to a brand new laptop in the same category. Any reasonable person would buy new from Sony or Amazon, not 1.5 years old laptop.

I passed this offer.

One day later, here it is again.

Hi, Am Karie,Please Can i offer you 800 pounds for this laptop, please? I believe it will make a fantastic birthday gift for my sister.She’s presently out of the UK on an official assignment,which involves saving lifes. Due to the nature of my work, i may not be here when the auction ends so i want to know if i can buy it now. I’ll pay via paypal which is secure for both of us before you ship. Do mail me ASAP. I’m prepared to pay you immediately if you agree. Thank you in anticipation of a favourable response from you. Many regards, My personal email address is You can reach me directly there. Thank you. Many regards, Karie. From: kjlinksw1 (11)

Wow. A relative to die for. Not very good with written English, but a good heart all around. The same pattern. A 7 years old stolen account, no recent feedback, probably wants me to ship to Africa as well.

Few hours after that one…

hello seller

i love to buy your lovely item to one of my son in west africa pls insted of bidding i will like to offer you $500 including the shipping amount pls get back to me asap with your paypal email account thanks From: maxons (0)

The last attempt, with brand new account, with the shortest message yet and lowest amount. I think this represents a good example of the attack pattern these people use.

These are easy to recognize. The following were much trickier.

Account thieves

Until few hours before the auction end, things were quiet. I knew that prices starts to rise very quickly in last hour, especially in the last several minutes. I never expected that my laptop would reach £8.000.

I checked how things stand 3h before the end and saw that eBay user nicole00370 raise the bid to £820, which was over my reserve price of £750. Since the bidder had no feedback and was a brand new account, I sent this email:

Hi, regarding the bid you placed for my Sony VAIO SZ1XP/C. I see that you are from United States - please note that I can ship only to a UK address.

Please confirm that this is ok with you, otherwise I will remove your bid.

There was no response at all, until 1h before the auction end. I removed the bid. 20mins later, I checked again and the high bid was £7.320 or something like that, by the same account. Then minute later another 5h-old account offered £8.000. Annoyed, I killed both of these, waited 15mins and a £750 offer from user gregclemons3nmq was the winner. Usual checks yielded nothing suspicious, thus I sent him a message:

You won the auction, for my Sony SZ1XP/C laptop.

Let me know when you complete the payment and whether you want to collect the item in person (and save 20 for the postage).

He responded with prompt payment to my PayPal account in less than 10 minutes and sent this message:

Hello,I sent you money for Laptop! My adress Is:Stainland Road 61a,HALIFAX,Greetland,HX4 8BD! please then you will post item, forward me tracking number Thanks…

Cameron Bowe

Again, a bad English, but what the hell - there are so many immigrants into UK, that it was not that unusual. What raised an alarm was this bit from the PayPal notice I received about the payment:

Important Note: Stephen Miner has provided an Unconfirmed Address. If you are planning on shipping items to Stephen Miner, please check the Transaction Details page of this payment to find out whether you will be covered by the PayPal Seller Protection Policy.

That was a third name that appeared in this whole affair. I already sent a message thanking him for prompt payment and informing him that I will send the laptop first thing in the morning. He then responded that he would be really grateful if I could send it immediately.

With an already made-up mind that I would refund the payment, I sent this just for fun:

Unfortunately, I can’t do it so quickly. I’m at the office all day, thus can prepare the package in the evening, not earlier.

In the meantime, can you please clear something for me - the account you used to pay seem to belong to someone called Stephen Miner, shipping address is to Cameron Bowe, while ebay username looks to be made from Greg Clemons.

I’m new to eBay, thus all this make me concerned a bit. Can you please explain it.

His response floored me:

Certainly I can! Stephen Miner is I! Cameron Bowe - my adopted son who will take mail as I weight put I am on work!

I honestly wonder did he ever managed to trick anyone. Simply ridiculous. To no surprise at all, I quickly received the following notice from PayPal:

We have conducted an investigation regarding a payment you received in your PayPal account. This investigation determined that those funds were fraudulent. Therefore we have completed a reversal of the payment and removed the funds from the following transaction from your account.

Transaction Date: Oct. 29, 2007 08:21:06 CDT

Transaction Amount: £770.00 GBP

Buyer’s Email: …

I must hand it to the PayPal. Payment was made at 1:21 UK time, they investigated and killed it in 1h (this notice reached me at 2:39). I think that’s an awesome response time and a testament of why PayPal is the preferred choice for online payments. If this was a credit card or wire transfer, it could be days before anyone figured out what has happened. By then, I would have sent this, transaction would later be reversed and I would be without money and without the goods.

This guy managed to steal accounts from both PayPal and eBay. And not just any account, but a PayPal account with at least £800 on it, as that was his maximum bid. The original owner of the account must have been very surprised when he received email notice for successful payment from PayPal. The shipping address he gave belongs to some factory - I do hope they will catch the bastard anyway.

Rules of the game

  1. Never, ever reveal your email to any eBay user that asks questions. This can be exploited for social attacks on your account. eBay offers an option to hide your email address when responding to a question - always use it.

  2. Always wait until the payment is cleared and then some, before shipping. Just for good measure.

  3. Always ask/offer cash on collection, just to see the reaction.

  4. Check, check and re-check.

I’m now into my third auction, as second was also won by a thief. Somehow I’m losing interest..too much hassle.