Sale of merchandise scams

The scam

A fraudster agrees to buy your item, often too quickly and without seeing it.

How it works

In one version, the fraudster will agree to buy your item and you receive a PayPal or email money notification that claims the payment is pending. However, it states the payment will only be released when you provide a tracking number for the goods. By the time you enter the tracking number, you’ll have already shipped the merchandise only to learn that the payment notification was a fake.

In another version, the scammer may send you a message that says the payment can’t be sent due to a problem with your PayPal or bank account. You’ll be asked to pay a fee to obtain a business account to complete the transaction. The scammer offers to pay the fee if you reimburse them using a transfer or wire service.

In other cases, you might get paid with a fake money transfer, a fraudulent cheque or a stolen credit card. Or, you may receive a cheque for an amount that is higher than the actual purchase price and asked to wire the excess funds (the overpayment) immediately back to them. Once your bank realizes the cheque is a fake, you’ll be on the hook for the money withdrawn.

How to spot it

If you sell items online, you need to be careful who you sell to, as there is a risk of being targeted by tricksters who want to take your merchandise, money, or both.

Protect yourself

  • Always meet in a local, public and safe place to complete an exchange.
  • Beware of generic emails with bad grammar.
  • Beware of geographically distant buyers who want to buy products or other items without seeing them.
  • Verify the sender’s email address—scammers will often create addresses that are very similar to legitimate ones, with just one or two different letters.
  • Never send money to get money.

Further reading