Our 27th year of publishing

Published January 26, 2021



Hey, I never ordered that

Scammers use online tricks to get access to your accounts

By John Toth / The Bulletin

The voice on the phone sounded alarming. My Amazon order for an item that cost $1,500 would be delivered today.

“If you didn’t place this order, press 1,” the voice instructed.

Since I obviously would remember a $1,500 order, I was now supposed to get really worried and press 1 to talk to someone about the order. I was supposed to think that my account was hacked, and someone was grabbing up a lot of expensive goodies at my expense.

I hung up, but how many people actually press 1 and risk having their Amazon accounts compromised because they think this call is on the level?

I decided to write about it after receiving the third or fourth call like this. These scammers were unknowingly calling The Bulletin’s number. The column idea sort of landed in my lap.

I actually fell for an email like this a few months ago and called the number. The voice on the other end wanted my account and personal information, which I didn’t give him. Then he started to curse me out. That was a dead giveaway that I was talking to a scammer, not someone at Amazon.

Phishing and scamming isn’t new. Most of us are familiar with the poorly written and misspelled email from Nigeria. Some actually fell for it and sent their money for a chance to get much more in return, but most of us knew to just delete the email. The Irish lottery was another one back in the early days of the Internet.

Now, the scammers have moved over to Facebook.

A couple of years ago I bought a few things from Facebook ads and actually got what I paid for. Sometimes the product came in late - like six weeks late - but was as described.

Since then I found out that buying anything off a Facebook ad can be risky. Scammers have taken over, and this is how they operate:

1) Steal photos of expensive, high-quality products.

2) Advertise via Facebook at $20-$30.

3) Only accept PayPal payments, not credit cards (this is important -- keep reading).

4) When a customer orders an item, send something cheap - a keyring, a pair of kids sunglasses, whatever.

5) When the item arrives, the buyer contacts PayPal for a refund as the wrong goods were delivered.

6) PayPal advises that they will only process a refund on proof of return postage at buyer's expense.

7) Buyer goes to the post office and discovers that the return postage to China costs more than the original purchase cost, so to get a refund, they have to lose even more money.

8) Buyer abandons the refund request, so PayPal takes no action against the seller.

Neither PayPal nor Facebook have any incentive to do anything about these scams, as they get their share of the money, and there are never any proper complaints logged, because no one goes through the full process.

I found this on one of the Facebook threads advertising a $450 mini laptop for $35. It was a scam, but we’ll never know how many people sent their money in just to receive some trinket.

One commenter on the thread gave a personal account.

“I got suckered once. Purchased a small format laser burning device and was shipped a pen xsized battery powered engraving tool (like you'd use to put your name on wrenches if you worked in a shop with other people). I argued the case with PayPal stating they were supporting a scam operation, and they capitulated and refunded my purchase (without having to pay to return the item). In all seriousness, neither Facebook nor PayPal should be automatically accepting these sellers ads, and I report every scam that I see pop up in my Facebook stream ... and there are many each day. In fact, far more scam ads than legitimate ones.”

There is a knock on the door. Someone wants to clean my car for free with this amazing new car wash formula. Sounds like a deal. Or, maybe not. Definitely not.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)