There’s a reason that websites that deal with monetary transactions provide warnings about phishing scams. They happen all the time and the people that commit these crimes are good at it.
I was posting some items up on Kijiji to sell before my move to Seattle, one of which was my storage bed (yes, cheap plug). I received a response from a buyer who said that they would purchase my bed through a PayPal transaction.
Sounds good so far, right?
I thought so too. So I agreed. The next email I got asked for my info and came with an odd request. Apparently the purchaser would get a shipping company to pick up the bed but his credit card wasn’t working so he wanted to send me the money for the shipping cost and have me send a Western Union transfer to the shipping company.
I was suspicious but I thought that if the money came through PayPal then I could use those funds for the shipping. So once again I agreed. What I got next was a set of emails from PayPal telling me that the money was being transferred to my account but it was on hold pending the Western Union transfer.
At a glance the email looked legit. It had the right text, confirmation numbers, the logos, and all the rest. It had me guessing for a second but the whole situation had alarm bells ringing in my head.
A quick check of my PayPal account revealed that there were no transactions, pending or otherwise and money was not transferred to my account. Secondly, a closer look at the email revealed that it didn’t come from PayPal but from “firstname.lastname@example.org”. At this point I knew it was fraud. I decided to do one last check. I popped the address for the Western Union transfer into Google Maps which led me to a nice residential street in the UK. Suffice it to say, that was the end of the line for me.
Moral of the story, be careful of phishing scams! They’re out there and the people behind them are pretty smart. I consider myself pretty aware of online dangers and they got me to the point where they can spam my email now.
Here are a few tips relating to my experience:
- If anyone wants to send you money but depends on you to complete another transaction for it (i.e. Western Union), decline the offer.
- Don’t use Western Union for purchases/transactions. It’s great for money transfers to people you know but there is no fraud protection!
- Always check the full email address on emails regarding accounts or transactions. Don’t just rely on the name! I can’t stress this one enough. In my case, the name said email@example.com but the actual address was firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you’re using PayPal, check your account if you get an email saying that there was a transfer/transaction. There should be some record of it in your account. Just don’t click on any links in the email to do it!
- Trust No One. Well, at the very least be vigilant and pay close attention.
There are many reputable companies out there on the web but there are also a lot of people looking to use those reputations to scam you out of your money. Be careful!