When Sunshine Coast resident Amber Keith received a message saying someone was interested in buying her bed online, she was relieved.
The 29-year-old was selling her belongings ahead of moving from Queensland to join her partner in Western Australia, and this was another item to tick off the list.
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But things soon took a sinister turn when Keith was swindled out of $500 and almost lost an additional $500 in a convincing PayID scam.
She says she did not realise something was up until it was too late and wants others to be aware.
“I had this lady message me an hour later and she seemed really interested, she was asking me lots of questions and it seemed quite genuine,” Keith told 7NEWS.com.au.
That appearance of being a genuine buyer is what lured Keith in.
“She said she was happy to buy it and would pay me right away through PayID,” she said.
Keith was unfamiliar with PayID – which allows you to use a mobile number or email address to send money quickly, even between different banks – but set it up and sent the buyer her details.
Then came a message from the buyer saying she had to send Keith an extra $500 to upgrade her account to a “business account” to allow the payment to go through.
A “confusing” email followed saying Keith then had to reimburse the buyer’s $500 before she could access the money the woman had sent – so, she did.
“She continued to talk to me after that, which is weird, saying the money should come back into your bank,” Keith said.
“I kept thinking I’ve gone through Commonwealth Bank to set it up, it should be safe.”
The alarm bells starting ringing when she received another email asking to send through an additional $650.
“I was like, this doesn’t make sense, and messaged my partner and he was like, this has to be a scam,” she said.
“I contacted the bank and after an hour got through to someone and they said, ‘You’ve been scammed’. I was in tears at that point, I felt like an idiot.”
Keith is not alone.
A search of “PayID scam” online reveals countless social media posts from users warning about how they were inundated with messages from sophisticated scammers targeting their post on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree.
Marie Roger is among them.
The South Australian mother-of-three lost more than $1000 when a heartless crook took advantage of her trying to sell baby items.
Roger says she was hit with the same script.
The buyer asked lots of questions and offered to pay instantly through PayID, which Roger had also never used before.
“The email was actually quite convincing. It had the PayID logos and I didn’t think to check the email address,” she told 7NEWS.com.au.
“I’m normally very cautious but this one got me.”
Roger says she initially sent through $450 to “reimburse” the buyer and then received another email asking her to send $700 – and she did.
“I didn’t catch on until later when they tried to get another $700 from me,” she said.
“I wrote back to the buyer and said I can’t, can I get a refund and she said I can’t get my money until I send the $700,” she said.
“I said I’ve got a baby and that was the last of my savings and I’ve just got scammed. I thought she was still real at this stage.”
Only later did it click that the buyer was in on the scam.
“I thought how did I not catch on to this,” Roger said.
‘Keep your eyes peeled’
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says $260,000 was reported lost to the impersonation scam last year.
Keith and Roger want other people to be on alert when selling online.
“I don’t want anyone else to go through it, I felt like such a fool,” Keith said.
“If they ask for money in an email don’t send it, and check the email address.”
Their warning comes as banking giant ING Australia alerted its customers to the sneaky scam this month, urging them to “keep your eyes peeled” for crooks posing as buyers.
“Once they have your email, the scammer may send a fake Pay ID or PayPal email asking you to register via a link or make an additional payment in order to sell the item,” it said.
“You should never have to send money to receive payment.”
Its advice is, if in doubt, never click any links, delete the email and end the transaction.
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