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The Tale of Pamela: A Nigerian Scamming Story Involving a Camera Sale

hamburgler

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….
Regards…”

londonWith 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.
City: Abeokuta
State ogun
Country: Nigeria
zip code: 23439

stopsignSeems 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’.

A similar fake Paypal email, mine was more up to date.

A similar fake Paypal email, mine was more up to date.

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”.

shipnigeria

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.


Image credit: Bridges of London and the Shard. In Blue. by Dimitry B, Stop Sign by Kt Ann, 225/365 – scam by B Rosen


 
 
  • Ian Anderson

    Nearly the same thing happened to me on eBay selling my Canon 7D. The winning bidder had a Seattle address that checked out, but 0 feedback. He oddly asked for another photo of the item (which I naively realized was only so he could get my email address) and not long after, I had a FAKE PayPal receipt to ship it to his “partner” in Nigeria, but they threw in $100 for shipping. Checked PayPal and guess what – $0 balance! Sadly, if you were a big seller, you might not catch that it was a fake email. Your best bet is to verify that the item is “PAID” on your My eBay page.

  • Ralph Hightower

    The 419′ers are notorious for grammatical and spelling errors; I don’t care if English is their first or second language. Its insistence to ship the camera before you have the funds in your account is a huge tip off.
    Glad you didn’t get taken. Now, change your email address since they realize that they have a live email address.

  • Ian Anderson

    They are getting better. The emails I received were well-written and the PayPal receipt was from a spoofed email address and didn’t have any issues. It looked 99% authentic, the only catch was that I have a business PayPal account that is not my name, and that’s the first thing that tipped me off – well just before the NIGERIA red flag!

  • KH

    Almost every time I’ve sold something off of Craigslist, I’ve had a scammer contact me about trying to buy the item, but they are out of town and need some kind of wire transfer with a list of crap to follow to pay for the item. Get lost a$$holes. If people put that kind of thought into an actual job, they wouldn’t have to worry about scamming people to make a living… or whatever the hell they need money for.

  • http://twitter.com/NMatosPDX Nate Matos

    How are people still falling for this?

  • Aaron

    I had the exact same exchange with a camera I was selling through Kijiji in Canada.
    I also caught the odd language and didn’t ship.

  • wilmark johnatty

    I had the same thing happen when i purchased a 7d 3 years ago and got a free printer. I tried to sell it to the winning bidder and he kept telling me to ship the printer, and that my account was on hold until i ship. I think ebay facilitates this type of fraud. There is NO communication with ebay you can never get them on the phone, nor have them facilitate the transfer, I was at a loss and was charge a commission by ebay despite the fact that I never received any money. Thats why i stay the F*(&*^% away from ebay they are crooks too! Never got indication where my buyer was from – I presumed that he was from the US. ANd i never shipped the printer.

  • http://www.intensitystudios.com/ Antonio Carrasco

    Sorry, but if you didn’t realize this was a scam by the first email, you are naive…

  • aminucyrus

    It pains me seeing stories like these especially being a photographer and a Nigerian. Photography is still at it’s infancy here so buying equipment is pretty difficult except if you’re content with the low-end apsc stuff. It’s extremely hard to get DSLR’s in the 5d3,D800,A99 range( impossible for the 1DX or D4 ) and even if you do, it’ll cost you over 2x it’s retail price. Same goes for lenses, strobes and accessories. So that leaves us with the option of ordering from Europe,America or Asia and now it’s extremely difficult due to the rise of these crooks.
    Sure, i wouldn’t personally send my items to anyone with an address in my country however photographer’s like myself are having to suffer the sins of fraudsters. So spread the word, maybe if they realize that no one is falling for their traps, they might get to know how lame it is.

    Note: They even use foreign addresses, contacts etc and some speak fluently without the heavy accent so watch out.

  • chubbs

    You should have taken some cardboard, painted it black and written “Ricoh GR” on the side and shipped it to him/her.

  • TSY87

    Seriously, do people still fall for these scams?! Scammer emails always start off the same way.. They always sound desperate for the item, willing to pay extra for shipping, for some reason are out of country/buying for a friend, etc… Every single time I list something on CL i get at least a few emails from scammers.

  • http://www.destinsparks.com/ Destin

    First time on the internet?

  • Craigypoo

    I had this happen before. They were even willing to pay more. Instead of sending them my psp I filled a box full of ramen noodles:)

  • Stinky

    You are a moron.

  • Eric

    the same thing happened to me last week with almost exactly the same conversation! however, i realised the email address of “paypal” and report them to ebay and block them from my mail :)

  • nameless

    There are a lot of naive people out there.

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley

    I have two money orders from such a transaction that I had a scammer sent to my assistant “Amanda Huggenkiss” – of course I didn’t send my used D700 – but I did enjoy baiting the scammers, and getting the money orders, which still sit in a drawer :)

  • Fab

    This nigeria scam happening A LOT here, in brazilian eBay like website

  • George

    Happens to me all the time, when I’m going to sell something on ebay or craigslist. :)

  • Tim

    P P Powerbook!

  • Bill

    It is sad that some people in need of cash have to sell their gear, it happens.

    Some people are blinded by greed or that fast cash to see the warning signs of the scam, and it doesn’t just happen on the sale and auction sites.

    I had one pop up on my ModelMayhem account for no reason.

    I am not the first, probably won’t be the last. Not a shameful blog post promotion but I wrote a brief post about it for those who are interested.

    http://www.iwannashootyourface.com/blog/2013/5/nigerian-scam-for-photographers

  • Bren

    Most ‘Big’ sellers actually work pretty autonomously. eBay bought PayPal a while back, so their systems are intertwined. When a buyer pays via actual PayPal, not only does the buyer receive an actual invoice, but on eBay it will mark the auction listing as paid and allow the seller to print a shipping label right from there. Most auctions have a very short period of time in which the buyer must pay (72 hours I think) and since the systems are connected eBay knows that the buyer hasn’t actually paid and the seller is not penalized. It’s actually a really good system because buyers cannot allege that they paid when they in fact have not.

  • Froggy

    Nigeria please.

  • Mantis

    Why? Why is the author a moron?
    They never actually sold the camera or fell for the scam, but are just detailing each step of how the scam was attempted.

    Nearly every time I sell an item on EBay that costs more than about $200 bucks the Zero Feedback vultures come swooping in.

  • https://www.facebook.com/FlexibleVision Roman

    When I sell on Craigslist I always ask in the listing to put some kind of keyword in the email subject. It may be word “real” or “canon” or anything random. Scammers don’t spend time to read the listing. They just insert the data(email) in small scamming engine.
    If I don’t see the keyword I delete the email. Secondly you can easily feel if email is written in response to the listing or just a template. Usually they will ask: “is IT still available” or “what is your final offer” or BS like that.

  • http://www.tom-waugh.com/ Tom Waugh

    Perhaps an error, but at the start of the article it says “I’d bought a Ricoh GRD IV and GV-2 viewfinder. Due to some unforeseen financial issues, I realized I had to sell it.”. Then near the end you state “Suffice to say, I didn’t send “the phones”.
    Which was it exactly?

  • Jennifer

    The author was selling a camera. The Nigerian scammer lost track of everything and said to mail a phone.

  • http://www.tom-waugh.com/ Tom Waugh

    Aaah. upon reading it again Pamela I see that I missed that part. Thanks!

  • Daniel Rutter

    If you make 6000 US dollars a year in Nigeria, you’re middle-class. Many people dream of making $US2000 a year.

    So if a Nigerian manages to scam some American out of a $500 camera, that one sucker has just handed them a good monthly wage.

    There is no legal way for the vast majority of Nigerians to make anything like that much money.

  • Bill E. Lytton

    I did admit to being naive tehe

  • ms

    Seriously? If you don’t meet up in person for a cash exchange, don’t mess with craigslist. Ebay is a different story with their seller protection. But anytime anyone is ever talking about sending you the funds etc…..SCAM!

  • Juan Alvarez

    i thought the same .. but adding a “F~@k$ you” sign in it …

  • Leon Cabe

    I was selling a bike on Craigslist last fall when something similar occurred. Said they would FedEx a check along with extra funds and that a moving company would come pick up the bike. Sound scammy? So I told them that they should make the check out to ‘Barry Soertoro’ and gave an address for the Committee to Re-Elect the President. When they replied two days later to see if I had cashed the check and they could pick up the bike I told them that they had now committed interstate fraud with the President by presenting a worthless/forged money order for him to deposit.

  • Benny

    “!t 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.”

    Nigeria’s in the same time zone as the UK. Unless you’re implying Nigerians are noctunal.

  • seedubbb

    Pretty sure I dealt with the same person when selling an HV40 years back, ended most emails with GET BACK TO ME NOW, claiming to be buying as a gift for a pastor. I managed to keep the conversation going a few days, happily wasting their time as they were mine, ignoring all claims to have completed Paypal checkout but instead talking absolute nonsense about the camera itself. ‘She’ didn’t respond to any of the fictional defects of the HV40, but offered more money & insisted on all of this Post Office/Paypal malarkey.

  • seedubbb

    Pretty sure I dealt with the same person when selling an HV40 years back, ended most emails with GET BACK TO ME NOW, claiming to be buying as a gift for a pastor. I managed to keep the conversation going a few days, happily wasting their time as they were mine, ignoring all claims to have completed Paypal checkout but instead talking absolute nonsense about the camera itself. ‘She’ didn’t respond to any of the fictional defects of the HV40, but offered more money & insisted on all of this Post Office/Paypal malarkey.

  • Crazy Ivory

    I highly recommend the book “I do no come to you by chance”, which is exactly about this topic, but from the different perspective, the people behind the 419s. Well worth to read!

  • chioma

    How did your camera become phones? Did i miss something?

  • Ian

    And here I am again – this time, the buyer said he would send $200 for my 24-70L f/2.8 and promises to pay the rest later, but needs the lens shipped immediately. Lol.

  • Jae

    Yes, you missed it.

  • Javier

    Here’s the mail that I received:

    “Hello XXXXXXX, I have received your e-mail. As soon as you have
    check cost of shipping through XXXXXX, you can now send me the total
    cost and your bank details to enable me make the payment today. I want
    you to send the package to my daughter as a priority package because my
    daughter birthday is fast approaching and i want my daughter to receive
    this gift before her birthday. I really appreciate your effort towards
    my daughter birthday. Below is my daughter shipping address”.

    Thanks for the advice Billy.

  • Roberto Reyes

    This just happened to me yesterday I sent the phone but today I found out its a fraud everything you posted is exactly the same except his name was justin scott and he said the phone was for his son in Nigeria for a scholar today I went to post office and filled a intercept item and they told me it isnt a guarantee they will be able to stop it so I lost a galaxy s3 and 30$ for shipping and the guy there never told me Nigeria was famous for frauds but today the new person who helped me told me that almost everything that goes thru Nigeria is a fraud if I would of known that yesterday I wouldnt of lost my phone :((

  • Roberto

    They thrue in 100 for shipping on mine too but unlike you I actually fell for it! :(

  • Roberto

    +1 605-273-7741 this is the number of the guy who robbed me and he keeps saying that im wrong and he is legit and that his son already got the phone but when I track it it shows othwr wise that its still in transit

  • Ian

    Wow, that’s terrible! I’m really sorry to hear about that.

  • sam

    Just posted an ad on selling sites for my Lumia 1520 and guess what , there is an guy from los Angeles who wants to but my phone but he wants to ship it to Nigeria for his store over there.and he is ready to pay the shipping fee too and as like these scammers he also want to pay through Paypal.THANKS A LOT to you guys who saved me from such a big loss.otherwise I also get scammed by them