Friday, July 31, 2015

Dance Series #5 - Anatomy Of An Online Scam

The internet is one huge minefield.  But there are lots of dummies wandering around blindly, taking the treacherous landscape for granted like it's their own backyard.  And I turned out to be one of them.

Fortunately I managed to come away without getting my limbs blown off.  Although ending up poorer by $100, I'm writing this off as payment for a very important lesson.

Here's how I walked right into a trap even though all the signs screamed at me "ALERT!!!  IT'S  A SCAM!!!  GET OUT!!!".

No way.  I've posted my paintings online for all these years and here's the first time someone is interested in my art enough to want to pay good money for it.  I was blinded.

With warning lights a-flashing, bells a-ringing, whistles a-blowing, buzzers going full blast, I still fell for it, all because my defenses went down too fast before reinforcements could come in.  There were too many glaring errors and signs that made me highly suspicious and I contacted PayPal to get them to clarify some of the emails I received, all I got were standard items and tick boxes to choose from.  I couldn't write in my questions because there was no blank box for me to write in.  I hate using the phones because I knew I'd only get to talk to machines.  

I tried asking my circle of friends but they're all online 'buyers', not 'sellers'.  I even cancelled the invoice that initiated the sale.  But somehow, I was like a proverbial deer being caught in the glare of a cyber-driver's headlights, knowing the danger but unable to run from it.

Finally when my mind was already busted due to doubts and worries and lack of sleep, (being a chronic worrier didn't help) I caved in because I'm too humanly decent.  I couldn't live with the idea that the other person (who hinted of being wheel-chair-bound, and who may be a genuine art buyer and perhaps turn out to be a potential long-term customer) 'loos' his money because I didn't keep up my end of the deal.  

My reinforcement troops from PayPal arrived 20 hours too late.

Fortunately Paypal volunteered to compensate me for half my losses.
I'm now writing this so that all fellow artists and crafts-people trying to sell their products online (who may be as dumb as me) can learn something from this and WALK away from a deal if it smells too good to be true.  

And please just keep walking and don't look back like what I did!!!

So, here's the anatomy report....  with myself as the pathologist.

It started off with an email from, the website where I post all my artworks up for sale.
Artbreak Mailer Jul 15

 Date: Wed, 15 Jul 2015 15:54:20 +0000
Subject: Dance Series #5

Hi Mr William,

Thanks for your interest in my painting.  I painted it recently (7th May 2015) and it's still unframed.  

Size: 42cm X 29.5cm
Medium: Color pencils & ink on cartridge paper.

I'm offering it for sale at USD$300 (mailing costs excluded).

Let me know of other details you need from me.
Please advice what country you're residing in.


LC Teh

Thanks for your respond,can you framed it for me and get back to me with the final asking price after the frame and  including your pay invoice or paypal email so i can make the payment once..I have a private courier agent that will come for the pickup after payment has been made, so no shipping included. I'll need your name, the pickup address or location for the pick up.


 Date: Thu, 16 Jul 2015 09:40:19 +0100
Subject: Re: Dance Series #5


l am out of state this week.  I will take care of this when I get back next week.  Will contact you again with details.  Thanks.
LC Teh

From:"william james"
Date:Thu, 16 Jul, 2015 at 19:34
Subject:Dance Series #5 me back once you are around i will be waiting for your respond,Your Name?

Able God


Date: Sun, 19 Jul 2015 00:39:01 +0100
Subject: Re: Dance Series #5

I am Teh Lian Chye, residing in Kedah, Malaysia. Where is your location?


william james Jul 19

Well i locate in North Carolina,waiting for your respond

July 24, 2015 - Friday.  I had the painting framed and packed it ready for shipment.  Then I created an invoice in my PayPal account.  What happened next, I let the correspondence tell the story....

You've sent an invoice

Dear Lian-chye Teh,
Your invoice (0001) has just been sent to Please note that it may take a few moments for this transaction to appear in your account.

Summary of your invoice


Sent fromLian-chye Teh
Invoice number0001
Date payment is dueJul 24, 2015
Amount$338.00 USD
Yours sincerely,

william james  Jul 24 at 4:13 PM
Sorry  i just got a mail from the shipping company that i will need to pay for the freighting fees before they can schedule pr-shipping/ pickup date,they charged $152 for the pick up and delivery, but the problem is they only accept Western union transfer as form of payment which is sent to their HQ in you are well aware of,I don't have access to my bank account online,but i have it attached to my Pay pal account,and That's why am using Pay-pal.most post offices have Western union section,will it be OK with you if I add the $152 to the amount I am transferring? and as soon as the money goes through you can help me make the Western union of the freighting fees through Western union money transfer? You are not obliged to help me, but i will indeed appreciate your help as I am a little incapacitated here.


Dear Lian-chye Teh ,

You have received a PayPal Payment of $590.00 USD from  James William (
A temporary hold has been placed on this transaction!
As mentioned in the receipt of Payment and as per New PayPal Payment policy, we have fully debited the total amount (above) from the buyer's account which includes the buyer's shipper's pick up fees.

In order to complete this transaction and get the funds approved in your account. We advice you go to nearest Western Union Office, and send the $152.00 USD to the Agent and send us a Scanned Copy/Photograph of your Money Transfer Control Number Receipt (in .JPG Format) with the Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN) in details.

NOTE: This is important as a security measure to ensure safety of this transaction.

Please, find below the name and address of the Transport Agent where the Funds would be sent via Money Transfer Control Number.

Name; Bryan James Sullivan
State: Orange California
 Zip code:92867
United State.

Address Status:Confirmed

Your Account will be credited accordingly upon the receipt of details requested. It should either be sent in JPG format or send type details as:
Sender's Name; Receiver's Name; MTCN; Amount Sent;

============================== ============================== ============================== ============================== ====
This administrative email was sent to  from S.à r.l.. Your account is registered on As outlined in our User Agreement, PayPal will periodically send you information about site changes and enhancements. If you would like to receive this email in text format, change your notification preferences.

See our Privacy Policy and User Agreement if you have questions about PayPal communication policies.

Copyright © 2009-2015 PayPal Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
PayPal and the PayPal logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of PayPal

Dear  Lian-chye Teh,
                               Please be assured that you have a fund of $590.00 USD This fund has already been deducted from the buyer' account. We Request that you wire the excess fee TODAY to the agent's address since he/she has made payment to your PayPal account otherwise the payment will not be credited to the account specified (
We need the wiring information (MTCN) For verification before the money could finally show in your account.
At the same time, we want to let you know that your transaction was done via our e-mail payments service, any inquiries and necessary information should be sent to us by directly reply to this message, because of the status of this transaction, it has not been passed on to our customer care phone service section,and all inquiries should be directed to this e-mail address as it is the one monitored for your transaction.

This is to reduce the high rate of fraudulent act and ensure that both buyers and sellers are satisfied, because it is all about our services to serve the worldwide, for the two parties. Please follow the protocol of the payment so that the money will be credited straight away into your account.

E-mail the MTCN to us as soon as possible.

Wiring information:

Name:Bryan James Sullivan
Orange California
Zip code:92867

We hope to serving you better.
Stephanie Tilenius
Vice President & General Manager
PayPal Merchant Services

 Date: Fri, 24 Jul 2015 11:24:33 +0000

I just found out our govt levies a 6% GST (General services tax) on all money transfers thru Western Union.


william james  Jul 24 at 10:32 PM

I  just made the payments of $590.00 USD into your account and Pay-pal emailed me confirming this. So please check your PayPal email address ( inbox,spam mail for the Pay Pal confirmation email. Pay-pal said that they would be holding the money i sent because of the excess payments that i made which was the money for pick up, i will need you to proceed and Wire the excess which is $152.00 USD to my pick up agent to enable them make a booking for the picked up of the item.Remember that you will wire the agent fee to them via Western Union Money transfer as that is there method of payment.So please do send the $152.00 USD through western union money transfer and use the remaining change of $50.00 USD as Western Union charges.You can easily Walk to the local post office or any outlet around you.After you have sent the money please get back to me asap with the western union details, the MTCN number which you will be given by western union after you have sent the money as well as the sender's name and address so i can forward it back to PayPal for your money to be put through or you can email it to PayPal directly,that is alright as well.

Here is my pick up agent's info that you will need to send the money to through western union money transfer:

Name:Bryan James Sullivan

Orange California
Zip code:92867

I will need the address where the item will be picked up,as my pick up agent will contact you to book a pick up time after they have received payments but they will have to book a time that is convenient for you. Is really nice doing business with you

Best Regard...

 Date: Fri, 24 Jul 2015 15:36:33 +0000
Subject: Re: PAYMENT MADE ???

I will do as required as soon as the banks open on Monday. It's Friday night over here right now.  But can you please instruct Pay-pal to release the $152 for the Western Union charges, otherwise I would be cashing out of my own pocket.  With our currency at it's lowest level, this calculates out to a big sum for me.  I don't mind paying for the GST charges first.  Thanks.
LC Teh

william james  Jul 24 at 11:56 PM
Thanks for your respond.. i have already made all the payment into your account and the money have been deducted from my account OK.. so you have to go true Pay Pal instruction cos they want to protect both buyer and the seller,that is the reason,they said you have to follow there new rules before the money can be clear to your account,due to scam activities going on with PayPal, so you have to complete the transaction by Monday Morning and get back to us with the western union information so that Pay Pal can released the sum of $590 in your account immediately...

After the money has been send please get
MTCN number:
Sender's Name :
Sender's address:
Amount Send After western union charges

waiting for your fast respond...


PayPal  Jul 25 at 8:17 PM


  1. It happens to the best of us. I'm not sure if it was easy to share your experience but I am glad that you did. I hadn't heard of this particular scam before.

    Cheers, buddy!

  2. Thanks, Lita. It wasn't easy, but I am not too concerned about my ego at this age. I'm quite sure it wasn't a new scheme. Somehow this scammer must have plowed the art websites and pick on a few and trap them on their eagerness to sell their art and rake in a little from here and there. I'm hoping to make other online artists aware of this.