Like many cash-savvy individuals, I sold items I no longer had use for online. In my case, I used Kijiji to sell old text books. I would meet the buyer in a busy place like a crowded mall and trade the textbook for cash. However, I was recently the victim of fraud when I sold my digital SLR camera on Kijiji. I intended to meet the buyer as I always have, in a public place. But when I was contacted by a woman named Mariam, who offered to pay my asking price plus shipping costs, instead of meeting her in a public place or having her come to my house to pick up the camera, I caved and agreed to send the camera through Canada Post to her husband, Alex Malvin, in Africa.
Having to mail the camera to Africa should have been my first red flag. I chose to ignore my “spidey senses” and sent Mariam a PayPal invoice. She sent me a PayPal payment receipt stating I would be paid the money from her account once I sent the package and provided a picture of the shipment receipt to PayPal. I was feeling uncomfortable about this, but Mariam, who seemed like a nice person, sent me reassuring text messages and the payment system made sense to me. It never occurred to me that the emails could be fakes until I received an email that said Mariam had “accidentally” put an extra $450.00 into my account and in order to receive my payment for the camera, I needed to pay her back. At that moment, I felt stupid and used. I immediately refused to pay her the $450.00 despite her insistence via text messages. I contacted PayPal about the transaction and they informed me they had no record of it. According to PayPal, the seller should receive payment right away. At the instruction of the PayPal representative, I forwarded all of my correspondence with Mariam to firstname.lastname@example.org. It was confirmed that the emails, including the initial email stating the payment had been transferred to me, were indeed fake.
With evidence in hand, I reported the crime to the police as well as an internet crime website which was given to me by PayPal. The evidence included the fake PayPal emails and the numerous text messages from Mariam, whose number turned out to be from Florida. The police informed me that while I probably would not get my camera back, since the crime was international and involved PayPal, there was a chance I could receive some money back in the distant future. While it is difficult to catch those who commit fraud on the internet, by speaking up and reporting the crime, I could at least do my part to help prevent future frauds by people like Mariam.
Here are a few helpful tips to keep you safe when buying or selling items on sites like Kijiji:
1) Never agree to ship the item(s) in the post – if the person wants the item bad enough, they will find a way to meet with you.
2) When meeting with someone, be sure to meet in a crowded public place that you feel safe in. If possible, take a friend or parent with you for extra protection and to provide additional insight into the situation. Two people’s “spidey sense” is better than one!
3) Do not hand over your item(s) until you have cash in hand. Do not use PayPal or accept a cheque as it could turn out to be a fake.
Based on my experience, I am unsure if I will ever use Kijiji again. While you do stand to make some extra cash or save money on a good deal, it doesn’t seem worth it if there is potential to become a victim of a scam. The sad truth is that there will always be dishonest people who will try to take advantage of you. All you can do is watch for red flags, listen to your gut and protect yourself. That “spidey sense” is never wrong!