If you sell items online, watch out for this con. Scammers are fooling sellers with fake emails that appear to be payment confirmation messages from PayPal.
How the Scam Works
You post a big-ticket item (vehicle, computer, furniture) for sale on Craigslist, eBay or another online sales site.An interested buyer contacts you and says that he or she wants to buy the item right away and arranges to meet for the exchange.
When you arrive, however, the buyer doesn't have cash. Instead, they claim to have sent the money through PayPal. You check your email and, sure enough, you have what appears to be a message from PayPal confirming the transfer. The scammer may even claim that the transfer is "invisible," and that's why you can't see it in your PayPal account.
Of course, there is no such thing as an "invisible" transfer. The scammer didn't send any money, and is just trying to take your item without paying. Some versions of this scam also have an overpayment twist. In these, the scammer "accidentally" overpays you for the item. For example, he or she "sends" you $2,000 payment for the item you are selling for $200. Then, he or she requests that you wire back the difference. By the time you figure out the PayPal transfer was a fake, the scammer is long gone.
Tips to avoid online sales scams:
For More Information
Read more about selling on eBay, including what to do when sellers don't pay. Also, check out Craigslist's resources about avoiding scams when selling on the site.
To find out more about other scams or to report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.
Note: eBay is a BBB Accredited Businesses. Craigslist is not currently responding to BBB complaints and its rating reflects that.