These scammers typically act as interested buyers, who claim they cannot pick the item up themselves and will have a family member do so on their behalf – offering to pay in advance.
Just like Penelope did, targets will then receive emails that request payments be made to “PayID” to settle fake overpayments, “upgrade” or “unlock” their accounts. Often these scam emails claim that by putting a smaller amount of money in your account, you’ll be able to access a bigger payment.
A similar scam involves requesting payment “through Facebook Marketplace”, with the buyer often claiming it’s a safe payment service designed for the protection of buyers and sellers. But Facebook Marketplace doesn’t have a payment service. Instead of directing you to a legitimate platform, scammers will send you a dodgy hyperlink to phish for your details and then empty your bank account.
Then there are the more old-school scams. Those selling an item may be asked to post it before they receive a payment. Or a scammer may send you a fake receipt for their “payment”, then contact their bank to cancel the payment they made to you after they received the goods. Some may claim they never received an item in the mail – even though they did – in an attempt to get their money back.
Buyers should be wary of scam sellers asking them to send funds in advance, or put down a deposit, as they may end up receiving nothing in return. And some buyers have also been sent different goods to what they purchased.
How to stay safe online
The exact form of marketplace scams is likely to keep shifting shape. But one reliable way to stay safe when buying and selling online is to only pay for goods, or accept payment for goods, in person.
“You should never agree to pay for goods in advance,” says James Roberts, General Manager of Group Fraud Management at Commonwealth Bank. “If the seller pressures you or implies it’s urgent that you pay in advance, it is likely a scam.”
“If you can, pick up the item locally, in person, and inspect it carefully before paying.”
After her experience, Penelope says she plans to take more time to investigate who she’s talking to on Facebook Marketplace. For instance, if the account on the other end only has one photo and joined the platform just last year, that’s a strong sign it may be a fake profile set up with the intent of defrauding people.
Now, Penelope plans to be extra cautious when buying and selling online.
“[The experience] definitely made me more wary and less likely to give out any information on myself – I probably wouldn’t give someone my email address again,” she says.
“It’s such a wild west, Marketplace.”
*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.
Hear the inner workings of prevalent scams shared by cyber security experts, law enforcement officers and warnings from scam victims themselves in the podcast Anatomy of a Scam hosted by Deb Knight – a new season airs on 28 November.
Learn more about how we’re keeping you CommBank Safe by visiting commbank.com.au/safe
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