Ben Borgers

How I got scammed on Facebook Marketplace

July 10, 2023

A few weeks ago, I got scammed buying a camera on Facebook Marketplace.

I bought the camera from a profile that was created in 2017. They had some other things for sale, too. The account looked legit — lots of family photos and comments from family members.

I paid $1,030 using PayPal, selecting “Goods and Services” because I knew I’d be protected by PayPal in case of a scam.

They didn’t ship out the item that evening or the next day, so I got antsy and texted them. They finally sent me a UPS tracking link for my package, but then they immediately said they were very worried because I had opened a PayPal claim against them. I had not. I checked my PayPal account. I had? They pleaded with me to close it.

I know that I didn’t open it. I was eating dinner at the time that it was opened.

But I realized that, once you close a case on PayPal, you can’t open it again. So when the package arrived and was something else, I would have no recourse.

Instead of closing it, I pretended that I couldn’t see the case on my end and even sent doctored screenshots of the case not showing up.

The next morning, I called PayPal and asked them how the seller could’ve opened a case on my behalf against themselves. They weren’t sure.

I kept the case open. A few days later, while on a bike ride, I received an email that the case had been closed. By me. By me?? I didn’t do that.

I raced home and called PayPal. Again, they didn’t know how that was possible. But they were understanding and explained that, once the package arrived and wasn’t a camera, I actually could open another case. You just can’t open a case a second time for the same issue. But the scammer opened an “Item not received” case against themselves, and I could file again as “Item not as described.”

The UPS package was delivered a few days later — according to the tracking number, at least. It was signed for by “ATWOOD.” I don’t know anyone named Atwood.

I called UPS. For security reasons, they couldn’t tell me where the package was headed, but they did confirm that it wasn’t my address or my name. It was an address in Lexington though, so the UPS tracking website would show “Lexington, MA” (but it doesn’t show the exact address, which the scammer must’ve known).

I called PayPal again and explained. They took the tracking number and called UPS, and were somehow able to find out exactly where the package was heading. (This feels like it was against UPS protocol.)

I looked up the address and found that it was for Lincoln Labs, an MIT lab in Lexington. I guess the scammer chose a random commercial address that was in Lexington.

They logged all this as evidence, and re-opened the “Item not received” claim. The scammer now had 10 days to provide evidence to the contrary, otherwise I would automatically be refunded.

10 days later, I woke up to see that the scammer had added a tracking number to the case. It was the same tracking number they had given me, the one that PayPal knew wasn’t headed to me, so that was perfect. I logged into PayPal, and… I had closed the case. Again. This time at 2am, while I was asleep.

I spent 2.5 hours on Saturday morning calling PayPal, and eventually got to someone who was very helpful. I had to explain that I actually didn’t close that case. They re-opened the case for a second time, and escalated it so the “back-office team” could review in a few days. I just hoped that the scammer wouldn’t close the case on my behalf for a third time.

A few days later, I received the final update: I was refunded $1,030. whew.

I’m still not sure how the scammer was able to open and close cases on my behalf. My theory is that they were able to spoof my phone number and call PayPal support and do it over the phone. (They asked early on for my phone number “for the tracking information,” which in retrospect doesn’t make a lot of sense.)

But in any case, I got my money back! Thanks PayPal :)