Let’s talk about a couple of great online shopping deals…or what really looked like great deals and proved out otherwise.

Jan wanted to get a spaniel puppy. She loved spaniels and felt very sad after her long-time pet spaniel died. 

Jan went online looking for an immediate replacement. Since you can find anything online, of course she found a spaniel puppy offered for sale on a website. This website displayed photos of various puppies offered for sale and provided a phone number as a contact. 

Within minutes Jan called and talked to a seller willing to accept $700 for a puppy. If Jan wanted it shipped, she needed to pay an additional $235. Jan felt ecstatic! She offered to pay for the dog through PayPal. 

That offer fell flat before the seller. The seller refused to wait two days for a PayPal transaction to clear. 

Instead, the seller told Jan to go to her bank and send money directly to another bank account, a bank-to-bank wire transfer. The seller explained this allowed the immediate shipment of the dog, which was Jan’s very fond wish. Jan authorized the money transfer. 

Take a guess what happened next. 

Nothing. No puppy arrived. No response to Jan’s calls or texts. 

Jan was fleeced. The website was a hoax. The bank account likely is a pass-through mechanism. Money deposited is immediately transferred out, probably overseas. 

Jan admits her desire for a puppy replacement clouded her judgment. She overlooked some pretty easy and user-friendly methods of evaluating the reputation of the puppy seller. Just by typing the name of the breeder’s business and adding the word “scam” or “review” into a search engine, she would have immediately viewed several posts warning the website was a fake, existing only to cheat dog lovers. Further, any time a seller refuses to accept payment from an accepted and legitimate payment service like PayPal, that flashes bright warning lights. 

Jan’s story isn’t the last online shopping story for the week. Lexie from Camanche told me her account of losing $800. Lexie really wanted a golf cart. Lots of towns now allow them on city streets, and that kind of transportation appealed to Lexie. 

She saw a very nice looking one offered on Facebook Marketplace for $1,400. When Lexie sent a message to the seller, she replied with a long, wordy message about how the cart belonged to the seller’s cheating ex-husband, how much he loved it, and how selling it allowed her to “stick it to him.” Rather odd sharing all that. Nevertheless, Lexie agreed to purchase. 

The seller demanded eBay gift cards because “eBay guaranteed the deal.” The seller sent several pages of official-looking documents under the eBay logo, seeming to vouch up and down for the trustworthiness of the transaction. 

This persuaded Lexie, and she went on the hunt for eBay gift cards. She found most retail outlets limit the amount they sell, necessitating several stops. Lexie followed the seller’s instructions, photographing the eBay card’s access codes on the reverse and sending the images to the seller. But she tired of this at $800, and sent messages to the seller, offering to pay by other means. When the seller replied “nothing doing,” Lexie realized she got cheated. 

Lexie’s skepticism kicked in late, but she did eventually note the red flag. Lexie blew through some other stop signs particular to online auction sites, such as:

Long, dramatic, personal-sounding explanations or reasons offered for the sale are almost a guarantee of a hoax

Demands for payments in gift cards always mean you are getting teed up for a scam

Relating to things offered up on auction or for sale sites (think Marketplace or Craiglist), deal only in cash, deal only face-to-face, and if at all possible, meet in public places

Contact Seniors vs. Crime

Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, (563) 242-9211 Ext. 4433, or email me at randymeier@gapa911.us.