Beware of domain scammers on DigitalPoint.com

May is almost over and I thought it would be the first month in a long time when I didn’t encounter a scammer. But I was wrong. Just a few minutes ago, somebody from the DigitalPoint forums tried to scam me of five domains with PageRank worth a few hundred dollars. Good thing I always remember my (expensive) lessons from previous scams — this scammer never had a chance.

The scammer, with user name possible49sm on the DigitaPoint forums, contacted me via private message and asked for my list of domain names for sale. He had 70 iTrader ratings, so I assumed that he was a reputable member, reputable enough for me to accept payment via Paypal. He even negotiated with me for a lower price (they say scammers don’t usually negotiate).

Everything was perfect until I received his payment. It seemed strange that his Paypal email address was erinleawearne@hotmail.com (I was pretty sure that he was a guy), while the Gmail account that he was using to chat with me was umutbalonlari@gmail.com. The guy had a couple of links on his forum signature at DP, so I checked out the WHOIS record for those domains — they say he’s from Jordan. The Paypal account that he used, however, showed that the owner was from Australia.

Still, I did not jump into a conclusion. I replied to the Paypal payment notification (from erinleawearne@hotmail.com) and politely asked that he reply with his Go Daddy customer number and email address so I could transfer the domains. He also told him on Gtalk that I need him to reply to my email first so I can push the domains. What do you know? He said he did not receive my email (Of course! You don’t have access to the Paypal owner’s email account; you only have access to her Paypal account). I even resent my email message, in case he was telling the truth. Still, he hadn’t received my email.

I already knew he was a scammer. After about five more minutes, I received an email from Paypal with the following message:

~~~~~~~~~

Dear {PayPal Account Holder},

A review of recent transactions indicates that you might have received a
payment that the PayPal account holder did not authorize.

To protect you from problematic transactions, we sometimes request
additional information about PayPal payments.

We need more information about this transaction. Please log in to your
PayPal account, click the “Resolution Center”tab, and provide more
information by 6/3/2009.

We recommend that you not ship the item until our investigation is
complete. If you’ve already shipped the item, please log in and let us know
where you shipped it.

We have placed a temporary hold on the funds until we complete our
investigation.

If you need to provide information by fax, click and print a cover sheet:
https://www.paypal.com/tw/cgi-bin/?cmd=_complaint_resolve_tracking_fax&cid=PP-713-787-213.

Please fax proof of shipment or proof of refund to 65-6510-4597.
Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,
PayPal

~~~~~~~~~

So there you go — I was able to survive another scam attempt. Remember, when dealing with Paypal, be very, very careful. Here are a few tips:

  • Verify that the person you’re dealing with indeed owns the Paypal account. One way to do this would be to send him an email at his Paypal email address (and pray that he hasn’t hacked the Paypal owner’s email address as well).
  • When in serious doubt, ask for a number that you can call to verify his identify. The more hoops you make him jump, the more likely you’ll flush him out if he’s a scammer. Most genuine buyers will understand if you’re taking precautions. Scammers get impatient most of the time when you make them jump hoops.
  • If you want a payment method that does not charge back, use Moneybookers. Scammers love Paypal because it looks like Paypal accounts can easily be hacked. And if a scammer pays you with a hacked Paypal account, the real owner can just claim that it was an unauthorized payment and Paypal will get the money back from you. You have no chance of winning the dispute because domain names are intangible goods and Paypal does not protect sellers of intangible goods.
  • If the amount involved is substantial, use the escrow service that escrow.com provides. The escrow fee is at least $25 but you can split this with the buyer.

If you learned something from this post, please let me know by leaving a comment. Have a scam-free day!