Online classifieds like Quikr, OLX and others are very convenient marketplaces for buying and selling all kinds of items. These portals are especially effective if you are looking to sell off consumer electronic goods like smartphones and more. However, we would like to share with our users an example of what can go wrong with such transactions.
How the ‘Distance Buyer’s Scam’ Works
The way this scam works is very effective and manipulative. The buyer (the scammer) contacts the seller (the victim) and shows an interest in the item for sale. He also states that he is living abroad, so the item will have to be shipped to his location if the deal goes through. The scammer then reassures the seller that the shipping charges would be taken care of.
The scammer also tells the seller that he will send over a representative from a private courier service to collect the item and the shipping charges. This ‘representative’ is also in on the scam and soon arrives at the seller’s doorstep to collect the item and the shipping charges. He then hands over the fake courier details to the seller and even sends a fake email that contains the same details. All this while, the scammer stays in contact with the seller and assures him that he will receive the money for the item as well as the shipping charges.
The primary motive of the scammer is to dupe the victim of as much cash as he can. So he claims to be living in a distant location that has very high rates for shipping packages.
There are a few variations of this scam, but the overall mechanism of the trick remains the same. In some cases, the seller may even receive a fake email from a bank. This email may say that the money for the item and the shipping charges have been received by the buyer. Only the courier details are needed upon which the charges will be approved and released. This further convinces the seller that this is a legitimate deal.
Pro Tip – It is worth noting here that there is no bank or courier company that would ever send a message stating they are holding the money for you and will transfer it once they receive the courier details of the shipped product from you or from their local representative. Here’s how you can recognize a phishing email.
Selling a Samsung S4: Case study of the ‘Distance Buyer’s Scam’
A friend of ours, Ramesh Tripathi* (name changed) recently experienced this Quikr scam firsthand. Fortunately, he recognized the obvious signs in the phishing email he received and thus avoided being duped. The exact sequence of events that he went through was as follows:
- Ramesh put his Samsung S4 on sale over Quikr. He then received an enquiry for the device from a person residing in the United States – Maria Andriano.
- Maria claimed she wanted the phone for her son living in South Africa. So she asked Ramesh to ship the phone there directly. While the cost of the phone was listed around the Rs. 6,000 mark, the shipping charges to South Africa were almost double that amount. Maria said she would willingly pay this amount.
- Maria contacted Ramesh once more after a couple of days to let him know that she had sent the amount due for the phone and the courier charges to Ramesh via Scotia Bank.
- Ramesh then received an email from Scotia Bank within 24 hours, saying that the said amount has been transferred and would be released to Ramesh once he provides them with the shipping details and courier number.
- The email ID of the supposed buyer who we believe to be a part of this scam is firstname.lastname@example.org and the fake bank email was sent by email@example.com.
Fortunately for Ramesh, he was able to see through this scam and save his money as well as his peace of mind. Stay tuned for a follow-up post where we will be listing out detailed precautionary steps that you can take to stay safe against such scams.