In recent years, online scams on web bazaars have been increasing alarmingly. These scams involve individuals trying to sell items online, only to be deceived and lose their money to fraudsters. It has become as simple as posting an advertisement on any online marketplace, and scammers immediately reach out to unsuspecting sellers.
Hana Sýkorová from Liberec experienced this firsthand when she and her partner tried to sell a crib. Within the first hour of posting the ad, they encountered four attempted scams. “Potential buyers asked if they could have the item shipped, even though it was a large item that should be picked up in person,” Hana explained. She also noticed unusual names among the interested parties and grammatical errors in their messages. Additionally, one of the potential buyers had a recently created Facebook profile with no posts or friends.
Hana Sýkorová is not alone in her experience. Another friend, who was selling winter clothing for children, received eight suspicious inquiries within the first two hours. In another case, a seller received three questionable responses quickly, prompting her to refrain from posting further ads.
According to Jakub Vinčálek, a spokesperson for the police department, exact statistics on the number of such scams are difficult to obtain. However, in summary, these scams started becoming more prevalent about two years ago, and hundreds of people have fallen victim to these fraudsters since then.
One incident reported by the Zlín police involved a 65-year-old woman from Otrokovice who was selling a coffee machine through a social media platform. An alleged buyer sent her a link to a courier service, claiming that the payment for the coffee machine had already been made. Following further instructions from the supposed buyer, the woman installed a banking application on her mobile phone. Later that night, she received several SMS messages from her bank, only to discover that 434,000 Czech koruna had been withdrawn from her two bank accounts.
The total damages caused by these types of scams, as stated by Vinčálek, amount to tens of millions, possibly even more. Unfortunately, it is challenging to apprehend these scammers. However, several have been caught in the act.
The typical scenario of these scams unfolds when a seller receives a response from a “buyer” who contacts them through email, phone, contact forms, or messaging apps such as Messenger or WhatsApp. During the conversation, the seller is coerced into paying a fee for the transportation of the goods, which the fraudulent buyer promises to arrange through a payment gateway associated with a designated courier.
The scammers send a link to a fake payment gateway, where the seller is prompted to enter sensitive information, including credit card details, PIN, and even access credentials for online banking, including passwords and authorization codes received via SMS.
With the acquired information, the fraudster gains access to the seller’s online banking account and conducts unauthorized transfers to their account. Alternatively, armed with the victim’s card details, they withdraw money from their account using contactless ATMs.
As the number of victims continues to rise, individuals must remain vigilant when engaging in online transactions. Sellers should exercise caution and verify the authenticity of potential buyers before proceeding with any transactions. By staying informed and adopting secure practices, we can help combat these online scams and protect ourselves from falling victim to cybercriminals.