OPINION: Internet scams are clever… or I am really stupid.


avatar2.jpgIf you’re reading a tech blog then chances are that you think you’re pretty tech-savvy – you know your way around the internet, you can tell your lolcats from your RSS feeds, and you’ve probably become a bit complacent with your security-conscious mind.

“I don’t need anti-virus software, I’ll just be careful… I’d never fall for an internet phishing scam, I can spot a bogus deal from a mile off”, you’re smugly thinking right now, perhaps knowingly stroking your chin as you do so.

Unfortunately, this was my line of thinking until about two and a half hours ago when I discovered that I’ve unwittingly fell victim to an internet scam.

Months ago when tickets for the Reading Festival went on sale, I wasn’t quick enough to get a ticket from the initial sale, but my love of Rage Against The Machine and sticking it to the man by listening to politically-charged rock music caused me to look elsewhere for tickets. I’m sure you can see where this story is heading.

After not being able to find a Nigerian Prince to supply me with some tickets, I ended up the community trading sites, like eBay and Gumtree. On Gumtree I found a woman who was selling a couple of Reading weekend tickets at almost cost-price. Her story was that she’d bought them in the sale immediately after last year’s festival but now couldn’t go. So I sent her an e-mail enquiring.

Obviously I did all of the important checks before handing over the cash, and the signs were good: her e-mail address was at a proper domain and not just at Yahoo or Hotmail or something, the website associated with her domain appeared to be a real company with a real address, and she came across as a friendly person via e-mail.

Having used eBay with success in the past I was of the mindset that people are innately good, and people on the internet are honest. Unfortunately I would later be disproved.

So I sent “Emma” a £100 “deposit” via Paypal-alike service NOCHEX and then waited for four months until earlier this week when I e-mailed her to remind her I’d bought the tickets and to arrange when I can collect them from her (as they only post them out a week before to stop, er, people selling them on). It didn’t exactly fill me with confidence when she wrote back signing off her e-mail as “Gemma”.

Then this morning, I got an e-mail where she claimed that because the card she bought the tickets on had been stolen just after she bought the tickets (hmm), the transaction might not have gone through so she won’t be getting the tickets.

Then the penny dropped and I realised that I’ve probably been scammed.

Checking the domain, the website lists an address in Weybridge, Surrey. The phone number listed is a London number even though Weybridge is outside of the London area codes, and phoning it sends you straight to an answer phone… Googling the address implies that a number of vastly different businesses operate from the same building, and googling the company name results in an eBay shop listing (eBay rating zero) claiming to be based in Northamptonshire.

This is especially frustrating, as it seems the scam-merchants are more sophisticated than I gave them (£100) credit for – and indeed, I’m much more fallible than I suspected (I thought I was infallible)… and now I’m £100 down and not going to the Reading festival. You can probably imagine the stream of swearwords that left my mouth this morning.

So the lesson here that I want to get across is simply: internet scams are real… and it isn’t just your mum who is likely to fall for them. Consider yourself warned.

And if you’ve got any spare tickets for Reading (or indeed, Leeds), for the weekend or the Rage day… please get in touch with me!

Related Posts: Hong Kong domain scams | Sprint customer dumping scam

James O’Malley
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  • Doesn’t NOCHEX offer similar guarantees to Paypal for fraud?

    This’ll get your money back and they’ll have their account closed in the process no doubt. Both eBay and NOCHEX won’t want this kind of negative PR on a popular tech blog, so you should follow through with this line of enquiry and keep us updated.

    If nothing else we can then find out just how robust these modern services actually are against the individuals that would otherwise steal their living from our gadget-laden pockets.

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