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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Being Safe on Etsy: Spotting and Avoiding Advance Fee Fraud

It's important for us at Etsy to ensure our community is safe while using the site. Unfortunately there is no foolproof way to ensure safety online at all times. Sometimes all we can do is give information and hope that well informed users will be able to protect themselves. As the Etsy name spreads throughout popular culture and the world, it is bound to attract more and more unscrupulous individuals with ulterior motives. Unfortunately, this happens to web companies as they become more popular.

One of the most common scams is known as Advance-fee fraud. Also called the "Nigerian scam" or the "419 scam," this type of scam is frequently seen in emails where a person claims to be looking to engage in a business deal involving a large sum of money, but these scams are now cropping up more and more on online retail sites.

How this scam shows up on Etsy:

Typically this scam begins with the scammer sending out Conversations (also known as "Convos," Etsy's internal messaging system) to a wide range of Etsy sellers, specifically those that list one or more high priced items. In some cases the scammer may simply purchase some of these expensive listings. If they have checked out and committed to buy these listings, it's likely they have not "paid" in any sense and will send a Conversation along with their purchase.

The Convo will usually indicate that this buyer will pay with a money order or a cashier's check and will need to tack on an extra amount for their "shipping agent." Usually this amount is very high — sometimes even higher than the original cost of the listing. If this is agreed upon, then the buyer will send out the money order or check and typically a fake "invoice" from the shipping agent. They will then request that any over-payment from the money order be sent back to them.

This works because the check or money order (typically from an overseas bank) is a forgery. Your bank may allow you to deposit it, and then by the time the bank realizes it is a forgery, you have already sent back the over-payment to the scammer. Once the forgery is detected your bank will hold you liable for the amount, and now that the con artist has their money, you will not hear from them again.

What to do:

If you receive any suspicious Convos like this the best thing to do is ignore them and report it to Etsy's Support Team or forward the Convo notification email to abuse@etsy.com. If an item was purchased from your shop, you may cancel the transaction as well.

Sellers should never send any money in a situation like this, no matter what reason is given. If you do find yourself facing a potential loss, or realize too late that you were being targeted by a scam, be sure to contact your financial institution as soon as possible. You may also want to contact local law enforcement. Again, let us know about this and send us the pertinent information, so we can take steps to remove and block these types of users from our site. Please share this article with your family and friends so we can spread awareness!

More posts about Scams | Seller Handbook

1 comment:

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