Rising Tide of Online Scams Targets Unsuspecting Sellers on Web Bazaars

Prague, Czech Republic – October 18, 2023 – In recent years, a concerning surge in online scams occurring on web bazaars has caught the attention of law enforcement and individuals alike. These scams, which often involve unscrupulous individuals posing as buyers, have led to financial losses for many unsuspecting sellers.

The alarming rise in these online scams has made it increasingly simple for fraudsters to exploit individuals looking to sell items on various online marketplaces. Scammers frequently initiate contact with sellers shortly after their listings go live, employing various tactics to deceive them into surrendering their money.

Hana Sýkorová, a seller from Liberec, shared her personal experience with such scams. After listing a crib for sale, she received four attempted scams within the first hour. These potential buyers inquired about having the item shipped, despite it being a large item meant for in-person pickup. Hana also noted unusual names and grammatical errors in the messages, raising red flags. Furthermore, one prospective buyer had a recently created Facebook profile with no posts or friends, further raising suspicions.

Hana’s story is far from unique. Another friend, selling winter clothing for children, encountered eight suspicious inquiries within the initial two hours of posting their listing. In another instance, a seller received three questionable responses promptly, which discouraged them from posting further ads.

Jakub Vinčálek, a police department spokesperson, acknowledges the challenge of obtaining precise statistics on these scams. Still, he attests that the prevalence of these fraudulent activities has notably increased over the past two years, with hundreds of individuals falling victim to these unscrupulous schemes.

One harrowing case reported by the Zlín police involved a 65-year-old woman who sold a coffee machine through a social media platform. An alleged buyer sent her a link to a courier service, claiming payment for the coffee machine had been made. Following the buyer’s instructions, the woman installed a banking application on her phone. That evening, she received SMS messages from her bank, revealing that 434,000 Czech koruna had been withdrawn from her two bank accounts.

According to Vinčálek, the total damages inflicted by these scams amount to tens of millions, and possibly even more. Regrettably, apprehending these scammers remains a formidable challenge. However, law enforcement has managed to catch several perpetrators in the act.

The typical scam scenario unfolds when a seller receives a response from a “buyer” via email, phone, contact forms, or messaging apps like Messenger or WhatsApp. During the conversation, the fraudulent buyer pressures the seller into paying a fee for transporting the goods. The scammer assures the seller that they will arrange this via a payment gateway linked to a designated courier.

The scammers then send a link to a counterfeit payment gateway, where the seller is prompted to enter sensitive information, including credit card details, PIN, and online banking access credentials, including passwords and SMS-received authorization codes.

Armed with this information, the fraudster gains access to the seller’s online banking account, initiating unauthorized transfers to their own account. Alternatively, with the victim’s card details, they withdraw money from their account using contactless ATMs.

As the number of victims continues to rise, heightened vigilance is essential when participating in online transactions. Sellers are urged to exercise caution, verifying the legitimacy of potential buyers before proceeding with any deals. By staying informed and adopting secure practices, individuals can help counter these online scams and shield themselves from falling prey to cybercriminals.

Article by Prague Forum

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