Many expats try to sell their stuff through expat community within their country of current residence.

Why? Because there is a difference between what expats use and what locals use. For instance, when drying laundry, many westerners put their wet laundry into dryer with dry sheets. Japanese and Koreans generally don’t: they usually let their washed wet laundry to dry up naturally by hanging it outside. So if a western expat in Japan/Korea tries to sell his used laundry dryer or leftover dry sheets to locals, he will have a slim chance. As a result, many turn to Facebook or Craigslist – where you can have an access to expat community within your residence, to people who use pretty much same stuff with you. You can post it on Ebay, but many of Ebay users are already living in oversea (West). If you are to ship your item all the way from UAE to Canada, the shipping and handling will cost a lot. Very few will be willing to buy your stuff with all that trouble. By posting on either Facebook or Craigslist of your place, your sales post have more exposure on potential buyers, especially in small, homogenous country with small expat community.

But thanks to the age of borderless internet, practically all kinds of people – much more than you thought, and not necessarily to fellow nice expat like you – have access to your posting. And not everyone has a good intention. One of those is internationally operating fence organization, equipped with phishing tools.

Let me share my story. Before I share it, I would like to emphasize the fact that I did a plenty of online sales/buying in States, and have been good at it. I used nothing but Ebay and Amazon, so I can minimize the chance of getting duped. If the e-mail does not seem “right,” I would delete it right away.

I recently upgraded my iPod, so my old iPod became pretty useless. Since now I am living in Korea and many Korean use iriver or YEPP over iPod, I did not have much choice but to post my iPod sales on Facebook and Craigslist Seoul. I got a ton of inquiries. I decided to sell it to someone who sent the inquiry first – fair, no? Deal was made, and we decided to use Paypal for payment.

Soon, I got an e-mail from Paypal about payment confirmation, saying the fund is held by PayPal due to the buyer protection policy and it will be released only after I send the tracking number to a third party. Now, I know some of you are thinking “boy, did you believe that?” But here’s my defense: this is not my first time to use PayPal, and the e-mail looked exactly same with the ones you get from the PayPal as a notice. And, being the frequent user of PayPal, I know PayPal has been trying a lot of new stuff for safe digital transaction. So I shipped it to his shipping address. Then the payment was getting delayed even after I shipped it and forwarded tracking number, saying there is a technical problem. After much checking, I figured that I am duped. The only reason I did not get pissed was 1) they did not take money from my account like many phishing do, and 2) I earned some money recently that is more than the value of my old iPod. According to my too-late background search, it seems like the guy is running a wholesale electronics store in Malaysia. God only knows how he supplies his items.

Everyone is aware of fraud, and doing their best to avoid the scammers. However, because of our ability to think according to the given surrounding, in some ways TCK/CCKs are prone to fall for scam/phishing much easier than others.

I was duped only because the unpopularity of iPod among local Koreans, my knowledge of expat community size here, and assuming the only viewers of Facebook/Craigslist Seoul’s marketplace are expats living here. I think there are fences that are doing it professionally, searching through the entire Craigslist and Facebook, regardless of the region. In fact, another buyer who contacted me said he/she is at Spain. If you are a normal expat in Spain, why would you want to buy an iPod all the way from a seller at Korea? My “buyer”’s address was Malaysia, which made it pretty much believable to me – not too far from Korea, the country of my current residence.

A fellow TCK (Algeria, US, various South American countries, Turkey and Korea) and also a good friend of mine was very close to be a scam victim. When he was in Algeria, he got a phone call from “government” saying his bank information was stolen by a highly suspicious group. If he received such a call in US or Korea, he would have simply answered “nice try, get lost,” knowing it is a scam. But in Algeria, inefficient banks and careless handing of customer information is much more common. So he believed it. If he had not asked the caller’s phone number and actually tried to call the government for update, and realized the numbers are different, he would have lost all of his money in bank account to the scammer.

Though I feel very sour about my loss, I think this is worth sharing with other expats, or anyone with frequent international moving. And through this I hope others can dodge the risk of being victim of similar phishing scam.

Some of my suggestions:

1) If you are to post your selling on Craigslist and/or Facebook, indicate clearly that you will deal only with people who are already in your place of residence.

2) For payment, use PayPal and be the first one to send invoice for money request before shipment – don’t wait until they send the money. In my opinion and experience, money order is more risky and complex.

3) Search for your buyer’s e-mail address on PayPal. If it isn’t showing up, you need to doubt.

4) Stick to your rules (1-3)

5) It might be a good idea to Google his/her e-mail address or some of the sentences from his e-mail.
If it is a phishing indeed, there should be a record somewhere.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Some of my version:

    I consider Korean pop is boring.

    Your friends don’t understand why you want to hang out with white people.

    I almost fell asleep at the study abroad orientation of my college.