BEWARE OF SCAMMERS
Selling your rig online? BeWAre oF SCAMMerS BuT, WiTh A liTTle knoWledge, They’re eASy To SpoT.
Is it real or a ‘steal’?
Looking to sell the old camper trailer? Feel it’s time for a change and want to move along that second caravan taking up room in the backyard? Chances are, you’ll be availing yourself of the services of an online sales site. That’s a good idea, but just be wary of the scammers out there.
This was underlined for me when I was inundated with phone-shy ‘buyers’ enquiring about my camper trailer – including one who was willing to purchase it sight unseen.
These dodgy ‘customers’ adopt a typical pattern. Usually you’ll receive a text message (depending on the online seller) requesting you to respond via email. There might even be an explanation as to why they can’t talk to you directly: they’re working on an offshore oil rig, or they’re away in New Guinea working for a mining company, or suffer from hearing loss so can’t deal by phone and they’re restricted to a wheelchair so can’t come to look – or some such excuse!
You will almost certainly receive an enquiry as to whether or not you have a PayPal account near the start of any exchanges and, if you don’t have one, they will want you to set one up.
Through the course of their correspondence, they may try to mimic genuine buyer behaviours by requesting to see more photos or questioning whether or not it’s your best price, before claiming they’ll transfer the money via PayPal and arrange for somebody to pick it up on their behalf.
In reality, the scammer isn’t on the lookout for signs of rust or to negotiate a killer deal, he or she is out to send you through a false payment and maybe elicit a refund, or pick up the camper or van and be gone before you realise you’ve been had.
If you doubt their word, respond politely to such enquiries with the statement that no payment through PayPal is acceptable and you are almost certain to have heard the last of them. In fact, including ‘no payment by PayPal’ in your ad may even save yourself the trouble of having to deal with these people.
PayPal isn’t at fault here. The PayPal system actually works in our favour by permitting us to make payments to various online sites without revealing our full credit card details each time, but scammers exploit sellers’ inexperience with the system to defraud them of their property and funds.
PayPal advises how to deal with fraudulent offers (see PayPal’s advice on p108), as do all the online sales sites. Read the warning pages on each selling site before you start.
HOW THE SCAM WORKS
The seller will receive a bogus email, claiming to be from PayPal, advising that funds for the sale have been deposited into a holding account but won’t be released until ‘overpaid’ money is refunded. The so-called ‘buyer’ may ask for this refund to be sent by wire, bank transfer, or on a pre-loaded money card via a ‘freight company’ (also usually bogus). The scammer will invent an excuse for the overpayment, such as to cover the fees of an agent or extra shipping costs or insurance, or explain that it was simply human error. They may promise to reimburse you for these costs.
If you act on the bogus request you will lose the money to the scammer and, if you have already sent the item you were selling, you will lose that as well.
Note that many of these so-called ‘buyers’ are willing to purchase your item without having viewed it in person – even if you are selling an expensive item such as a car or
camper. It could be an overseas buyer interested in purchasing your item despite it being commonly available in their home country. Often the shipping costs would far outweigh the cost of the item itself, which should be a red flag.
As soon as a buyer agrees to buy without seeing it and says they are “out of contact” be very wary!
It’s not just sellers who suffer, but also genuine buyers. The basic advice is to never reveal your actual address or bank account or other private details. Deal only with people who you can talk to, preferably face to face, and always suspect someone who claims to be happy to hand over thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, sight unseen, for what you’re selling, most especially if they’re from overseas or interstate.
We eventually sold our camper – months later – to a couple who rang and asked questions, then came to see it, liked what they saw and did the deal on the spot, returning with a bank cheque the next day. That’s how sales are made, not via SMS messages and emails to anonymous people using a prescribed method.
And, if you find yourself approached by scammers, do as I did and report all the email addresses and SMS messages to the web sales sites involved to help them eliminate this plague from our midst.
CloCkwise from top left: Trust your gut. Legal transactions feel different to those involving fraud (pic Getty Images); It took months for a buyer to purchase David’s camper, despite the ‘interest’ that cropped up overnight; Online sales sites are a target for scammers, but each will have advice on how to avoid them, so read up before you post your ad.
aBOVE: A canny scammer could be out of sight with your camper before you realise you’ve been ‘had’. RIGHT: If the cost of freighting your camper overseas or interstate eclipses the value of the sale, it’s time to ask: is the enquiry genuine?