I feel compelled to write a post today, even though I hadn't planned on doing so this weekend (sorry folks, again you will have gathered I'm very much a part time blogger at present....but still here though!!)
Today Gustavo and his cousin were out shopping in Camden whilst I stayed at home doing my usual Sunday college work. Whilst they were looking round the market, Gustavo's cousin had her bag - containing purse, credit cards, mobile and brand new digital camera - stolen. One minute she was walking round the stalls and shops with Gustavo enjoying herself, the next it had totally vanished. Some thieving personage obviously whipped it off her shoulder when she wasn't looking. I don't think she was being particularly inattentive, but it still happened. Naturally she was majorly upset and in floods of tears afterwards. An awful thing to happen and her weekend has now been ruined. What kind of ar*eholes get a kick out of doing this kind of thing?
I mentioned on a previous post that I've bought a brand new car and sold my old model. What I didn't mention was the rigmarole I went through in flogging it (but after what happened to Gu's cousin today I feel extremely angry and the need to do some serious venting, all of which is related to the above). I eventually ended up getting a pretty good deal from a buyer who paid me cash up front for the car; this was only after I'd received a number of scam emails from "buyers" who said they wanted to purchase the car through PayPal (an online payment merchant) without even coming to view it and giving me various "explanations" as to why they preferred this method. One such "buyer" nearly got the better of me.
Now, I'm definitely not what you'd call naive, but I'm not always wise to every one's tricks...well, who is in this life? The "buyer", who called themselves Maria, emailed me to say that they had seen my ad on Autotrader and wanted to purchase the car for their son as a surprise birthday present - they claimed they were at an industry exhibition and didn't have the time to come and view it. I guess I thought that was odd, and given the amount I was asking for the car, an awful lot of money to pay without even wanting to check it out! I said as much to the "buyer" in my reply, but they then came back saying they were happy to buy the car, were very keen etc and just wanted me to email my PayPal details so they could send through the payment asap. This was when slight alarm bells went off in my head...I'd heard stories that you should never send your personal/financial details to strangers.
So, instead I emailed the buyer back to say I would send them an invoice from my Paypal account asking for the payment to be made; that way I could safely wait for the money to be sent to me and if they were genuine then I would receive the payment. I completed the invoice with the amount owed and emailed it to the buyer.
The next day, I received a message from "Maria" saying she had sent the money through to my PayPal account, however, when I checked there was nothing there. 0.00. "Maria" then emailed me again to say that for the funds to be released to my Paypal account, I needed to make a payment of £500 to Western Union first, as the car was going to be shipped to them - they were not currently living in London. They assured me that the shipping fee would be refunded in the amount that had been sent through to my PayPal account, once I had sent the money to Western Union. This was the alarm bells started to ring even louder. There had been absolutely no mention of shipping and additional costs before and things were now becoming far too complicated. I emailed the buyer back to say thank you, but no, I no longer wished to proceed with the purchase as a) Nothing about shipping fees had been discussed before and this hadn't been part of the deal b) I hadn't even received payment from the buyer.
"Maria" then came back again, then saying that they had sent through the payment already from their account and what were they supposed to do now, as the money couldn't be "recalled". They said I was reneging on the deal, this was unfair, etc and they wanted to discuss the matter with me, or ... they would take legal action. They left a phone number.
If I'd stopped to think about this properly I would have realised the contradiction - that the money had been apparently sent to my account yet couldn't be released until I made the shipping fee payment - this was really just a load of baloney. However by this stage I still had the very positive feeling that I was dealing with someone dishonest and dodgy.
Being the fair person I am, I actually rang them up. The person that answered the phone was definitely not "Maria", but a foreign-sounding man who said his wife Maria was away at present and he was speaking on her behalf. He kept insisting that the money had been sent to me and so I couldn't pull out of the deal. I kept saying that I was sorry but nothing to do with shipping costs had been mentioned before and I wanted to sell the car in a straightforward transaction, rather than this method. They kept talking and talking and ignoring what I was saying and insisting I pay Western Union or they would take legal action. Whatever I said would not dissuade them. In the end I had to say goodbye and hung up.
Cut to a few hours later. I'd gone into work and was sitting at my desk checking my emails. Suddenly I receive a "legal action" email from PayPal saying I had two hours to make payment to the client or I would be reported to the FBI. I admit, a horrible chill went through me when I read this. Oh my God. I actually felt incredibly nervous and frightened at this point. Was it for real?
I then thought, I have to get this all properly checked out. I rang up Paypal and explained about the email that I'd just received. They almost immediately verified that no such email had been sent by them and it was very likely a scam. The relief I felt was immense. I forwarded the email to their "spoof" dept and they were able to back this up - the email had been sent by a fake buyer who was trying to embezzle funds and I should ignore any further communication from them. Again, massive relief.
Nevertheless, I was also left feeling extremely angry and incensed by what I'd been put through, wasting my time dealing with someone who wasn't remotely interested in buying my car but just wanted to take my money. And judging by the other emails I'd received from "buyers" similar to "Maria", there were a hell of a lot of people out there doing similar things.
I guess I shouldn't have done it but I couldn't resist emailing "Maria" back again and telling her: "I now know that you are a fake buyer and you have no intention of buying my car. I think you are disgusting. Now go away." They replied saying: "Don't hang that "checked with PayPal stuff" on me, that won't work. We are sending the FBI to your address tomorrow afternoon, so you will be sorry, swear down". Unbelievable. Of course nothing happened the next day, but it just proves that there are no limits to the depths to which some desperate people will go...I felt sorely tempted to send another response, but this would of course have added further fuel to the fire, and probably have made me as bad as them. So I left it at that.
The point I'm getting to here is just how terrible it is to know that there are so many rotten, cheating b*stards out there that will willingly and knowingly try to rip people off, one way or another, whether it be through stealing people's bags or embezzling their money over the internet. What kind of sad existences do these people live? How can they actually live with themselves? It's very obvious and cliched, but I honestly think this planet we live on is getting worse and the people who inhabit it more and more unpleasant, selfish and acquisitive. Some people, anyway.
I hope you have all had a better weekend!