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Avon and Somerset Constabulary Latest News

Fake email scam warning

Police are warning people who sell goods on auction sites to beware of email scammers.

Anyone using these on-line sites should be aware of the dangers of sending out goods before you have received any money.

One scam, that seems to be happening more frequently, involves people visiting sites such as E-Bay, Trade It or Gumtree, posing as genuine buyers and tricking people into sending their property to an address, (normally overseas) in the belief it has already been paid for.

The fake buyers offer a price for something they want and then say they will make a payment through PayPal.

PayPal can be used to make purchases online. The user sets up an account and funds can be transferred into, or paid out of that account. This eliminates the need to give out credit card or bank account numbers, making it a more secure method of payment.

However, these fake buyers then send sellers fraudulent PayPal emails that look very genuine.

The email claims to be a notification of funds pending that will be paid into the sellers' PayPal account as soon as a tracking reference number is given to ensure the items have already been posted.

The sellers then post off their property and email the tracking number in the belief that the money has already been paid and is waiting to be transferred, but they never see a penny.

Max Wilshaw, from Bristol, was recently a victim when he tried to sell his iPhone on E-Bay.

Mr Wilshaw said: "The person put a bid in for it but then emailed me separately on my personal email.

"They said they were in a hurry to get it and would pay a bit extra to cover the cost of me sending it by special delivery through Royal Mail. But they specified it had to be Royal Mail.

"Then I got an email, so say from PayPal, which said that £600 was pending payment into my account but that I needed a mail tracking reference number in order for the funds to be released.

"When I think about it in hindsight there were little signs, but I guess I was in a such a hurry to get the money and get rid of the phone that I didn't see it.

"When I look at the "sent from" address on the email it's actually slightly different to the genuine PayPal address, but the email had all the PayPal and E-Bay logos on it so it all looked very official.

"It's really annoyed me because now I'm out of pocket and I didn't realise that once you send something with Royal Mail, even if it hasn't gone yet, they can't interfere with it or retrieve it because it is "the Queen's post".

"So even though I realised very quickly that I had been conned I couldn't get the package back. Thinking about it, that is probably why the scammers specified that I use Royal Mail.

"I would advise anyone sending goods to make sure they don't physically send it until the money is in their PayPal account. In future I would probably use a private courier service as they can actually stop a delivery in its tracks."

DC Greg Brunt, from the financial investigation unit said:"PayPal will NEVER send an email asking for a tracking reference number.

"If you do receive correspondence from PayPal or even a site like E-Bay and you are not sure if it is genuine, you can always ring those companies directly and find out.

"The awful thing about this scam is that not only do the sellers lose their property, but often they are left out of pocket because they have paid large sums of money for post and packaging, especially those selling large items.

"The best way to avoid being a victim of this type of fraud is to not send any goods out until you can see the funds in your PayPal account.

"If you can't see it, simply wait."

Published: 08/03/2011 11:27:25

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