Beware of scammers claiming PayPal is ‘holding their money’

Friend of CrimeOnline Joe Feinberg shares his personal experience of nearly being scammed out of 1,250 while trying to sell his furniture online.

A small ad in a local newspaper offering to sell two expensive classic chairs and a matching ottoman drew a quick response from a person I will refer to as J.G.

“I’m very interested, please send me some recent pics.I hope to read from you soon.”

I thanked him for his inquiry, telling him that even a good photo is not very revealing, suggesting that he view the chairs at my Coral Springs residence & giving him my cell number to discuss.

“Sorry,” he wrote the next morning, “I’m not available to come check the items.”

Then, however,  he indicated that if he was satisfied with the photos, we could proceed with the purchase.

The classic chairs held a special personal significance to me for several reasons. First, when my parents moved to Key Biscayne, Florida, some 65 years ago, I helped set up their furnishings. Their apartment was eclectic in design, traditional, but with important accents of contemporary, highlighted by two Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs designed by the renowned architect in the 1920s and manufactured by Knoll International!

Florence Knoll, a famous international designer, was my client then, supplying projects with tile panels and other ceramics. Her company had just begun manufacture of the famous classic Barcelona chairs in the 1950s and I felt they would be a splendid furnishing for my folks’ new apartment.

After my parents passed on, I could not use the chairs myself, so I put them up for sale with the matching ottoman, for $10,000.

Now, J.G. emailed that he was satisfied with the condition of the chairs and ready to buy, but wanted my final asking price.

I responded, offering him a 10% discount, so a final price of $9,000, plus packing and crating costs. The items could then be picked up by his agent.

By now, I’d become just a little wary because I felt he could not have really seen the condition of the chairs from the photos I sent, and his next long email explanation made me feel sure I was being set up to be scammed…. but how?

J.G. said he was thought I would be able to come down more on price, but that it was OK and he already made arrangements for the pickup. He said he was a Naval officer working six months abroad and one month at home, but these chairs were intended as a surprise gift for his family. Being at sea, he claimed he lacked access to his bank account online.

He said hoped I accepted PayPal attached to his bank account, and asked for my own PayPal details. He claimed that if I did not have PayPal, it would be easy to set up.

I became really curious about and I actually set up a PayPal account to carry out what had become a complete sham.

He asked me to provide the following information:
1. Your PayPal full name.
2. Your PayPal email address.
3. Your phone number

J.G. final email detailed that he had made payments to PayPal, who were holding the money, which included an extra $1,250, the amount to send to his shipping agent at an address in Madrid, Spain.

He asked me to send the $1,250 to him by Western Union and get back to him with the details. He said his pickup agent would contact me to book a pickup time for the chairs and ottoman. Of course, PayPal holding my funds was just B.S., as I looked closely into that fiction! Imagine, all this, just to bilk me out of $1,250 and who knows how much more?

A few months later the chairs were sold to a legitimate buyer!