How eBay Scammers Tried To Get Me

by Barbara Nevins Taylor

A few hours after I listed a SONY EX 3 video camera on eBay. I received a surprising text message. Someone wanted to pay the price I asked. 

Sure enough when I checked eBay, Alex Johnson had messaged me there too, and eBay marked my item as sold. I felt triumphant and excited.


But I also felt wary. 

I wanted to make the sale, but something seemed strange. Why did he text message me? And how did he get my phone information?

Nevertheless, I responded. I didn’t know the shipping cost because I didn’t know the weight of the camera when I put it in its big Thermadyne case. I explained that in an email. Then he mentioned shipping to Africa.

“Mmm,” I heard myself say. Shipping to Africa. The flash, flash, flash went off in my brain. I remembered all the stories I reported about people who fell for scams to ship something to Africa

And then, I realized Alex didn’t ask whether the camera shot video in the NTSC or PAL mode. Maybe this is too technical, but television stations in the U.S. use video shot in the NTSC format. NTSC has 625 lines of resolution. In Africa, Europe and parts of Asia they use PAL, with 525 lines of resolution. Alex’s failure to ask about this made me more suspicious. And then I asked where his brother lived. 

The next text told the tale.

Nigeria. I hate to feel a prejudice, but my scam detector was signaling Code Red. Nigerian scammers have flooded our in-boxes since the Internet began with unclaimed funds looking for a home or royalty needing our help to reclaim their inheritance of millions. So I wasn’t buying this one, or selling to this guy.

The next morning, I received two very creepy texts.

I told him not to message me anymore.

That afternoon, I reported the mini-drama to eBay and the two staffers I spoke with confirmed it sounded like a scammer. They suggested that I de-list the item and fix mistakes I made when I filled out my seller profile.

I had neglected to check the section in the drop down menu that said I would only sell to someone who linked an eBay account to PayPal. And I also allowed buyers to make the “best offer.” Apparently changing these things help block scammers. 

So I re-listed. 

And the next day, it happened again. This time a Caleb Brown texted, 

 And I called eBay again. This time they got to the bad guy first. They had put a note on the listing that said: 

So I de-listed and started over again.  And fixed my third mistake. I added my PayPal email address.

This time, the scammers haven’t texted or called and I don’t yet have an offer. 

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Barbara Nevins Taylor

As the winner of 22 Emmy Awards and a slew of journalism honors and awards, I created to give you the straight story about complicated stuff. Tell us what you want to know and we'll get you the answers.