eBay fraudster caught
A few months ago I made a purchase on eBay from a private seller of a used item of studio equipment. Although the payment method only listed PayPal, there was some text included within the item description stating that direct bank transfer would be the prefered method. Maybe this should have raised alarm bells, but I disregarded at the time. After committing to buy, the seller sent me a message with his bank details asking me to transfer the money, just over $200. I complied and he said he would post the item the next day.
Two weeks later I had not received the item, so I sent him a message. He replied apologetically, saying the he had been ill and in hospital, but he would post it now. Another two weeks went by and I contacted him again. There were further apologies and excuses like being ill and too busy, but I'd stopped believing it by then. I eventually reported the situation to eBay. They told me that I could submit a request to eBay for the seller's contact details and that the next step would be for me to try to phone him. I obtained his details and tried phoning twice, but there was no answer. I didn't see any point in leaving a voicemail message.
Anyway, his contact details revealed that the name that he had used to register with eBay was not the same as the name on the bank account that I had transferred the money to. There could have been several different explanations for this, but my assumption was that the name on the bank account was his real name. I did some googling and eventually traced him. I knew for certain that I had found the correct individual when I spotted something in the background of a photo of his studio that he had posted on his Facebook page. It was the same item that I was supposed to be buying from him through eBay. It is not a particularly commonplace item, so this was unlikely to be sheer coinsidence.
On eBay's advice, I reported the incident to ACORN, the Australia cybercrime division. I didn't hear anything back from them, but I was eventually contacted by a police officer asking for more details and evidence, which I promptly supplied. A couple of weeks later my money was refunded. I wasn't really expecting that. I reported the guy because I felt that he should not be allowed to get away with ripping people off. Getting my money back was an added bonus.
I've been cagey here and held back some specific key details. That's because the case is still ongoing and the police intend to follow through with prosecution. The police have not succeeded in finding any other victims of this fraudster aside from myself, although they suspect that there may be others that have not reported him. There is some evidence that the same item was for sale on Gumtree, but apparently Gumtree's papertrail system is less than adequate.
Anyway, the moral of this story:
1. Pay by PayPal if possible, because they automatically provide insurance against fraud.
2. If you get scammed, then don't hesitate to report it.
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