This little story started after I’d bought a Ricoh GRD IV and GV-2 viewfinder. Due to some unforeseen financial issues, I realized I had to sell it. I didn’t think this would be a problem since I’d only used it around three or four times. So optimistically, I went about advertising on eBay, Gumtree and Craigslist. The next day I received an email via the Craigslist ad from ‘Pamela Richard’ asking for me to reply “asap”. This is where it all began.
I was already dubious about receiving a reply from Craigslist; this is after all, a site where I could sell myself if I wanted. I replied instantly to ‘Pamela’ hoping I’d sold the camera. My next response came at around two o’clock in the morning:
Okay……i will be paying you via my online account, I will also like you to send me your PayPal details (PayPal e-mail add) so i can be sure and effect payment to you right away. kindly consider it sold already cause am really interested in it, and delete the ad now because am making the transfer to your account now. Hope to know if its still in a good condition. Hope to hear from you soon….
With a naïve belief in a just world, I assumed the assertiveness was that of excitement and that they just wanted to lock in the purchase. Living in London and being used to ethnic diversity, I assumed the questionable language was from a non-native speaker. I also assumed that, because the ad was placed on the London Craigslist, they would be from London, or at least the same country.
Another email shortly followed asking if I was trustworthy and was, again, filled with that assertive tone: “let finalize this transaction as soon as possible. thanks…AWAIT YOUR RESPONSE..”. I told ‘Pamela’ to consider it sold and asked where they lived to see if a physical exchange was feasible. ‘Pamela’ replied, but avoided the question of locality:
Thanks……..am buying it as a present for a cousin coming up in 8days time and i will also add the post fee to your money on PayPal……get back to me now with your PayPal account email address o i can make your transfer.
I replied with my Paypal email and ‘Pamela’ replied asking if I had the original box and contents, to which I agreed I did. The next reply was telling:
i know PayPal will have mail you everything about the transaction, i just made the payment now and my account have been deducted with your funds, check your email address now and read it carefully…..so get the item shipped out today and reply back the PayPal receipt the tracking number so they will verify it and credit your account before the next 24hours so get the item shipped out now, go to the nearest post office and do that…..your account is on pending with PayPal due to some security reason and to protect buyers and sellers, once you send them the tracking number….they will confirm it and credit your account….kindly made the shipment now through Via ***USPS Global Express Mail International Ems..And send the shipment tracking number to PayPal customer care for verification so that your account will be credited..And the shipment tracking number must start with (EB,ED,EV,EH,EM,EQ,And End with US…) Here is the shipping N:B Please you are to ship via the USPS(Ems express mail 5-8 days service)…
Here is the shipping address below:
Name: Davidson Samuel
Address: No 80 owutotoro Street.
zip code: 23439
Seems like a long drawn-out process doesn’t it? I checked the name and address to see how ‘shippable’ it would be, before actually reading the main body of the email. Enter: alarm bells. Dear old ‘Pamela Richard’ is now apparently called ‘Davidson Samuel’ or ‘Samuel David’. This is either multiple personality disorder, or a scam.
Reading ‘Nigeria’ really cemented it for me. My brother was nearly the victim of a Nigerian scam when selling a guitar. It would also explain why my correspondence seemed to be at the same time of day, each day: between two to four o’clock in the morning, UK time.
I decided to continue with ‘Pamela’/’Davidson’ for two reasons: a) ‘Pamela’/’Davidson’ may actually be looking to buy a camera and is having a hard time doing so living in Nigeria, or b) with the likelihood of the former actually happening, how far do they actually go to secure the scam? I replied to ‘Pamela’/’Davidson’ explaining that I could not ship the product until the money was in my Paypal account. ‘Pamela/Davidson’ replied:
but you ought to know that PayPal protect both the buyers and seller, and once you make the shipping to the address and you get back to PayPal with the tracking number, they will verify and confirm…….and instantly proceed to credit your account with the whole funds…..so i will advice you to make the shipping asap so they will credit your account and you get your money with the hour……so get back to me asap and make the shipping……i have made the payment already and my account have been deducted, once i made the payment, PayPal notify you about it so your account is still on pending…….so get back to me asap. Thanks
Looking through my junk folder, I found the emails that ‘Pamela’/’Davidson’ was referring to. Credit is due here for the effort put into the ‘Paypal’ emails. Sadly, my junk folder deleted the contents before I could take a screenshot, but the following from Google Images are fairly similar. The sender name said ‘[email protected]’ while the email address was something like: [email protected] The layout, logos and fonts were all identical and up to date with current Paypal emails. On looks alone I couldn’t judge anyone for falling for it, my email looked genuine. However, the text was eerily reminiscent of my good buddy ‘Pamela’/’Davidson’.
I replied, “I still don’t see any transactions in my Paypal account.”
I then received:
Think i inform you about this before i made the payment..now you have put me into sad…you that i think u will be my hope…i have made the transfer already and my account have been deducted with all your funds, and your account is with the PayPal escrow account to be credited instantly once you do what they ak you to do…..i will be appreciative you could be kind enough to just be a sake to the favour by MAKING THE SHIPMENT OF THE ITEM NOW…as soon as you send the phones and give PayPal details you have from post office about the tracking#…and you will receive the whole money in your account without any delay, kindly read the mail sent to you very well from PayPal…
Poor ‘Pamela’/’Davidson’ seemed a little emotionally unstable and manipulative. These are psychopathic traits, which are suitable for this line of work. First came the guilt-trip, apparently I’d put ‘Pamela’/’Davidson’ “into sad” as their “hope”. Then I was abruptly hollered at in capitals; ordered to be “MAKING THE SHIPMENT NOW”.
The emotional turbulence would have been more justified if they remembered what they were pretending to buy. ‘Pamela’/’Davidson’ was getting worked up because I wasn’t falling for it. I replied telling ‘Pamela’/’Davidson’ I knew what they were doing. Suffice to say, I didn’t send “the phones”.
Although I found some humour in this, I was pretty astonished at the effort scammers go to. The Paypal emails seemed genuine, more so because the sender name in my inbox, akin to Paypal themselves. Having looked about on the Internet, it seems a lot of people have been victims of similar scams. So I thought it would be good to quote some emails to show their tactics, as well as maintain awareness. I wouldn’t want anyone to lose their gear, especially when they experience the relief of selling it.
About the author: Bill Lytton is a photography enthusiast and psychology student at Goldsmiths College in London. Visit his Flickr page here.