This story goes back about 10 years and it wasn’t my money. I was working for the same company that I’m with now, buying and selling network gear. We were part of a broker network for used telecom gear and that’s how the scammer must have got my name and email.
Anyway, this guy contacts me via email with a regular yahoo email and sends me photos of these Polycom VoIP phones that he had. His price wasn’t too bad for the quantity,it was $2500 USD and he said to send him a certified check to a PO box for them.
I created the requisition through the work CRM and had a check sent off. Noone thought anything about it since we buy gear like this all the time and send money transfers all over the World.
In this case though, the seller sent me a UPS tracking number and I would enter it into the UPS website and it would show ‘pending pickup’ every day. I let it slide for a few days, thinking that the seller must not have dropped it off yet. I know that it can take a few days sometimes to pack up assets and drop them off when you have a full time job and just do re-selling as a hobby.
After a week with the same message from UPS, I contact the seller by email and he replies with a “sorry, haven’t had time yet” message and I forget about it for another week.. That’s when it started to dawn on me that maybe I got scammed. I googled the address where we sent the check too and it turned out to be a PO box in a plaza. There was no phone number, there was on way of getting ahold of the seller.
What did I learn?
My only options were to go hat in hand to my boss and apologize. He was understanding and let it slide since a similar thing happened to him once and it wasn’t a large amount so it didn’t impact us to bad. But it still stuck with me. I learned a lot from that encounter and now when I’m buying from a stranger, I always look for the following:
Valid email address that leads back to a company
Must have a phone number and I call them prior to ideally get a reference if they sound at all shady.
Photos sent via email of the product with a custom message written on paper in front of it. That way I can prove that they actually have their hands on the assets
Call me paranoid but if that was my money, I’d be on the warpath to get it back. I was let off lucky from my employer and it hasn’t happened again.
So if you’re going to take anything away from this story, just be careful when buying online. Try to do it through an Escrow site or a trusted website like eBay etc.
Good luck out there