Be careful on ebay classifieds: these tricks of scammers you should know about

For 850 euros a man has advertised his e-bike for sale on a classifieds portal. An interested party contacts me by e-mail, we agree, then an e-mail comes from the "royal bank of canada": a payment of 1.150 euro will be released to the seller, if the seller pays 300 euro to the forwarding company "boyd logistics LLC" transfers.

fraud on the internet can affect anyone

This is how one user describes his case on a consumer portal on the internet – and he is far from the only one. "I did not think that I would be caught too." if chief inspector hans-joachim henschel hears one sentence over and over again, it’s this one. "It can affect anyone, old, young, people from all walks of life." henschel is responsible for cybercrime prevention at the lower saxony state criminal police office (LKA).

Among the fraud schemes are currently those with fictitious shipping companies and fictitious e-mails from payment or shipping service providers – as in the case with the e-bike. "The alleged buyer is located abroad and therefore cannot collect the goods himself", henschel describes the trick.

Caution: cheating with transport costs

the fraudster pretends to hire a transport company to pick up the goods. sometimes the seller receives fake e-mails from banks, payment or shipping service providers like paypal or DHL, which are supposed to make the purchase credible. Sometimes also with the lawyer is threatened. If the seller transfers the alleged transport costs, the contact is broken off, the money is gone. This method is mainly used for large and high-priced goods such as furniture or cars.

For smaller objects such as watches or cell phones, there are other tricks that are no less brazen. The seller is supposed to send the goods as a gift to a supposed friend or relative of the buyer and, on top of that, sometimes get and enclose credit cards for online stores or streaming services. The alleged buyer allegedly wants to transfer the money for goods and cards in advance.

But of course the seller never sees the money. Either because the amount is transferred from hijacked accounts and later reclaimed, or because the payment is only faked with fake e-mails from payment service providers or banks. "Sometimes it’s even ‘tell me the coupon codes in advance’", explains henschel, more or less as a safeguard in case the package is lost.

Protection against fraud: investigate when you get a funny feeling

You can avoid such fraud attempts by consistently communicating via the classifieds portal and not using other e-mail addresses or messengers. The websites of consumer advice centers, the police or the watchlist internet also feature current scams. If you have a funny feeling, you can check there if there have been similar cases already.

consumers should use buyer protection options when it comes to sales with shipping or alleged pickup by transport service providers. "With paypal, there is no protection if the money is sent via ‘friends and family’", explains julia rehberg from the consumer advice center in hamburg.

For the paypal option "item or service" a fee is charged, but the buyer also gets his money back if he can prove that the goods have not arrived or that the item does not correspond to the description, explains rehberg.

Use escrow services for payments

At ebay-kleinanzeigen there is also the option "secure payment", but not yet available for all sales. Here, the money is held in trust until the goods have arrived. This also costs a fee, and the seller is only allowed to send the goods insured.

The mother of all classifieds fraud is, of course, the prepayment scam: you transfer money to the seller in advance, virtually out of the blue, and have to hope that the seller will send the goods, explains rehberg. "prepayment is of course unsafe, i don’t know if i will get the goods."

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In all cases of fraud, the advice in the end is not to leave it at that, but to file a report in any case, says chief inspector of criminal investigations henschel. "Even for 20 euros, even if it is embarrassing."

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