Combating Fraud Associated With Selling Online

By Michael Dorausch, D.C.

Selling stuff online always involves some level of risk. There are steps to take which can help minimize those risks, but individuals seeking to unfairly profit are constantly applying new methods to old techniques, in hopes of defrauding people out of their items and money. Having operated a popular chiropractic classified advertising web site for more than 10 years, we’ve seen our fair share of those attempting to defraud people when items are for sale. Fortunately, the user community has grown more knowledgeable, developing an increased level of awareness, for what is potentially fraudulent activity, or an online cyber scam. The cyber neighborhood watch group has done an impressive job in rooting out the worms and bad apples.

On Planet Chiropractic, we’ve written about classified advertising and the risks involved when dealing with foreign inquiries regarding items for sale, numerous times. For many readers, it’s probably reached the point of annoyance, likely leaving them wondering why we bother to continue addressing this topic. Honestly, I feel that way myself at times, since it’s become fairly easy for me to spot what is an attempt at fraud, and what is not. But what about a person using the Web to sell their used x-ray equipment for the first time? Or as I discovered last year, the case of a military veteran seeking to sell their motorcycle, in order to pay off some bills and other debt.

In our experience, and what I’ve found to be the case for many other classified advertising web sites, there’s one type of fraudulent activity that is prevalent on the Internet. It’s a scam, which typically involves someone in a faraway place, offering to purchase items and have them shipped to their location. The scammer gladly offers more money than the items are worth, and generously offers to mail payment that exceeds any related shipping costs. In this situation, the scammer asks that the seller electronically wires a balance of funds (usually via Western Union) be sent back to the buyer. There are several variations on this scam, and the practice is prevalent in more than one part of the planet (a reputation has gone to Nigeria known as the 419 scam), so anyone selling items online anywhere, should always be on the lookout for these or similar activities.

Last year we stepped up our aggressiveness on the fraudsters and scammers (Classifieds Now Equipped with reCAPTCHA) and began posting internet address (IP) information (Daniel Monday Scam Alert), e-mail addresses they used in their scams (Smith Matt 419 Scams and Fraud), the names they used when e-mailing potential marks (Mark Nicholas mark_nicho95 Fraud Alert), and copies of the letters they sent (Actual Email Attempt – Chiropractic Classifieds Scam) to those selling equipment X-Ray Equipment For Sale Attempted Fraud. I was surprised at first by the chiropractors (even though it was only a few) who contacted me, innocently not knowing that these letters of intent to purchase products and have them shipped overseas, were attempts of illegal fraudulent activity. I felt satisfied that we took the time to make the information we had public. Then the real surprise came.

Weeks later, I began receiving e-mails from people that weren’t using our chiropractic site for classified advertising, but were conducting searches to find out if people contacting them to purchase their items, were legitimate or not. One case involved an individual who had his motorcycle for sale on a cars classified website. He was preparing to wire somebody in the United Kingdom nearly $3000 in overcharges from shipping fees when he decided to perform a search for the individuals name. A post we had written about the practice of fraud, included the persons name, e-mail address, and letter sent to potential targets. The seller of the motorcycle backed out one the sale and sent us a copy of the e-mail he had received. It was exactly the same form e-mail that was being sent to individuals selling used chiropractic equipment on our site. For me, that was the added motivation to continue the practice of posting such information.

Yesterday, chiropractors utilizing the classified advertising community, stepped up and e-mailed us a first sign of fraud. I had 2 e-mails from two different chiropractors, within a half an hour of each being contacted. Both e-mails included the exact same inquiry into selling their items and shipping them overseas, with a request for them to wire funds electronically, to cover excess payment that would be included in a mailed check or international money order.

I personally e-mailed the two individuals and thanked them for their alertness and quick response to the situation. Honestly, forwarding us questionable e-mails in the first place, is a critical step. Community participation is greatly appreciated. After responding to the e-mails we went through our checklist of cybersecurity measures, and made a list of information we had on the individual/s attempting to pull off this scam. A blog post, which included the fraudsters cover name and e-mail address, and a copy of the text used in the e-mail sent, went online almost immediately. Also, every active user of the classified ad network, was notified in a brief e-mail summary, in case the activities had continued.

I don’t know what the webmasters of other classified advertising and forum web sites do to combat scams of this nature, but as I mentioned in the e-mail sent to those listed classified ads, the community buying and selling chiropractic related items, is kicking butt when it comes to keeping the neighborhood clean. Again, the efforts of those that step up to provide notification and feedback, are greatly appreciated.

Below is a list of 15 related articles on this topic. It may seem like overkill, but I still advise anyone that’s planning on selling items online (whether you using our web site or not) at least scan through some of the articles, to get an idea of what sort of activity one should be on the lookout for. You may already be well aware of these practices, but then again maybe you’ll discover something new.

I can haz ur money?
Chiropractic Community Still Kicking Butt on Fraud
2009 Ad Scam – First Nigerian Fraud Attempt Seen This Year

Constant Watch on Fraud and Scams
Spotting Fraud on Nervo-Scope Ads
1000 mentions of fraud and phishing

Operation Fraud: Scammers Target Online Sellers
Community Minimizes Classified Ad Fraud Activity
A Surefire Way to Separate You from Your Money

Actual Email Attempt – Chiropractic Classifieds Scam
Wednesday Wraparound Advertising and Tips
Use Common Sense When Buying and Selling Online

Thursday Thoughts and Thank You’s
Instructions to post an ad on planet chiropractic
Chiropractor Email Account Hacked (Not related to classifieds but good example of other scams and importance of community involvement) @ 10:25 am | Article ID: 1240507580