When Alex Gorodetsky received a text message on his cellphone inquiring about a pair of shoes he posted on online classified website Kijiji, he had no reason to believe the person texting him was a scam artist.
“In a nutshell the text basically asked me if I could ship a particular pair of sneakers to western Africa,” said Gorodetsky, an avid shoe collector living in Toronto. “At first I thought everything was all good up until I got the exact same text message two more times that day about an hour apart from each other.”
PayPal has sent out emails within the past few weeks notifying users of fraudulent activity occurring between buyers and sellers worldwide. The online payment processor warned sellers to be weary of emails and messages that may come across as suspicious, and to report any strange activity as soon as possible.
I was ready to go buy my shipping boxes and labels up until I got the second text with the exact same wording asking me to ship to western Africa. At that point I was thinking that something was definitely wrong with this picture.
Gorodetsky, who has been in the business of buying and selling sneakers for almost 10 years, said he has never encountered any problems shipping to buyers around the globe, but was not willing to risk it when he received three of the same texts in one day.
“I can’t count the number of times PayPal has compensated me whenever I filed a dispute, so for this reason I didn’t really think it was a big deal that somebody wanted me to ship shoes to Africa,” he said. “I was ready to go buy my shipping boxes and labels up until I got the second text with the exact same wording asking me to ship to western Africa. At that point I was thinking that something was definitely wrong with this picture.”
Fraudulent buyers and sellers using PayPal are not uncommon and it is up to PayPal to find these scam artists, said PayPal dispute centre representative Joel Chevalier.
“Every year we get tons of emails and phone calls from angry buyers and sellers complaining about fraud or fake merchandise they’ve received,” he said. “We always have to up our security in terms of transactions because these guys are always finding new ways to scam our customers which leaves us to stay very meticulous of each and every one of these transactions.”
PayPal received many complaints in November about suspicious text messages from people asking for items to be shipped around the globe, Chevalier said.
“Basically they use a fake PayPal email address to make the sellers think they’re sending an invoice of an item to an authentic buyer who will genuinely pay for the items,” he said. “We always send emails to keep our customers aware of the fraudulence going on in order to keep them wise.”
With the holiday shopping season underway, trusting who to buy or sell to is increasingly important due to the high frequency of scams occurring worldwide, Chevalier said.
“We know a lot of people are doing Christmas shopping right now and that includes online shopping,” Chevalier said. “We urge PayPal users to purchase items from legitimate online stores and to sell only to those who have a number or references to vouch for their reliability.”