Crossing Paths With A Professional Nigerian Internet Scam Artist
If you are selling your iPod online like me, beware of this crook!
I have to share something with you today that has absolutely nothing at all to do with livin' la vida low-carb, but is too important for me not to share. Especially if you engage in selling items on the Internet on popular trading post sites like eBay and Amazon, then you will most definitely want to pay attention to the following story that just happened to me.
I've been regularly selling all kinds of products online for over ten years, including music CDs, DVDs, videos, as well as the occasional electronic device to pull in a little extra cash when money gets tight. For the most part, the transactions have been seamless and I've gotten paid sans the small percentage that eBay or Amazon takes to make their money.
It's an easy thing for virtually anyone to make out well, especially if you price your merchandise competitively against the competition. Don't you wish everything you bought was handled this way? Sure would make prices come down on those really expensive items you want.
Anywho, I recently put my iPod up for sale at Amazon because I purchased the new iPhone (I'll be sharing my experience with this bad boy soon, but let's just say it's WORTH EVERY PENNY!) and no longer need it. The iPod was a little more costly than the CDs and DVDs I post, but I didn't think twice about listing it there.
Within days, I received a flurry of e-mail inquiries about the iPod and what all came with it. All the questions people had about what I was specifically selling were promptly answered, but no sale. Then on Tuesday I received another message from Amazon that a potential buyer had a question for me about the iPod.
Here's that e-mail from Amazon and the prospective customer:
Hello from Amazon.com.
A potential buyer has sent you the following message about an item you have for sale on Amazon.com, or about your store at Amazon.com. Please respond to the individual directly by replying to this e-mail. For your reference, the buyer's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Item: Apple Ipod 20GB 4th Generation [ASIN: B000JVWED6 ]
Important Notice: The following order payment methods are not covered for reimbursement by the Amazon.com A-to-z Guarantee: wire transfer, money orders, check, cash, or credit card transactions that occur off Amazon.com. Only orders using Amazon Payments are supported. This is the payment system used when you use 1-Click or the Shopping Cart to place orders through the Amazon.com Web site.
-------------- Begin message ---------------------
Apple Ipod 20GB 4th Generation
Used from $149.99
i an intrested in buying this item,can i pay to amazon?
-------------- End message ------------------------
Notice: Amazon.com may retain copies of all forwarded e-mails, and takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for the content of any messages forwarded to you.
Amazon.com will never e-mail you and ask you to disclose or verify your Amazon.com password, credit card, or banking account number. If you receive a suspicious e-mail with a link to update your account information, do not click on the link--instead report the e-mail to Amazon.com for investigation. Go to amazon.com/phish to find out more.
It was an odd question since most people already know you pay Amazon for the sale directly, but I graciously replied back with the following e-mail:
Sure! If you select my iPod to purchase, then you pay Amazon, I ship you the iPod and Amazon pays me. I look forward to your order. :) THANKS!
After sending that e-mail response late Tuesday night, I then received the following e-mail plea from the buyer whose name is "Mrs Sara Sam" on Wednesday morning with special instructions about how and where she wanted her iPod shipped:
Date: Wednesday, August 8, 2007 9:38 AM
From: Mrs Sara Sam
To: Jimmy Moore Livin' La Vida Low-Carb
Subject: Re: Product details inquiry from Amazon customer
Size: 5 KB
Thanks for the reply.I have just made my payment to amazon. Please this item is to be shipped to my husband who went on a forestry resarch in Nigeria he called me that the one he went along with to Nigeria dropped and got damaged so he asked me to help him send another one.But for now i am not in the state i am in Germany for a seminar from my working my office and i will not be back until next two week.
So i will like you to help me ship it to him in Nigeria directly i have paid enough to amazon for the shipping please kindly help me ship it out to him as soon as possible as he compalined he needs it urgently.And please king ship it with USPS Global express mail.
Here is my husband address in Nigeria where the item should be shipped to.
MR A.O Samson
Please email me for any question. THANKS FOR THE SALES
At this point, HUGE red flags were going off that something was just not right. Why was the buyer contacting me about these special instructions, hmmm? Wouldn't she just place the order through Amazon and then indicate how she wants it shipped with them?
Plus, the extremely poor English was a clever ruse and could very well be accurate for this person. But shipping to Nigeria would cost me a bundle, especially for overnight service. Nevertheless, "Mrs Sara Sam" assured me she included enough money to cover the shipping costs as well.
Now, as if all of that wasn't stranger than fiction, here's the really freaky part of the story that probably would have convinced an unsuspecting newbie seller to mail their iPod to Nigeria. Hopefully this will keep this from ever happening to you in the future!
I received the following "official" e-mail confirmation from Amazon about 30 minutes prior to hearing from "Mrs Sara Sam" and her impassioned begging for me to mail the iPod as soon as possible:
Date: Wednesday, August 8, 2007 9:03 AM
From: Paymentemail@example.com .
Subject: AMAZON PAYMENT CONFIRMATION APPROVED.
Size: 19 KB
You have been sent an Amazon Payment of $269.99 from one of our clients, Mrs Sara Sam for the item purchase from you (Apple Ipod 20GB 4th Generation).
BUYER PAYMENT STATUS
Amazon Order #72484884912434775180
Order Placed 08/07/2007
Buyer Billing Information:
Status Processed successfully
Card Type VISA
Card Number 4***********1166
Exp. Date 10/2008
Name on Card Mrs Sara Sam
Street Address 1127, West 9th Street
City, State, Zip Washington, Missouri 63090
Seller Payment Information:
Amazon Item Description Apple Ipod 20GB 4th Generation
Buyer's Price $149.99
Postage & Handling $120.00
Total Amount $269.99
Seller e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org
Below is the shipment information as shown in the payment Master
Name: Mr A.O Sam
Address: P.O BOX 140
This Amazon payment has been deducted from the buyer's account and has been"APPROVED" but will be credited to your account as soon we are able to recieve the shipment tracking number sent to our customer's service for shipment verification so as to Secure Both the Buyer and the Seller. Below are the necessary information requested before your account will be credited.
1: Make sure you receive the Amazon Payment comfirmation before any shipment.
2 : Make sure the approved mail contains the total amount for the item bought.
3 : Make sure you ship the item to the address the buyer gave to you which is written above, immediately you receive the approved comfirmation.
4 : Make sure the shipment tracking number is sent to our customers service for shipment verification so as to secure both the buyer and the seller. Make sure the shipment tracking number is sent to us ONLY through. ( email@example.com)
5: Make sure the shipment tracking number is mailed to us ONLY and not the buyer.
You can contact our customer service at (firstname.lastname@example.org)Thanks for using Amazon We look forward in serving your online payment. Amazon.com; An Amazon's Company
Very official-looking...um, sorta. HA! I've dealt with Amazon long enough to know they wouldn't allow that many mistakes to get through in their very precise e-mail verbage.
Incidentally, that address in Washington, MO is legitimate according to Google Maps, but I didn't find a listing for A.O. or Sara Sam anywhere. Weird would be putting it very nicely at this point.
As if all of that wasn't throwing massive bells and whistles off in my mind (and it had long done before I got this far in the process), looky what I found at the very bottom of that last e-mail which supposedly came from Amazon:
Get your free email from http://freemail.asiamail.com
Why would Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, need a free email account, hmmm? Also, why would they need to use another web hosting service like mailpanda.com (notice the e-mail came from email@example.com) when they've probably got unlimited e-mail accounts for amazon.com?
These professional Internet scam artists aren't exactly the brightest bunch in the world now are they? Of course, they're trying to hit the most gullible people who aren't privy to their devious and deceptive tactics.
I guess they didn't realize who they were messin' with this time! :D
My many years of experience being online and selling items prevented me from becoming yet another victim. Here are my five easy tips you need to be aware of so you don't ever get trapped by these idiotic crooks:
1. Always confirm orders through the selling agency. Amazon started requiring sellers a few months back to go online to complete their transactions in part, no doubt, because of these kinds of fraudulent practices that are happening. When I checked my Amazon seller account for this sale from "Mrs Sara Sam," there was no order for my iPod listed there. ALWAYS CHECK FIRST BEFORE SHIPPING!
2. NEVER follow the personal shipping instructions you receive from a buyer. All the details about your order will be provided by the selling agency and Amazon will even send you an e-mail to let you know you made a sale. They DO NOT send anything like a confirmation approval e-mail like these Nigerian shysters did.
3. This goes for any e-mail, but look out for punctuation in the subject line. That's usually a clear sign that there's something screwy going on around here. You'll notice in that e-mail that was allegedly from Amazon confirming the sale, the subject line read "AMAZON PAYMENT CONFIRMATION APPROVED." with the period at the end. Nobody puts a period in an e-mail subject line.
4. Additionally, check the specifics of the e-mail address in the "From" for any e-mail you receive. The one in the example above showed "Paymentfirstname.lastname@example.org .
5. Don't ship internationally unless you are absolutely CERTAIN of the sale. The cost to ship that iPod would have run about as much as what I was asking for it. So not only would "Mrs Sara Sam" run off with my iPod and deprive me of my money for it, but I'd also be out over $100 for the expedited Global shipping. Double whammy!
You'll be pleased to know I didn't fall for this trick and ironically sold the iPod while writing this blog post. See, everything works out in the end after all! That is, if you stay alert, be smart, and refuse to get taken by the professional Nigerian scam artists that are out there.
They're waiting for their next victim...don't let it be YOU!!!