Is this a known PayPal scam?
May 7, 2008 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Is this a scam, or am I being paranoid?

Okay, so, I bought a camera lens on eBay, and PayPal'ed the seller their money. The lens arrived yesterday, and there's a small crack in the casing, suggesting that it was dropped or whacked; the packing job was impeccable, so it looks to me like the lens was damaged before it was shipped. The crack wasn't in the description or photo, so I sent the seller a message (via eBay) detailing the damage and requesting to return the lens. I offered to cover the return postage.

Within twenty minutes, the seller sent me an email indicating that they would be happy to take a return, and that they would cover the return shipping and kick in another hundred clams for my trouble. This is ridiculous--I understand wanting to make a bad transaction right, but $100 is fully one quarter of the value of the lens!

Is this an eBay/PayPal variant of the chargeback scam, and, if so, has this happened before? All of my searches turn up plenty of information about phishing, but nothing that sounds like this. I mean, the internet never forgets, right?

Should I insist that my money be refunded in a specific way? If they PayPal me the money, am I in the clear, or do they need to specifically issue a refund for the original transaction (precluding, I assume, their offer of shipping and an extra $100)?

Are these folks just being nice, and I'm too cynical to see it? The seller looks legit--they have perfect feedback, and an accessible record of selling photo equipment on par with what I bought.
posted by pullayup to Work & Money (13 answers total)
The way to tell is: Are they asking you to give them any money before they give you the $100? If so, that's obviously a scam (but that's the way a lot of scams work).

It's possible that the seller is just really scared that you're going to leave negative feedback on eBay.
posted by bingo at 8:09 AM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, if they have perfect feedback, then conceivably they might be trying to avoid getting dinged by a negative. This kind of situation would almost certainly earn them one otherwise. But yeah, $100 seems a little generous... if it was me I would have thrown in $30 or some accessories on top of the refund.
posted by crapmatic at 8:10 AM on May 7, 2008

I had a similar situation happen to me, but it wasn't for something as expensive. The way the seller of my item handled it was to transfer money directly to my PayPal account; I'm pretty sure there's no way they can rescind the payment, unless they really want to go through with the hassle of dealing with PayPal's notorious bureaucracy.

YMMV, but considering the seller's feedback, I'd chalk it up to good customer service.
posted by chan.caro at 8:11 AM on May 7, 2008

First you need to get your money back into your paypal account. Then you can consider any other payments. You should institute an "Item not as described" dispute with PayPal and ebay. This is just to cover your ass because both ebay and paypal will require it if there are any problems down the road. the dispute may piss off the seller, so I would communicate with them beforehand and let them know that you are only following the required ebay and paypal procedures.
posted by Gungho at 8:13 AM on May 7, 2008

If this were shipped via a private carrier (UPS, Fedex) with insurance, the normal response to an item that left in new condition and arrived damaged would be to contact the carrier, put in a damage claim, and have an inspector come out.

It's conceivable that this is a reputable operation that self-insures all its shipments, but the fact that they're not pursuing this does raise an eyebrow. There are long-con ebay scammers who build up good feedback through legit transactions for a while, and then start scamming.

If they want the lens back, have them refund the transaction and issue a "call tag" to have UPS to pick it up from you. I'm not aware of a way that they can pay you via paypal and then "unpay" you, but that says more about the limits of my own knowledge.
posted by adamrice at 8:19 AM on May 7, 2008

Further details:

If this were shipped via a private carrier (UPS, Fedex) with insurance...

The box was shipped via the USPS, and wasn't insured.

I'm pretty sure there's no way they can rescind the payment...
I'm not aware of a way that they can pay you via paypal and then "unpay" you...

Yeah, this is what I was wondering about too--if they pay me by paypal, either by a new "pseudo-cash" transaction, or as a refund of the original transaction, and then I send the lens along, is there any way that the payment can be rescinded?
posted by pullayup at 8:36 AM on May 7, 2008

I agree with Gungho - institute an "Item not as described" dispute with PayPal. And yeah tell the seller you are doing this first so they don't get unneccesarily upset. You will probably have to take the lens to a camera shop and get someone there to sign something saying it is damaged, that's how I was told they verify these claims of "Items Not As Described". I believe you have 45 days after payment to do this, so don't let that date pass.

I think offering $100 is weird, I would just avoid that though I have no idea if there's a scam planned.
posted by Penelope at 8:52 AM on May 7, 2008

A lot of eBayers take feedback really seriously and since they seem to be a legitimate vendor, I'd guess they were just trying to avoid the negative feedback. Hell, I had a seller who somehow didn't actually have the two items I purchased from them with Buy-It-Now send me hate-filled emails after I gave them a neutral feedback...and I was trying to be nice by not giving them a negative.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:56 AM on May 7, 2008


I would first file "an item not as described" claim with ebay and paypal and let them handle it.

Here's why it could be a scam:
Buyer sells you a product, supposedly in good shape. they purposely send you a damaged item. You complain, they say no problem, ship it back, we will make good. At this point they can prove they shipped it and you recieved it. You didn't complain, or they string you a long for a while, and at some point you wait too long and the window closes

As far as ebay and paypal are concerned, this deal is done

If you simply pack it up and ship it back on your own, and the seller decides tough luck, it's pretty much game over. I doubt paypal or ebay would get involved, since you chose to handle this outside of them.

I'd be concerned that are so quick to offer you $100 without even asking you to try a claim with the shipper. if they sent it UPS, there is $100 worth of insurance automatically

I'd STRONGLY suggest getting ebay and paypal involved, especially if this was a big ticket item. If you file a complaint, you will still be aby to let paypal know once it is all taken care of, and this will not hurt the seller in any way, long term.
posted by Mr_Chips at 9:23 AM on May 7, 2008

Remember, if they manage to string you a long, there is a point where you can no longer file a claim, or even leave feedback, positive or negative.

It's probably not a scam, but all you need to do to protect yourself is go to to my ebay, then chose Dispute console, then item not as described
posted by Mr_Chips at 9:33 AM on May 7, 2008

To hopefully clear up one point:

As a seller, you can issue partial refunds on a payment received. I've done this, it's not a hassle at all and doesn't require any involvement with ebay/paypal/whoever.

For instance, I charged $x to ship something and found out that it was less than that, so I refunded them $3. Wasn't a problem in the slightest.
posted by dmz at 11:11 AM on May 7, 2008

I wouldn't ship them the lens till the money (or at least half the money) was in my account; the extra $100 might just be incentive to get the lens back more quickly, no questions asked, with no lateral involvement (and thus no paper trail). Because if you ship it before they refund you, then they have your initial payment AND the lens. You're counting on the good nature of an anonymous stranger for them to follow through on their end.
posted by GardenGal at 8:19 PM on May 7, 2008

There's a lot of misinformation here. eBay/PayPal's "not as described" procedure requires you to return the item (with tracking) before you get the refund anyway.

If the seller does have good feedback, I'd act just like you would for any other online store (Amazon, etc.). Assume that they'll make it good, but make sure you document your actions and use common sense. The only way it might be a scam is if the person you're now communicating with isn't actually the person who sold you the item. You can make sure you're communicating with the same email address, maybe use a form on their web site or give them a phone call (you can request their phone number from eBay if you don't have it -- it's in the member search under advanced search)

Send the item back to the seller with tracking. As long as you do that, you have until 45 days after the original payment to file the complaint with PayPal. There's no advantage to filing it earlier than that, and it has the potential to piss off the seller if they are being genuine.

If they refund (reverse) your original PayPal payment, they can't undo that. They would have to send you a new payment for the extra hundred, which they could potentially try to reverse later, but you didn't ask for the extra hundred anyway, right?

If the PayPal payment was charged to your credit card then you have an extra layer of protection. Your credit card will get you the money back if things were go awry with PayPal (they won't).

If you're certain that you're returning the item to the right place (the return address on the original package should be pretty safe) with tracking, and don't let the 45-day deadline pass if you haven't received a refund, you'll be okay
posted by winston at 2:27 PM on May 11, 2008

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