They’re still out there

Amid all the financial jollity that the Easter Season has become, it’s almost a pleasure to be on the receiving end of a good old-fashioned attempt at a scam. Yes, someone …

26th March 2008 at 7:21 am

Amid all the financial jollity that the Easter Season has become, it’s almost a pleasure to be on the receiving end of a good old-fashioned attempt at a scam. Yes, someone has tried to nick some of my precious IT kit.

I’m trying to sell a second-hand mobile phone through Amazon’s marketplace scheme (and this is relevant to smaller businesses since it’s a very efficient way of disposing of a few assets you no longer need). I won’t use this blog as a platform for my private sales, but it’s not rubbish.

So I had this query from someone, asking for its full spec. Innocently I sent them a note of the manufacturer’s website so they could make their own judgement rather than wait for a glossy spiel from me.

And I get what looks like confirmation from Amazon that I need to send the item off immediately and money will be with me by the middle of April, which would be their standard way of completing a sale. Except…the address is in Lagos. And we’ve all heard of Nigerian scams.

Let me be frank. I hate, hate, hate the fact that any country mentioned in an e-mail automatically raises the spectre of doubt in the recipient. I’d much rather trust people. Only…I remembered something. Amazon, when I sold a couple of CDs through it last week, has changed the format of its mails and no longer includes all the address details in them.

So I have another look, and what do you know – in their confirmation e-mail, ‘Amazon’ (which, now that I look carefully, doesn’t have an e-mail address) is suddenly putting two ‘p’s in ‘shipment’. Then I get an e-mail from my alleged buyer and guess what – he wants me to confirm something he calls ‘shippment’ when I’ve sent the goods off.

You can imagine the tone of the mail I sent back to him. The odd thing is that my reaction wasn’t so much anger as to go ‘aah…’

Guy Clapperton

Guy Clapperton is a freelance journalist who specialises in small business issues and has written for the likes of The Guardian, the FT and the Daily Mirror. Guy has written about finance and franchising for SmallBizPod.

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  1. One does have to take one’s hat off to the level of ingenuity that scammers have now reached. Before setting up, I worked at eBay so saw quite a lot of fun and games going on both in eBay and eBay Inc owned PayPal. I didn’t expect anything like that in flowers but, sure enough, there is an angle. In short – use stolen credit cards to help you woo women on line by sending them lots of gifts, then, once you’ve won their trust, get them to send you money via western union. Clever stuff.
    We’ve even got a category on our blog covering the various fraudy moves that we’ve seen. Definitely something I never expected in this market. Still, you live and learn!

  2. Ingenuity, when they mis-spell ‘shipment’ and fail to notice Amazon has changed its confirmation e-mails? I thought it was pretty daft myself.

    As to the flowers thing, I’ve been buying my wife pretty blooms for 15 years and still haven’t summoned up the courage to ask her for any money, Western Union or otherwise…

  3. Benjamin says:

    Oh no! You mean that e-mail I got from that nice former general isn’t legit? More seriously… It comes to something when we have to rely on a spelling error to spot a scam. The benefits of a good education perhaps?

    Since I’ve been a small business owner, I have been amazed at the volume of scams that come my way. There’s got to be a way to crack this stuff. Will, what you describe is even more worrying – ending up with your business being part of a scam.

    For now, keep your eyes wide open I guess!

  4. Hi Guy/Benjamin

    When I referred to ingenuity, I meant in the flower cleverness that I described after rather than their misspelling of shipment. Although, I bet you felt the weird thing where, for a few seconds, even though it was clearly misspelt and wrong, you still thought “hang on, am I getting this wrong or is this spoof.” It’s weird the way that subtly obvious spoof can still be strangely convincing, to even people who are pretty well informed and web savvy.

    Ref seeing the aftermath of fraud, Benjamin – it’s grim. One lady lost ƂĀ£1.5k within 7 days of first contact. Not our fault but truly tragic seeing someone’s desire for love being so cruelly exploited.

    Fortunately, we’ve built a number of proprietary filters (and encourage PayPal use (fraud very very low with PP)) so that such fraudy instances are now exceedingly low. Whenever we catch one, we always let the recipient know they’re being had.

    Can’t help with Mrs C, I’m afraid, Guy.

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