“Internet scam” is a general term used to describe any process in which a person is coerced out of money or products. I don’t like the word “scam,” I feel like it is too dismissible. Really, it is just thievery adapted to a new platform. As technology evolves, so will crime and dishonesty.
And just as it is hard to identify a mugger in a dark alley, it can be hard to identify who has stolen money from you. Fraudulent accounts, remote VPN, irreversible payment methods, etc.
However, we can combat this. We can listen to our gut feelings and our instincts to sniff out foul play. Thieves are actively manifesting negativity, and we, as normal “good” people, can sense this. An easy way to train yourself to act on this is by using the process of red flags, which I’m sure you’ve heard mentioned in the group before.
A red flag is anything you encounter throughout a transaction that makes you say “that doesn’t seem right,” or “why doesn’t this match that?”
I will define two scenarios in which I have lost money, and point out the red flags that were EASY to spot.
Scenario 1 (AKA Chris is was a dumbass) May, 2019
I was contacted by a person claiming to be Karl Beauchamp (438)978-6585 in Montreal. He wanted to buy my vintage gold Rolex Day-Date. He said Cash On Delivery was the only option, to which I declined but said I’d be open to a trade.
He said he had a 126710BLRO. I said how much on top for the BLRO? We agreed on $7500CAD (~$5600 USD). Going rates for the BLRO were around $17k-18k, and my DD was worth at max ~$8k.
He had some technology issues, using an older BlackBerry, and could not text pictures. His claimed age of 53 made me think that he just never got on the technology train. Pictures from him came by email, texts by phone.
To make the trade work, both of us would ship at the same time. The trade balance would be collected by UPS upon delivery of the GMT to me. I ordered a cashier’s check for the balance.
I paid over $200 for a shipping label from South Carolina to Montreal, declared an insurance value of $8500. He seemed perturbed that I declared a high value, and even stated that wasn’t “the smartest thing to do…”
He agreed to pay half of the pending customs fees, to be taken out of the COD balance (no cash out of pocket for him, keeps the deal going). We both left to go to our respective shippers around the same time on a Wednesday afternoon. I promptly sent a picture of the receipt with tracking number, as well as the cashier’s check.
Nothing from him, but three hours later he said that his phone is a bit dated, and that tracking from UPS hasn’t been updated yet.
Around 4am he sent me a screenshot of a different tracking number, headed to California.
When I awoke on Thursday and saw this, I put a hold on my watch, to be picked up at a FedEx location. (At this point, I was pretty sure I was being scammed).
Customs then selected it for inspection, due to high value. He was a bit upset, and there’s a whole thread on The Rolex Forums generated by him (lorislav) about what to do since “his” package had been rerouted.
I asked for pictures of the UPS receipt, he said he threw it out. I asked why they didn’t scan the package in, he said they just put the label on it and put it aside.
He went back to UPS store, and stated that they thought he had wanted to send the watch to California, something he had done before.
After some back and forth about who messed up what, he went back to the UPS store and bought a $25 standard shipping label, claiming it was proof of change, and with a new tracking number. The picture he sent me was of him holding a label, not a label on a box.
Friday, the watch had still not been picked up by UPS. Meanwhile, my watch was sitting in customs (thank God).
Memorial Day weekend, I was somehow able to put all of this out of my head and enjoy time with my family.
Tuesday, my watch had cleared customs, and he wants to change who it’s picking it up, he sent me a picture of the passport and license of Donato Lavecchia, his father, born in 1968. I ask how this person is the father of a 53 year old. He states he is not 53, but 33.
Fedex calls me and says WTF is up with this guy? I say don’t release that package to anyone, and they say trust us, we’re not. They then tell me that he called FedEx pretending to be me, to try and get it released to Donato Lavecchia.
I call the UPS store in Montreal that he shipped from, and they say he never left the package with them.
Fedex sent me the watch back to me, at my expense, and I have still not been reimbursed the ~$1800 customs fees that were charged to my account.
How did I let it go on for so long? I was greedy. I still remember sitting on my bed one of those days, looking at my phone and thinking “this doesn’t seem right. But when that Pepsi gets, here…man that is going to be so awesome!”
Scenario 2 (AKA Chris was is still a dumbass) Sept 23, 2020
In a Jeep Wrangler group on FB, someone named Thiago Nguyen posted some pictures of a wrecked Jeep that he was parting out. Profile picture of Thiago was a standard looking white guy.
I said I wanted the LED lights and the top end head unit, he quoted a decent price, I made a lower offer, and he accepted. Said cashapp only. The name on the cashapp account @dolphin07 is Dalene Ikegwuonu.
At this point, you’re probably thinking “goddammit, Chris is one dumb motherfucker.” And you’re right. I was seriously thinking “who the hell is going to scam people via Jeep parts? And since I’m so used to dealing with high $$$ transactions now, I was thinking “it’s only $1200, who’s going to try and steal that?” here for my dumbassery. If you ever have a thought that stupid, call off the deal immediately.
I sent $1200 to Thiago/Dalene, and like 2 hours later I looked at the Jeep group and someone posted a screenshot of that guys post with a “watch out for this scammer” warning.
Trust your red flags! A greedy mindset will allow you to be stupid. The prospect of getting a great deal can overwhelm every bit of caution you give yourself. I convinced myself to bypass several issues just to make the deal work. This can happen on lower end deals too! You might find yourself saying “I really just want to make this deal work,” and that is when you can not only get scammed, but you can end up negotiating poorly.
Here are some red flags:
No Facebook/social media profiles
No valid driver’s license or ID
Names on accounts do not match
Cash on Delivery
Great deals you didn’t negotiate
Them upset with you for being honest
Willing to sacrifice “future money” just to make a deal work
Shipping info not updated as agreed
Only accept non-reversible payments
Banned forum account
Banned from Facebook groups
Changing a deal after you’ve fulfilled your part
With my watch transactions, I call off ANY deal if I encounter one red flag. Sometimes, an older person may not have a FB, but they can always provide an ID, will talk on the phone, and their info always lines up.
PS- There were even more red flags in the first scenario. He sent a photo of the Pepsi, and in the background there was a computer screen with TRF pulled up showing user spo888, When I looked up that user, it was a banned account.
At one point after I had already rerouted the package, I asked him to provide identification. He didn’t have one, and showed me some blank pages for applying for a health insurance ID instead.