Fraud :(

I became a victim today of fraud.

I feel very stupid for failing to realize what was going on.  I missed so many details that were telling me something was off.  On top of that, I had even received a fraud alert describing the exact scam I fell victim to.

It has to do with selling my ballroom dresses.  I still have them, but I lost more than $1000 thinking they were sold.  I fell victim to the same person twice.

I have posted several ads on several sites trying to sell my dresses and last week I received an email inquiry asking for details and expressing interest in one of my dresses.  The following day I received a second email about my second ad (supposedly from someone else).

Both inquiries asked the right questions–confirm the price, what was the condition, did I have more pictures, etc.  Both inquirers said the dress was to be a gift for someone.  I had a feeling it was the same person, but I just thought they were using 2 different accounts to inquire.  Both wanted to use paypal to pay for the dresses.

I responded that the dresses were in good condition, and that I was ok accepting paypal, but that I wasn’t very familiar with how it worked.  Mistake #1.

I went to paypal and sent an invoice, thinking that is how I would get paid.  In the meantime, I received an email saying that the inquirer could only pay by paypal because they were an oceanographer and out at sea and couldn’t access their bank account online, only their paypal account.

This played right into me.  Because of my job, I have been in a situation where I have been limited in what I could do online, including access to my bank account.  The inquirer must have done some research about me online to know how I could relate to that.

Next, the inquirer explained they wanted to use a ‘pick-up agent’ to pick up the item, verify it’s condition and ship it to them.  I had never heard of this before, but since I have never bought anything online from a private seller I had no reason to think this was strange.

They then explained that this ‘agent’ would only accept ‘Moneygram’ and could they add the amount for the agent to the amount I would receive via paypal and could I send it to the agent?

Trying to be helpful I agreed.  I then received an email from ‘paypal’ later that day saying that my invoice had been paid and the funds deducted from the inquirer’s account, but were being held by paypal until I proved I had sent the money to the ‘agent’ via Moneygram.  The email said paypal was trying to protect both of us by holding the money.

This was the first fake email from paypal, and it never occurred to me to check my paypal account, look really closely at the email, or that it was strange I had to pay money before receiving it.

I sent the money, which was picked up, of course.  Once I provided the moneygram reference number to ‘paypal’, I received an email saying the funds would be released in 24 hours. Then I received emails from the ‘agent’ arranging for pick up of the dress.

Next, I received an email from ‘paypal’ saying the amount I was to receive had been increased, and was again on hold until ‘custom fees’ were paid to the ‘agent’ via moneygram.  Same procedure.

Stupidly, I again sent money, and again received confirmation my account would be credited within 24 hours.

I got suspicious when the dress wasn’t picked up as arranged, and when the second inquirer started following the same track.  At that point, I called paypal and found out it was all fake.

I was able to cancel only one of 3 moneygram transfers before it was picked up.  The other two amounts, I lost, and will likely never see again.  When I cancelled the moneygram I got two emails rather quickly–first from the first inquirer asking why it was cancelled, and second from the second inquirer aggressively demanding the ‘custom fees’ for the second dress.

I reported the incident to paypal, moneygram, the website where the ad was posted, the police and Canadian Fraud Bureau.  I don’t expect to see my money again.

I really do feel stupid because I missed a lot of details and my instincts were telling me something was off and I ignored them.  I was just so relieved that I might have my dresses sold before my surgery it blinded me. Add in that I am exhausted, stressed, and that I read most of the emails late at night while pacing with insomnia and it was a bad combination.

At least I got some of the money back, and I still have both dresses.  I also know that paypal does not ever hold money like that, or request payments be made through another provider.  It was an expensive lesson to learn though.  Basically all my competition savings are gone.

Hard lesson learned.

I will write about my lesson tonight tomorrow.  1 lesson left.

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