Pam Magwaza (23) from Cape Town shares how she was almost scammed by someone who offered to buy her expensive camera on a popular classifieds website.
I never thought that I would ever fall victim to an internet scam, as I have always considered myself quite a social-media savvy person. But I have to admit I almost fell prey to this one – and it would have cost me my beloved DSLR camera. I had just moved to Cape Town to start my dream job and as anyone who has ever had to relocate will know, it will cost you a pretty penny.
Unfortunately, my brother was getting married at home in Durban a few days after my cross-country move. After doing a few calculations I realised I could never afford a return flight to Durbs. But he's my brother and it was his big day – so I made the decision to sell my camera.
As every millennial knows, the next step was to take pictures of my camera and upload it to Facebook and some buy-and-sell websites. Soon I had I received a couple of offers for my camera, but they were significantly lower than my asking price. Until I got an SMS from a buyer asking me to email them if the camera was still available.
I did just that, and someone calling themselves Heyns Schoeman offered to buy my camera fro R3 700! My asking price was only R3 300.
I should’ve known something was off right then.
I asked "Heyns" to deposit the money into my account and then I would send him the camera. He told me that he was off-shore and could not deposit the money into a bank, but he could send the money via PayPal.
Now, I had heard of PayPal but wasn’t too keen on using something I wasn't used to. But on the other hand I was desperate to get to my brother’s wedding, and I had several friends who had used the service. I went ahead and created a PayPal account.
I sent my new friend Heyns my PayPal details – basically just an email address. I then received an e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org which looks perfectly normal to a person who's never used PayPal before.
But I started suspecting something wasn't right when I received no notification on my PayPal app on my phone. After some thought, I dismissed it and figured it was because the transaction was still pending.
I decided to do a bit more research into PayPal, when I discovered that in some cases the money may take three to 21 days to reflect. My brother's wedding was in two days and I still had to book flight! I just couldn’t afford to wait that long so I emailed my “buyer” and told him my problem. I told him I had decided to cancel the sale, and he should take his money back.
He responded saying he was desperate for the camera, and the transaction should be instant. I felt sorry for him so I decided to just go ahead with it.
The following day I got up early and popped into my nearest courier service, paying R200 for my package to be packed and sent. Chatting to the young man at the counter, I began telling him about PayPal and how they wanted my tracking number before my money was cleared. His smile turned to a frown.
It didn't sound right, he said, so he came up with a plan to make sure the "buyer" was legit.
He told me they would package the camera and give me a tracking number, but keep the camera at their offices until my money had reflected. I thought this was really clever and I did just that.
Upon returning from my break, I emailed “Paypal” and they sent me this email back:
I then sent through my scan. As I waited for them to reply, my eye caught the secondary email address next to the Service@Paypal.com. This was odd so I googled “mail2world.com”. I found that this was a free email service and this made me suspicious.
I went onto the PayPal site and looked up help for potential scams. I could have kicked myself for not doing this earlier: They explicitly state they would never ask for a receipt or tracking number before a user has received the money. I then forwarded all the emails to Spoof@paypal.com and they confirmed it.
I was being scammed!
Straight away, I called the helpful courier and asked them not to mail my camera. Then I emailed the “buyer” and told them that I knew what they were up to – but I was too late. The email address was no longer active.
Two days later, the scammer came back to ask me what was going on. I told him again that I was onto him.
I never heard from him again.
So the moral of my tale? Be careful when sending or receiving money online! PayPal is a tried and tested service – but there are con-men out there looking to exploit users. I almost lost my camera, not to mention wasting to much time on a scammer.
The worst part? I never made it to my brother’s wedding."
Spoofing/Phishing is a criminal attempt and sometimes criminals try to trick the customer by sending an email that looks like it is from companies like PayPal and encouraging them to click on a link that takes them to a site that is not PayPal.
PayPal advises its customers to never click on links in emails, even if the email looks like it is from a trusted source.
Always copy and paste the link into a browser and look for https in front of the address to ensure you are on a legitimate, secure web site like PayPal. For more information click here.
This is also a helpful link to identify if an email is genuinely from PayPal.
This story was submitted to YOU and has been minimally edited. Do you have a story to tell? Send an email to Pam.Magwaza@you.co.za.