A growing number of Facebook users selling items on ‘Malta Marketplace’ are being targeted by people posing as buyers and trying to con them out of money.
Times of Malta spoke to six people in July who were selling items on Facebook and were asked by a potential buyer to transfer money to a courier. They promised to reimburse this money when they picked up the item.
Since then, a post on Facebook group ‘The Salott’ warning people to be wary of this scam has been trailed by comments from around 14 people who say they were also targeted, some numerous times.
Francesca Fabri said a potential buyer with a ‘suspicious profile’ asked for her details to arrange a courier pick up, after showing interest in a soccer table she was selling.
“He asked for my e-mail and I gave it to him thinking he would copy me into arrangements with Fedex,” she said.
“Then I was sent a very poorly written e-mail, allegedly from Fedex asking for payment,” she added.
The e-mail was sent from email@example.com, and it included the courier’s logo in it to make it seem legitimate.
It asked the seller to follow a link where she was asked to pay €375 for the cost of the item and €100 insurance on top of it, which the buyer said he would reimburse by mail.
When Fabri questioned why the buyer could not pay the fee himself since it was online, he ignored the question and said Fedex would send her instructions.
Other Facebook users who spoke to Times of Malta also reported receiving the same emails supposedly from ‘UPS’, ‘DPD group’ and ‘GLS’.
In three of the cases, the scammer just asked for the insurance fee of €50-€100 and said the courier would reimburse them once he picked up the item.
One person, who preferred not to be named, said she thought the email was genuine and almost made the payment for a bike she was trying to sell.
“In the meantime, I spoke to my son in the Netherlands and he immediately said ‘ma it’s a scam’,” she said.
While Fabri said the profile looked suspicious as it did not contain a photo and had limited information, other scammers used fake profiles which were more elaborate.
Posting on ‘Is-Salott’ to warn others about the scam, Joe Degiorgio explained that when he searched a potential buyer he suspected was a scammer, he found out that the image belonged to someone else.
“The scammer used a picture off the internet to create a fake profile. After confronting the scammer with the identity of the person in the picture he ran off the chat,” he wrote.
None of the people who spoke to Times of Malta said they had been conned by the scam. Some said they proceeded to report the issue to Facebook and all of them said they blocked the scammer.
Inspector Timothy Zammit, head of the Cyber Crime Unit, said they had not received reports about this issue, but they had been coming across this particular crime for years.
“What’s changed is the platform. Since Malta Marketplace has picked up in popularity it could be that fraudsters are using it more, whereas before they were more present on other classified websites,” he said.
He said that safeguards on other auction and classified websites to prevent fraud could also be prompting scammers to turn elsewhere, such as Facebook, where they could find it easier to create a fake profile.
Asked if Facebook users could be at risk when sharing personal information with other users, commonly done when engaging in transactions, he said users always needed to be cautious.
“Once you hand over that information you lose control over it. We need to question how genuine the transaction is. Some offers just don’t make sense,” he said.
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