I'm a tech-savvy 20-something – but an internet scammer almost conned me out of thousands

By Pam Magwaza
12 March 2017

"I should’ve known something was off."

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.pampaypallemail1I 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.

pampaypalemail2

I sent my new friend Heyns my PayPal details – basically just an email address. I then received an e-mail from service@paypal.com 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.

pampaypalemail3

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:

pampaypalemail4

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."

PAYPAL SAYS

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.

Have you fallen victim to a scam like this? Click the button below to upload your story.

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