We live in the day and age of online shopping for both first- and second-hand items. Everyone can list their items for sale and people will definitely come and inquire for more details and perhaps – want to make the purchase.
I was selling something online and yes, I nearly got scammed by receiving fake money. Looking back at the entire timeline of events and the details of how everything happened, there were red flags all over the place. This is the story of how I nearly got scammed and steps you can take to avoid it.
So here’s the full story.
How the timeline went
I have a pretty hot item for sale here – so I listed it at multiple different places. I’m not going to specifically name it here since it doesn’t matter here as scammers are everywhere.
I got a quick PM and with that said that they want to meet up. So okay, I thought it’s just like any other transactions. We traded phone numbers for easier contact and we talked on WhatsApp. They were using WhatsApp Business, by the way. I didn’t bother. We set the appointment to meet at 11pm on that night.
Funny thing is that the scammer actually asked for the serial number of the product but sent me an example picture with the model number highlighted instead. 🤔
When the time draws near, I always send a reminder or a ping to ask about the current status – where they are and if they are coming. At 11pm, this person said they’re coming over and it takes about half an hour. So I thought about 11.36pm is not that bad – and I know for a fact that it takes about half an hour to get from Kota Damansara to the meetup location since I always take this route when I drive.
I asked the “buyer” to send me another message when they’re 10 minutes away so we both don’t have to wait for each other that long. At 11.32pm, the “buyer” ended up delaying until 12am without any notice. This is the first red flag.
The “buyer” ended up calling me at 12am, and the number displayed on my phone was “Private Number”. Once again I didn’t bother much since it could’ve been for privacy purposes, so not a red flag.
When we arrived at the destination, the “buyer” changed to the nearby 7-Eleven, which turned out the “buyer” is actually at a nearby dark corner. At first glance, the “buyer”‘s car has a very dark tint and a piece of masking tape covering a number off their vehicle’s number plate. These are the second and third red flags.
There were two people on their side and two from my side – including me. When we officially met and spoke, I just followed my tradition – let the buyer check the goods first before paying up. So we were chatting there and surprisingly, they didn’t even want to check properly.
When it comes to the payment time. The scammers were at first talking about receiving fake products since they had something similar happened before. I reassured them that this is the real product since you just unboxed it in front of me anyway.
And they handed over the cash – well, luckily I brought my brother along who I tasked to handle the cash. He immediately exclaimed that it’s fake money as they felt like wet cardboard. He then used his phone to shine light on it and hey – there are missing banknote security features! Even the edges of the notes showed unclean cuts from the piece of white paper that it was cut from! This is the fourth red flag!
Here comes the part that requires reading body language and how people respond to accusations. Honestly, the scammers really need to take up some acting classes here. When the accusation was made, both the scammers were unfazed. Red flag number 5! At this point of time, I was grasping on my goods tightly.
Then the scammers tried to ask each other if the previous transaction was the culprit. And then they told me why not go over to the nearest 7-Eleven to get those banknotes checked out. And we just told them no, do online bank transfer instead. And remember that it was 12am? The banks’ online services are down for maintenance. That slipped through my mind, too.
At this point of time, we’re on high alert. The scammers said why not we pay you a deposit first and pay the remaining later? The scammers also specifically mentioned that they’ve formed a “trust” with us. That instantly rubbed me the wrong way and insisted that we go to the nearby bank instead.
I took my goods and headed back to my car. We went to the nearest bank and to no one’s surprise, the ATMs were down for maintenance as well. All of the other banks were in the same situation.
Alright, so I messaged the scammer and told them hey – the ATMs are not working so what should we do? And they didn’t reply. We sat in the car for 5 minutes and they didn’t show up at all. They literally ran away!
A day later, I was shown this notification – their WhatsApp Business number was reverted back to being just regular WhatsApp account. Well, that settles it.
How we can avoid scammers
COD is the most common way of independent online traders to avoid scammers. I still insist on COD for all transactions, but perhaps redefine the term “COD”. COD stands for cash on delivery – and perhaps it should be “online bank-in on delivery” instead.
Also, no more midnight meetups. If you are interested in the product, then let’s meet up at some other hours. The latest I will stay up and meet others is 10pm.
I think it’s high time that we all learn some basics on EQ in general. Reading lies and deception through words first, then by reading their facial expressions. There is a sort of undertone and the way these scammers overuse the words “trust” and instills a sense of urgency for you to let them possess the item immediately.
Just be patient, you’ll eventually sell your goods – even if it takes a few months. That’s what happened to me.
We managed to notice the scam scheme before anything tragic happened. I just lost my item’s factory seal and about an hour’s time but that’s pretty much it. I got out of this lucky – and you should really pay attention and incorporate some of these precautions to how to do these deals next time.
Here’s the summary of the event with red flags that I should’ve taken note about:
- Uninformed delaying of meetup time from 11pm to 12am (bank services are all down for maintenance at that time).
- Asked to meet up at a dark corner instead of designated place.
- Car plate number has a piece of masking tape blocking off a number.
- Handed over fake money that felt like wet cardboard.
- Unfazed by the accusation when they were called out.
- Insisted on paying a deposit for the item first because “trust was formed”.
- Told them to go to the nearby bank and settle the payment, but they disappeared into the night and never responded to my messages.
- Two more semi-red flags are the usage of a private number to call and also the usage of WhatsApp Business. Smells fishy but could’ve been for privacy.
How you can avoid these issues? Simple:
- Redefine COD. Meeting up is just to check on the goods but doing online bank transfer instead. So don’t meet up at 12am!
- Pay attention to the words used. These scammers were particularly insistent on “trust” and paying me a deposit for the item first.
- Check their transaction histories if any. Carousell user reviews are able to help.