If you’ve been doing business online, I’m sure you’ve encountered a few “phishing” emails claiming to be from eBay or PayPal. These are the ones that tend to look surprisingly like the real thing, but are actually designed for the purpose of stealing your identity. Click the link in the email, and you’re taken to a fake page that looks like the real thing asking you to log into your account or verify your information. If you do this, an identity thief now has your log-in information and the ability to hijack your account. Old news, right?
While you may be able to avoid falling prey to phishing emails by now, there’s another burgeoning scam that you should be aware of. This one is designed to fool sellers into shipping items without receiving payment, and it’s just clever enough that if you’re not careful it could be easy to fall for it.
How does it work? Well, it starts out innocently enough. The buyer “purchases” an item and you get the official “Congratulations, your item sold!” email from eBay. This is good news, but wait — suddenly there’s an email from the buyer. The buyer asks if they pay you right away, can you mail the item today. They might give an excuse, like they’re about to leave the country or it’s a special gift for a family member.
Sounds reasonable, right? So you say yes – after all, who doesn’t want to finalize a sale? The minute you hit “send” you get an email from PayPal stating that they’ve received the money. Great! You just made a sale and the buyer has paid. It’s time to ship the item now — or is it?
Here’s the tricky part – the email from PayPal was a fake! This means that if you hurriedly write the shipping address out by hand instead of using eBay or PayPal to print out your shipping labels, you could be sending your item to someone who never paid for it.
Unfortunately, quite a few eBay sellers have fallen prey to this type of scam — but now that you know it’s out there, it’s relatively easy to make sure a transaction is on the up and up:
1. Open a new browser window, go to www.paypal.com, and log into your PayPal account. Make sure the money is really in your account. Remember, you should never click on the link for PayPal provided to you in any sort of email. Instead, always go to the PayPal website and log in to your account from there.
2. Look at the buyer’s feedback. If there is no feedback or a lot of negative feedback, this is a clear indication to investigate further before you ship out your item.
3. Check to ensure that you are shipping to a “confirmed” PayPal address. If a buyer provides an unconfirmed address, it is usually best to email them and request a confirmed address for shipping. Since it’s possible that this is a new buyer, give them the benefit of the doubt and keep your email cordial, and also remember that if you decide to ship to an unconfirmed address, you will not qualify for PayPal’s Seller Protection.
This guest post was contributed by Kat Simpson. Kat is a trusted eCommerce author, speaker, educator, and entrepreneur. Kat Simpson has been a successful eCommerce merchant for over 10 years; is an eBay Education Specialist and Gold Level PowerSeller, as well as a successful Amazon merchant. Currently Kat is the hosts the popular weekly eCommerce Podcast That Kat Radio and an active Facebook Group ThatKat.