It’s a Scam


Do you have any idea how many scams are running at any given time?

Many. LOTS.

I discovered this due to the fact that my current project is redistributing my 83-year-old mother-in-law’s accumulated possessions. This because her 563 storage units are costing her more than the value of the total contents.

If only there was a South African version of ‘Hoarders’. I can see the headline now:

Ridiculously Good-Looking Daughter-in-law Buried Alive Under 40 Boxes Of 60-Year-Old Vet’s Bills and Rolls of Bandages. Writing Community Devastated.

(Actually, compulsive hoarding is a genuine illness that is recognized by mental health organisations, such as the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, so I won’t mock it in this[1] article.) 

Here are some of the delightful scams I was subjected to:

Oil Rig Barry

What an interesting tale he weaves:

I am interested in buying this for my cousin as a surprise for him only if you can assure me that everything is in order. I am a petroleum engineer currently on a rig offshore I really want this to be a surprise for my cousin so I won’t let him know anything about this until it gets delivered to him, I am sure he will be more than happy with it. It will be secured paying via Skrill as I’m on a rig offshore. So let me know if you have an account with Skrill so I can make the payment asap. Please Note: a pickup agent will come for the pickup as soon as I have made the payment.

Did you get the bit about him being on a rig offshore? I immediately became suspicious and took advantage of the All-Knowing Google to do some Cyber Stalking, which is absolutely Legit and totally not creepy.

Surprise, surprise! Old Barry has tried this line before! Let’s string him on a little, though, to see what he does.

Oh, woe is he! All he wishes is to surprise his dear cousin with a used couch set with a broken leg, yet he is foiled by the evil pick-up agent who has refused to cooperate unless he deposits the collection fee untraceably via Shoprite. Poor Bazzer is marooned on an oil rig offshore and completely helpless against the machinations of the store-account-toting pick-up agent. If only some kind soul would step in and help!

Nice try, Baz. Nice try.

At this point, I started feeling playful. The following ensued:


I got a message from the pickup agent…he said he wouldn’t be able to come for the pickup unless I pay him the agent commission fee via shop-rite first in order to be able to schedule a pickup time, I would have loved to pay him directly via shop-rite but there is no way I can pay online! So I have to ask you to help me with the pickup fees, I will include the R2,450 he has charged me to pick up the item with a (1st class treatment), to the payment I will be sending to your Skrill account, so after I have made the payment I will need you to help me send the R2,450 to the pickup agent through Shop-rite…is that clear to you? I will make the payment as soon as you agree to help me with this. Kind Regards.


Sure, Baz. Soon as I see the money in my Skrill account, I will transfer R3000 out. Then I can make the payment to Shoprite. It will not be possible for me to pay this amount out of my own pocket. 

Shortly after, not one, not two, not three, but four emails arrived from Skrill, which establishment is unaccountably concerned about the pickup agent fee that must be paid in order to release the funds. And look, it even comes from a totally legit email address: Because everyone knows websites don’t use their own domain name in their email addresses. Oh, how they care for their reputation and the safety of their customers! Herewith excerpts from the 4 emails:

The funds have been “APPROVED” and it has been deducted from the buyer’s Skrill account which will be credited to your account as soon as you provide us with the proof of payment made at Shoprite money martWe give you 12-24 hours to do so. Kindly make this transaction in progress by sending the proof of payment as soon as possible as we can not accommodate any form of misappropriations and we have our reputation to protect and do all that is possible to increase our business relationship with the international Skrill…This is as a result of new safety measures that have just been adopted by us to safeguard all our customers against any internet act and to stop fraudulent transaction on the web and also to make sure that both parties in the transaction are guaranteed. There are situations where sellers will receive money and will not respond to the buyer’s wish and also on the seller’s side by making sure that there is no chargeback on the payment made by the purchaser without the seller’s knowledge…We, therefore, implore you to comply with our policy to make this transaction a success…Note: We want you to know that Barry Smith is a serious buyer and we do not want anything to happen to his money. You can contact us as soon as money is sent so that we can verify it and credit your bank account immediately and this is happening because we want to make Skrill a safe and reliable payment company for our customers…This is also part of our New Anti-Rule for Fraud safe transaction on Skrill.


Ok, getting tired of the constant emails. Let’s put an end to this. 


Sorry, Bazzer, that Skrill email address is clearly fake. Try pulling the other one – it’s got bells on.

Then he had the gall to reply:

What do you mean?

Wow. This guy has large spherical objects.

Applaud the acting skills, but playing the innocent won’t work here. You’re a known scammer, Oil Rig Bazzer. Ooh look, I rhymed.

At which point he realized his mistake, and assumed radio silence.


Totally Trustworthy Clyde

Next up: Clyde the desperate guest house owner who has family arriving tomorrow and Must! Purchase! Couches! Immediately! Heaven forbid his poor relations should chill their bottoms upon the floor! He shall email through a copy of his identification document and proof of residence so that you will trust the oddly written SMS that confirmed his payment!

No such guest house. No such work address. Bye Bye, Clyde.


Family Friendly Carlos (Or possibly Janet, who knows?)

Carlos Janet. Odd name for a lady (yup, there’s a photo attached to the email account).

He/She: will like to inform you that am buying them for my Family in Thornton Heath,so i will be the one responsible for the pickup and delivery stuff.kindly get back to me with your full name and address so that i can forward it to the pick up agent to calculate the pick up fees for me.

There it is again – the notorious pickup agent who will no doubt insist on immediate payment via some means that is completely inaccessible to the buyer but is conveniently available to you, the seller.

Then the scammer has the cheek to ask that I take the goods off the selling website as they are definitely, absolutely, without question going to buy them.

Okay the payment will be made shortly and PayPal will notify you with the payment confirmation message.Kindly end the advert immediately since you have decide to sell the items to me.

Nope, nope, and nope.


Philanthropic Niki

Then there was Niki Suzzy who was keen to purchase a used wedding dress and accessories. All was going swimmingly until SUDDENLY:

Alright want you to help me deliver this to doctor in Kenya,will be paying extra $90 for shipping fee through south africa post office upfront…payment will be made upfront before shipment is done.

Damnit Niki.


The Bottom Line

  1. Never ever EVER give a buyer money to help them complete their purchase. You will not see that money or the buyer again.
  2. Don’t trust ANY email, fax, or text message payment confirmation notifications, no matter how official-looking or poorly-spelled. You can fake anything these days, especially bad grammar.
  3. Wait until you see money in your account before releasing the goods. If an EFT is being paid into your account, wait for notification from your bank that it has been received, then double-check that the money really is in your account by checking your balance. If using PayPal, Skrill, or similar, check your balance through the website. Again, do NOT trust notifications alone. They are too easy to forge. (Although not proofread, evidently).
  4. Don’t believe sob stories. This is BUSINESS, not a soap opera. You are not running a charity or financial aid institution. Stiffen that neck and say no to tricksters!
  5. Be careful of cash exchanges. Some have been followed and mugged for the goods or cash paid, or even had their houses robbed as the ‘buyer’ used the opportunity to case the joint. If possible, avoid bringing the buyer to your house or anywhere you could be found again. Choose neutral ground that is in the public eye, such as a coffee shop, or even the local police station. Take a friend along, especially if you are friends with The Incredible Hulk. Lure him out with peas and lettuce (or whatever it is green people eat) and allow him to loom menacingly over the potential buyer. This should discourage them from mugging you for the hard-stolen cash they just handed over. (It may also discourage them from buying the item, but that’s beside the point.)

Of course, a scammer’s ability to come up with new stories and methods of extracting moola from you is only surpassed by his inability to accurately construct a sentence. But, keep the above principles in mind and you should be able to hang onto your cash.

[1] Maybe the next one.


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It’s a Scam
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