If you are selling goods:
Generally you would expect a buyer to come and inspect the goods and pay by cash. If they do not then you have to ask yourself why ?
A common scam is for someone (normally from Nigeria although they may claim to be in Europe, US or Canada) to send an e-mail offering to pay via bankers draft/cheque in excess of the cost of the goods you are selling. Sometimes they will say that their business partner is in the UK and that he will send the bankers draft or cheque. They will ask you to send back the balance after deducting the costs for the goods and shipping. The aim here is to get you to send back the balance (probably via Western Union or similar). They are not really interested in the goods you are selling and the bankers draft/cheque they send will be forged/stolen or cancelled. They hope that you will send the money before you find out the bankers draft/cheque is no good as it can take a while for the bank to discover this. If you send the money via Western Union or similar they will have direct access to it anywhere in the world and it is virtually impossible to trace who committed the fraud. The bank will not honour the forged cheque/bankers draft and you will be out of pocket.
Another variant is for the scammer to send a cheque for the goods and shipping. They will then contact you and say they have managed to sort out the shipping themselves and ask you to refund the shipping part. You are meant to send them the cash and then the original cheque paid to you will either bounce or be a forgery/stolen leaving you out of pocket.
Another similar scam is that they will ask for your Bank details so that they can pay for the goods by transferring money into your account. What they will actually do is try and remove money from your account using the details you supplied.
As you can see there are many possible variants of the same type of scam so the answer is be suspicious of anyone who:
wants to wire money in advance
does not ask questions about the goods for sale
says that they are "representing a client"
says that they are shipping the goods to another country, in many cases supposedly paying more for shipping than the goods are worth !
Even if someone visits you and inspects the goods you must be careful. If they offer to pay by bankers draft or cheque do not release the goods until your bank agrees that the funds are in your account. There have been many instances where bankers drafts have been forged and the person selling has released the goods already. The bank will not honour the forged bankers draft and the seller has had goods stolen worth thousands of pounds. Note also there appears to be a difference between a bank saying a cheque has cleared and the money actually being in your account ( cheque/bankers draft has been given value). Therefore do not release the goods until you have something in writing from the bank stating that not only has the cheque/bankers draft cleared but that the funds are in your account and that you have no liability if there is any problem.
If you put your mobile phone number in an advert you may receive a text message from someone claiming to be interested in the goods but stating that they cannot call you because they are in a bad reception area. They will ask you to call them back on a premium rate number. Premium rate numbers normally begin with the digits ‘090’ or ‘091’ followed by a further 8 digits. The cost of these calls varies and calls from mobile phones are likely to cost more than calls from land lines. Most land line numbers in the UK begin with an ‘01’ or ‘02’ and all mobile phone numbers in the UK currently begin with ‘077’ ‘078’ or ‘079. If you receive a text message that asks you to ring a premium rate number you can contact the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) free help line on 0800 500212 or complete the online complaints form at www.icstis.org.uk
If you are buying goods:
The best method is to meet the buyer at his address and examine the goods before purchase.
Do not send money in advance. Whatever the reason given this will be a scam. Generally the scammer will have some story and request payment to Western Union or similar saying he will ship goods once payment is received. If you send the money the scammer will have direct access to it anywhere in the world, you will never see the goods and it will be virtually impossible to trace who committed the fraud.
If possible pay by Credit Card as this may give you some protection in case of a problem.
Links to Information Sites
The Metropolitan Police Fraud Alert web site
The Serious Organised Crime Agency web site
U.S. Secret Service Criminal Investigations (includes info on 419 scams)
If you have any additional information to add to this page or if you see a suspicious advert on this site please contact us and we will update accordingly.