EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 699 - February 12, 2004     2 of 2

Scammers Impersonate UPS in New Twist on eBay 'Fake Escrow' Fraud

Email This Story to a Friend

Some eBay buyers are getting fleeced with an online scam that is a twist on the "fake escrow" hoax. Fraudulent sellers tell victims they will use "UPS Third Party Escrow" and to expect an email once they've sent the item to UPS. When an email from "UPS" arrives informing the buyer that UPS has received the item from the seller, the victim believes it's okay to send the money to a UPS agent. (The "From" field of an email can easily be altered; in this case, the email tricks people into thinking the email comes from UPS.) The victim sends the money via Western Union wire transfer, and never hears from the seller (or "UPS") again.

AuctionBytes first reported on fake escrow sites in 2002 when bidders on eBay Motors were tricked into wire-transferring money to what they thought were legitimate escrow sites ( Fenton Smith (an alias) started a Web site in September 2002 to warn people about the problems of escrow fraud (

eBay spokesperson Hani Durzy said eBay recommends its members use if looking for an escrow service, and pointed to eBay's 5-step tutorial on protecting yourself from spoof emails (

UPS spokesperson Laurie Mallis was not familiar with the fake UPS escrow scam. She said the UPS Exchange Collect program, rolled out in March 2003, is designed for businesses trading internationally. Both parties must sign a contract with UPS to participate in the program. Buyers using UPS Exchange Collect remit money to UPS, and UPS does not accept payment via wire transfer services like Western Union under this program.

eBay and PayPal users are frequent targets of the hoax email, or "phishing" scams, that have been documented as far back as June 2002 Other sites, including financial services and ecommerce sites, are now also frequent targets. Experts advise users to log on to sites by going to their browser and typing in the name of the site. Never click on a link in an email, experts warn.

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to

You may quote up to 50 words of any article on the condition that you attribute the article to and either link to the original article or to
All other use is prohibited.