Nov 082012

By W.H.A.|

I received the following question today:


Hello. I’m selling an item but the buyer’s payment (made through Paypal) is on hold until I pay the shipper’s fee. Is there any way that a payment on hold from Paypal for a reason of payment to a shipping agent can be released?

Can Paypal and my local Western Union get together to complete the payment without the seller getting ahold of funds? I have a $2,850 payment on hold because buyer wanted me to pay shipping agent $900.00 and then I would get credited with the money after said transfer. I am unable to get funds so I want Paypal to send it to a Western Union and take care of it that way.. is that possible?

– Patrick


Cargo ship.

Shipping agent fee?

Patrick, you are being scammed. There is in fact no $2,850 payment on hold, and the “shipping agent” is fake. If you make that payment to the shipping agent, the “buyer” will disappear, and you will receive nothing.

This is a fairly new type of scam that almost always involves Paypal and Western Union. A “buyer” contacts you, expressing interest in some expensive item you are selling – often something you’ve advertised on Craigslist. The catch is that the buyer has his own shipping agent who will pick up the item, and you must pay the shipper.

The buyer claims to have deposited the funds in an escrow account, or in your case Patrick, he claims to have paid through Paypal but the funds are “on hold” until the shipper’s fee is paid. The scammer might send you a fake Paypal notification email, indicating that funds have been received in your account, or explaining why the funds are on hold. You are asked to pay the shipping agent by Western Union.

In reality, the shipping agent’s fee itself is the scam. The scammer takes that money and splits, paying you nothing.

See Woody Leonhard’s investigation of this type of scam here:

New “419” scam involves Paypal and Western Union

I’m glad you wrote to me before paying anything! Take care.

– W.H.A.

Sep 082012

By Joyce Morse for

Wire transfer scams are nothing new, but they can be hard to recognize.  You may know to be aware of the stranger that emails you asking for a large dollar amount that you can transfer to their bank account.  But what other scams might catch the unsuspecting off guard?

How to Recognize a Scam

Money transfer scam

Money transfer scam

First of all, don’t assume that scams only happen from third world countries.  The fact is that many scams happen in all countries, including the United States.  Not all scams are conducted by individuals; many use a business name to make them seem more legitimate.  Several warning signs will tip you to the possibility that you are being scammed.  Here are some things to watch for:

  • They ask you for money.  Scam artists know that if you wire money, there is no way for you to get it back.  If you are making a purchase, always use a credit card or other form of payment that provides a way to trace it.
  • They ask for money to give money.  If you have been “approved” for a loan and are asked for a payment for some kind of fee, this is a warning.
  • They ask for a large fee.  You may be told that you won a prize such as a cruise but must a processing fee.  While it is true that many things come with a fee, they will be reasonable – not several hundreds of dollars.
  • Someone contacts you to say a relative needs money for an emergency but cannot call you themselves.  Scam artists know that emotions get involved in these situations and prevent people from making reasonable decisions, which is what they are counting on.

Tips to Follow When Sending Money

Here are some guidelines on sending money to keep you from being the victim of money transfer fraud.

  • Only send money to people you know.  Since the money is gone forever when you send it and there is no way to get it back, don’t send a wire transfer to a stranger.
  • Never send money to pay for fees or other expenses on lottery winnings or other prizes.
  • Do not give out your bank account information or credit card numbers to people you don’t know.
  • Verify any situation where you are asked to send money to a relative for an emergency by someone you don’t know.
  • Never send money to someone that sent you a check until it clears.  This can take weeks for some countries.
  • Research to find a phone number and address for the business.  If you can’t find any information, be suspicious.
  • Above all, follow this rule:  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Money transfers are a valuable service as a way to send money to people and businesses, but scam artists utilize this service to conduct their fraud.  Protect yourself by being cautious with anyone who asks for money.