Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fraud alert

It could have been a very costly mistake.

We were selling a $400 item on, something we do quite regularly.
If you aren’t familiar with how this works, here’s a basic rundown: You post your item, interested buyers send an email through Amazon and then if they want to buy the item, they transfer funds to Amazon. Amazon then sends you a confirmation e-mail that the funds have been deposited in your account. The system always worked well in the past for us, and we had become familiar with the routine.

So when we received an email from Amazon that there was a potential buyer for the item we posted, we exchanged emails with the person. The woman said she needed the item immediately for her fiancé’s birthday and that she would transfer the money through Amazon right away. Shortly after that we received an Amazon deposit confirmation email.

At first glance, it looked exactly like an Amazon email. But then we noticed several things that were fishy. First, “deposit” was spelled wrong. The amount transferred was a little more than the selling price, and it didn’t include a shipping price. The buyer refused to give us her address, instead telling us she would send a pre-paid FedEx box for pickup. A little more digging, and we saw that the e-mail didn’t originate from Amazon. And when we checked our Amazon account, there was no money deposited.

We sent an email back to the woman and told her that we could not confirm her sale. That was the last we heard from her.

Then this morning we received another email from someone else. This time, the “buyer” included a shipping address but again said they would send a pre-paid FedEx package.

We called Amazon to report the scam so they could warn consumers. That was a dead end. The customer service representative said consumers should read the “Help” section to know the warning signs of potential fraud. We offered to send Amazon the emails we had received, but the representative said she didn’t have an e-mail we could send them to. (A little ironic for an Internet-based business, huh?)

So then we reported it to the Better Business Bureau. We haven’t heard back from them yet.

Until then, consider yourself warned.


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