A Londonderry man has warned people to be wary in the run up to Christmas after being targeted by Pay Pal scammers.
Fortunately, he was quick to catch on to the would-be fraudsters and refused to sell them his car or give them any details.
Explaining how the elaborate scam works, the man (who did not want to be identified) said: “Basically, I put my car up for sale online. This guy replied saying he was interested, as did another guy.
“He initially asked about why I was selling and the overall condition of the car and seemed genuine enough.
“He then asked for the final price and as he would be paying via PayPal, wanted my PayPal address.
“I set up a new PayPal address as there would be no funds and no bank details he could access, sent him that and proceeded to reel him in.
“I gave him the price of the car and that’s when I started being suspicious. He told me that he would have difficulty coming to collect the car and would have to use a ‘shipping agent’ instead.
“The problem being, I (the seller) would have to fund the shipper using my own 500 euro and he would put 500 extra on to the asking price of the car to compensate me for it, and would be paying by PayPal. Only when I furnished the shipping agent, could the full amount be released.
“I didn’t agree to any of it, knowing it was a scam, but he proceeded to e-mail me to say that the money was now in my PayPal account and that all I had to do was send the 500 so I could get the money for the car released and the ‘agent’ could collect the car.”
The local man said he contacted PayPal straight away and it confirmed this was a phishing scam, after which he forwarded them the details.
The News Letter has seen some of the correspondence sent by the bogus buyer from a made up address in London, and the design and content appears much more sophisticated than that within many other phishing scams.
The local man pointed out that the scammer continually uses PayPal security scripts and icons to try to authenticate his messages.
One of the forceful letters states as follows: “I will like to inform you that the funds will not be authorized to your account without receiving the money transfer details for the refund from you as PayPal will be responsible for any loss that might incur in this transaction if proper security measures are not taken and you should understand that the funds has been debited completely from my account and I did not have any access to this funds until your account is been credited therefore my account has been placed under limited access by PayPal trust and safety department because they said I made attempt in claiming the funds back to my account without any legal notification for security purpose so I urge you to proceed with the money!”
The local man said that while the scam might seem obvious to those who would know to look out for it, he wanted to make sure other local people are not taken in.
“I just thought I’d throw it out there in the mouth of Christmas,” he said.
The PSNI has issued detailed guidance on how people can help ensure they stay safe online. A PSNI spokesperson said: “Digital media has become such an integral part of our everyday lives from shopping online, completing banking transactions to ‘socialising’ via social media sites.
“Police are urging everyone to take a few simple precautions to guard against online crime,” he added.
“Social and digital media is an excellent way of keeping in touch, shopping and completing everyday transactions, however users need to be careful about how much information they share online and with whom they share information.”
Listing some of the precautions people can take, the spokesman said: “Remember to make passwords strong - a mixture of random words and numbers. Treat passwords like your toothbrush – don’t let anyone else use them.
“Be a good online citizen - treat others as you would like to be treated. Never divulge private information or bank details or passwords. Always ensure you are completing transactions via a trusted site.
“Be wary of spam emails – never click onto a link and do not disclose sensitive information.
“If you experience problems online, there are many sources of help. Report it to the site using the ‘Report’ button which typically uses a symbol in red or speak to the PSNI or someone you trust for information and advice on the matter.”
Meanwhile in terms of privacy and security settings on social media sites, the PSNI have also advised:
“These settings can change on a regular basis and will help you to control who can see what you post. You wouldn’t leave your front door open would you? Why let anyone access your online profile?
“Don’t accept people you do not know as friends– many users accept people they don’t know as friends. Who really has 2000 ‘friends’!?
“Remember: What you post online stays online - consider your online reputation and digital footprint. Would you show these images or make these statements to your parents or future employers?
“Keep personal information private – be careful about how much information you post online. Do you post your Snapchat and BBM user names/codes, email address or mobile number online for others to see? Are you leaving yourself open to unwanted contact?”