Ever see an offer too good to be true for an old bicycle or kitchen appliance sold online? Well, it probably is and much worse, says the Economic Inspectorate of FPS Economy. In 2021 the Economic Inspectorate received 872 reports from victims who were defrauded €434,884 by online scammers.
The typical case involves someone looking to sell an item on an online platform such as Facebook Marketplace or eBay. According to the Economic Inspectorate, the first signal of a scam involves a seller receiving an offer of more than the asking price, but with a catch – in-person pickup isn’t an option. So instead, the potential buyer suggests using a known courier service, such as DHL, Mondial Relay, or DPD.
The buyer suggests using a payment service from the carrier instead of sending a direct payment to the seller’s account. The scammer asks for identification details to facilitate the payment. Moments later, the scammer sends a fake email disguised as one from the courier service. The scam email says the payment was received, but an account is required to access it.
The scammer then asks the buyer to make a refundable payment to confirm bank account details. The Economic Inspectorate says this is all a scam. The payment is never refunded. Instead, the scammer gains access to the seller’s bank account details and can drain money before the seller notices anything is wrong.
The Economic Inspectorate suggests these rules of thumb when using secondhand platforms:
- Sellers only accept payment through bank transfers or cash.
- Always check email addresses – international courier services do not use Gmail or Hotmail addresses.
- Check URL and company email addresses – international courier services do not make spelling mistakes on their sites and addresses.
- Never send anyone a copy of your ID or bank details.
- If asked for a payment to verify the authenticity of your information this is a fake delivery service; real ones use secure payment services and does not require such a step. Never pay money as a step to receive payment.
If defrauded, the Economic Inspectorate recommends taking these actions immediately:
- If you provided personal bank details, call Card Stop immediately on 078 170 170.
- Notify your bank immediately if you made a payment.
- If you paid with a credit card, dispute the transaction via mijnkaart.be (Visa or Mastercard).
- File a report with the Reporting Center of the Economic Inspectorate (scenario “Fraud in online buying and selling”).
- If money is lost, file a complaint with your local police station.