Shopping & Retail

The latest EBay Scam Shows That We Need To Shop Even Smarter

Man in phone shop

We often talk about the prevalence of internet scams and the importance of taking measures to protect yourself.

A lot of the time, it comes down to common sense: many scams can be uncovered pretty quickly due to tell-tale signs like poor grammar, suspicious email and web addresses or ‘too-good-to-be-true’ offers. As scammers get smarter, many of these helpful indicators are disappearing from the scams that they run. A recent fraud affecting Currys PC World on eBay demonstrates this well.

Scammers managed to hack into Currys PC World’s eBay storefront and change the payment information, so that anybody making a purchase through PayPal would end up sending their money to the wrong place. Customers would still go to the legitimate eBay site and find their items on a legitimate retailer’s page, making it difficult to know that anything was wrong. The only sign was the recipient’s email address, which shows up when going through the PayPal payment screen.

Despite the fact that the scam was shut down relatively quickly by the retailers involved, fraudsters still managed to make away with well over £100k in ill-gotten gains. That’s because they targeted high value items like the new iPhone 11, allowing them to bring in a lot of money quite quickly.

Money back guarantee

Luckily, consumers hit by this scam were protected by PayPal, who have been reversing the transactions. Anybody who has been affected by this scam and is yet to receive their money back can file a dispute by logging into PayPal, who should resolve the problem quite quickly.  

The owners of Currys PC World have released a short statement highlighting their commitment to finding out what went wrong, saying that they are “disappointed that this has happened”, but will work with eBay “to investigate what has taken place”. They added that “we are providing affected customers with guidance on how to obtain a refund from PayPal.”

Is it still safe to shop online?

We understand that this might put you off using eBay all together, but that’s probably not necessary. Assuming that you’re not one of the small number of customers actually affected by this scam, the main takeaway should be the need for more diligence than ever. Although it would have been difficult to spot, the false payment details did use different email addresses, with minor changes when compared to the real addresses, such as the use of a lowercase ‘I’ instead of uppercase. Without knowing the correct PayPal email address, the best way to search for these is by looking for odd, out-of-place characters. We get so used to running through online checkouts without even really thinking about what we’re doing, however it’s important to always know exactly where your money is going.

You can also think smart about where you’re shopping and what payment methods you’re using. PayPal are well known for their strong consumer protections, which means that using PayPal is still a good idea – although there are scams out there, you’ll likely get your money back. Similarly, using credit cards is always a good idea as the ability to do a chargeback means that you’ll always have a way to get your money back if you don’t receive the goods. Paying through bank transfer or by using a debit card aren’t necessarily unsafe, but they can leave you far less protected if something goes wrong.

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