Free online sales sites are easy pickings for scammers looking to cash in on sellers offering valuable goods such as camper trailers.
Camper Trailer Australia contributor David Cook experienced this first-hand when he tried to sell his old camper.
"I was inundated with phone-shy ‘buyers’ enquiring about my camper trailer – including one who was willing to purchase sight unseen," Cook said.
The dodgy ‘customers’ adopt a typical pattern that will likely start with a text message requesting you to respond via email. There will probably be an explanation as to why they can’t talk to the seller directly, and why they can't come and look at the camper.
Cook said sellers will almost certainly receive an enquiry as to whether or not they have a PayPal account, and if you don’t have one, they will want you to set one up.
"Through the course of their correspondence, they may try to mimic genuine buyer behaviours by requesting to see more photos or questioning whether or not it’s your best price, before claiming they’ll transfer the money via PayPal and arrange for somebody to pick it up on their behalf," Cook said.
"In reality, the scammer isn’t trying to buy the camper, he or she is out to send you through a false payment system and maybe elicit a refund, and pick up the camper and disappear before you realise you’ve been had."
HOW THE SCAM WORKS
Put simply, the scam works by the buyer 'accidentally overpaying' the seller via a scam PayPal site and requesting a refund from the seller for the overpayment, plus fees and charges which they will promise to refund.
If in doubt about a buyer's authenticity, simply respond that you will not accept payment via PayPal. It's worth noting here that PayPal is in no way at fault. The scammers will use a scam site, designed to look like PayPal, to 'make payment'.
Cook said the fact that these 'buyers' are willing to buy a valuable product sight-unseen is a red flag.
"As soon as a buyer agrees to buy without seeing it and are 'out of contact' be very wary," he said.
"We eventually sold our camper – months later – to a couple who rang and asked questions, then came to see it, liked what they saw and did the deal on the spot, returning with a bank cheque the next day. That’s how sales are made, not via SMS messages and emails to anonymous people using a prescribed method."