If you’ve ever used Facebook marketplace or similar selling pages, you’ve more than likely seen all sorts of items being offered free to a good home. Some are clearly an attempt to get rid of an item without having to go to the tip, and some are offering something that seems incredibly generous, like an immaculate 3-piece suite that someone wants rid of because it’s no longer the right shade of grey to go with their lounge.
The vast majority of these kind offers are genuine, thankfully, even when they do seem too good to be true. Sadly, there’s a small number of people who seek to take advantage of the trusting nature of others.
One such person took to the Huddersfield Freecycle to Zero Waste Facebook group at the weekend with a very generous offer indeed – supposedly, this person’s children had a new games console and so they had decided to give away their Xbox 1s. All the ‘buyer’ had to do was pay the postage fee to have it sent by Royal Mail Special Delivery. Sounds reasonable so far. A little odd that they state buyer can’t collect due to long working hours, but they have time to go to the Post Office…but best not to look a gift horse in the mouth, as the saying goes.
It seems that the scammer then told any number of enquirers that the device was theirs, for the sum of £19 transferred by PayPal. To most seasoned online shoppers, the next part would definitely ring alarm bells – he insisted the payment be sent using the ‘friends and family’ option on PayPal, which means the recipient keeps the full amount. Using this setting also means that the sender has no buyer protection, at all. Unfortunately, to someone who isn’t that familiar with it, it is unlikely to seem like a big deal.
Having sent their £19 payments, the ‘buyers’ eagerly awaited a tracking number that confirmed the console was on its way. What they got instead was silence. Either blocked or ignored, people could get no answer from the supposedly generous sender. As suspicions grew, group members posted their concerns and soon learned they weren’t alone in their deception. It’s not clear exactly how many were duped on this particular group, and it’s likely that he tried his luck elsewhere too. Scamming people at £19 a go, he must have a decent success rate in order to make it worthwhile.
We spoke with Ellen, one person who was tricked by the scammer at the weekend. Explaining what happened, she said “He just said to tick ‘friends and family’, and I don’t use PayPal much so I didn’t think anything of it”. Once the payment had gone through, communication ended. Because of the way the payment was made, the victims of this scammer have no right to reimbursement from PayPal. Some are attempting to pursue it via their bank, and others have reported the activity to Action Fraud.
Another user on the group, Sophia Crawshaw, kindly raffled off a retro-style Nintendo console for those who had been taken in by the scammer – but this time, it was definitely collection only!