A Which? member asked us for advice when his daughter unwittingly became liable for an online selling scam using Paypal.
Which? member Richard Hogg told us: ‘My daughter placed an advert on Gumtree to sell her laptop for £250. She received a call from a lady who wanted to buy it, provided it was OK for her dad to transfer the cash, as she didn’t have a bank account.
‘My daughter gave her account details. The money arrived, so she arranged with the buyer for the laptop to be collected in person.
‘A few days later, she was confused to get a call from PayPal saying that one of its customers had paid her for an iPhone but hadn’t received it.
‘Further investigation revealed the scam – the scammer saw the advertised laptop, then placed her own ad to sell an iPhone for £250. Once someone contacted her to buy the phone, she asked if they would transfer the cash into her friend’s account, as she didn’t have one.
‘They agreed and the scammer provided them with my daughter’s Paypal details. The buyer of the iPhone then put the £250 into my daughter’s account, which my daughter presumed had been transferred by the father of the lady who was buying her laptop.
‘When the buyer of the iPhone didn’t receive their paid-for goods, they asked PayPal for a refund. Despite my daughter being the victim of a slick scam, PayPal insisted that she refund the money, as its terms state that customers must only hand over an item to the person who actually paid for it.
‘The scammer has her laptop and the police aren’t interested.’
Our advice on online selling scam
The police concluded that no crime had been committed because the member’s daughter had the money in her bank account – and it should be PayPal that pursues the matter. Sadly, however, because PayPal’s terms of sale were broken, little can be done to get the laptop back.
This is a really sophisticated scam. The only way to avoid it is to refuse payment from anyone other than the person buying the item – and to always post items to the address associated with the PayPal account. We’d recommend obtaining proof of postage too.
Have you ever been affected by a similar type of scam involving a PayPal transaction?