No one is immune to online (or offline scams). In today’s age of convenience, there are scammers and con-artists at every turn looking to dupe innocent and unsuspecting marks out of their hard earned money. There was a time when email scams consisted mainly of suspicious lotteries that you may have won or a wealthy sheik/king/prince looking to bestow on you a lifetime of wealth, but the cons have transcended emails and become more elaborate – and personal.
A second-hand sale
This scam that came to light after it was shared on WhatsApp is so convincing, the ploy behind it is almost genius. Atul Potnis, a resident of Marcel, Goa, was looking to sell his guitar online. After having posted an advertisement on olx.com, a popular second-hand sales website, he was contacted on by a person named Mark Anthony living abroad, but looking to buy the guitar for his child in India.
Mr. Anthony agrees on a sale price of Rs. 6000, and after confirming the location of the guitar, says that the courier charges to pick up and deliver the guitar amounts to Rs. 5000. He asks Mr. Potnis for his PayPal information so that he may deposit the amount. Everything seems pretty legitimate up until this point, till the confirmation email arrives. Mr.Potnis receives an email from PayPal saying that his account has been deposited with Rs. 11,000 – but there’s a catch. The money in the account is on hold till the courier charges have been paid. Once payment of Rs. 5000 is made to the courier company and a receipt is presented, apparently only then will the Rs. 11,000 be released.
The con comes to light
It’s at this point that Mr. Potnis realizes that something does not add up. He first asks Mr. Anthony why the messages are not being delivered to his PayPal account, and to his inbox instead. He also asks Mr. Anthony why the courier charges were supposedly credited to him, and not directly to the courier company. Mr. Anthony tries to assure him that the money in the PayPal account is on hold, and will be credited once the courier charges are paid. He even goes as far as to call with an account number to transfer the courier charges. Mr. Potnis agrees to make the transfer on one condition. If the total amount of Rs. 11,000 is released, he will subsequently make the payment. It was then that Mr. Potnis realized that in addition to this shady exchange, the email address from the supposed PayPal account wasn’t legitimate. He called out Mr. Anthony on the scam and threatened to report him to the Cyber Cell, following which Mr. Anthony ended the chat and removed his Olx account.
How to spot a scam
- Be aware of where the inquiry is coming from. If it’s an international buyer, it’s most probably fake.
- If it seems too good to be true, it most probably is. Always be wary of people looking to give you your asking price immediately.
- If you’re selling an item, you need to be on the receiving end of any money. If you’re being asked to pay for anything, it’s most likely a scam.
- Google is your friend. Cross check any and all emails or message details with Google. Look for discrepancies in logos or email addresses. In this case, the main address looks legitimate, but the address below does not match up.
- Always be aware of spelling mistakes and bad grammar. Legitimate companies rarely ever make mistakes.
- If you feel like this may be a scam, reach out to the Cyber Cell for assistance before making any payments.