We all know about those dreaded online scammers wanting to trick us into sending them money and get nothing in return, or a product we did not order instead. International laws are very complex and we as regular account holders rely on our payment processors to protect us. However, what if the those terms in which we rely on to uphold our rights, in essense, takes them away and protects the scammers themselves? This article demonstrates how PayPal Buyer Protection terms are helping to support Chinese Scammers. The results, PayPal makes money, the scammer makes money, and you spend even more money ultimately loosing the item.
Important! Notice of Intent
It is important this article at the outset recognises not all Chinese online sellers are scammers. This article also recognises scammers appear in many different formats and locations. However, for our article and evidence supported, we have focused on a particular case involving a scammer from China.
It is best to start off with an important quote from this blog back in 2019 regarding the generality of terms and conditions:
Terms and Conditions form legally binding contracts between two or more parties. This means you are legally bound to all the clauses within the terms, not just the ones you read or were told about.ThinkOgram (2019)
However, what happens when you use an online payment processor such as PayPal whom operate in many different countries? What you will find and must be careful of, is you could undoubtly release some of your rights and decisions to your chosen payment processor, or be subject to a different legal definition based upon where the payment processor operates from (normally, their registered head office).
Key Information: Contracts are a key element for organisations operating within any country. These contractual terms and conditions layout the grounds in which a company operates, the sale of products, the delivery of services, how your data is processed, and the company expectations of you, the customer.
Summary Case In Question
PayPal is a widely used online payments platform across the globe. However, PayPal operate within a set scope of terms and conditions. One such section is called the ‘PayPal Buyer Protection’ policy. This refers to what situations a buyer can be protected by making purchases either online or in a physical store using their payment processing methods and platforms.
Unfortunately, if you read the ‘PayPal User Agreement’ specifically under the section ‘About Your Account’, sub-heading ‘Making A Payment’, within another sub-heading called ‘PayPal Buyer Protection’, you will see you are responsible for returning any items to the seller at your own cost and peril.
As a result, scammers are able to sell you items ‘Significantly Not as Described’, resulting in you having to pay additional money to have the item returned (using a trackable postal service with insurance) to the scammer in order to receive a potential refund. You also are agreeing to allow PayPal to make the ultimate final decision thus, potentially effecting your other legal rights directly with your bank (debit or credit card/account issuer).
Let Us Set The Scene
It’s September 2020 in the United Kingdom. A mother is planning ahead for Christmas and begins to start looking at potential gifts for her twins (boy and a girl). She starts to look online at products around the human anatomy because her children seem interested in this subject. She thinks to herself, why not buy the twins a 4D Anatomical Model? This would really help with their understanding of human biology, and how things go together. Her searches online resulted in some rather expensive items ranging to hundreds of British Pounds. However, this was somewhat over her ideal budget for a singular item. After all, it was not going to be their main present. She popped herself onto Facebook to catch up with friends and lucky for her, up pops an advert (promoted) demonstrating exactly what she had been looking for earlier (how ironic). It was a professional 4D Anatomical Model of a female but at a more afordable price (for a stocking filler).
As we can see from the advertisement promoted on Facebook.com, it was indeed a 4D Anatomical Model which seemed to stand at 20 inch tall. It has detachable human organs and better still, it is on sale with 60% off (WOW! perfect timing). Best head over there and grab this bargain eh?
Notice: The advertisement above used shortened URLs which did indeed link to the advertised domain name using BODYKITSBIOLOGY DOT COM. However, the above advertisement is of a recent promoted scam in December 2020 on Facebook.com. The original advertisement could not be located by the buyer and the link sent her to a website called DCWNSS DOT COM. The advert also stated this domain so no issues there so far.
On the DCWNSS DOT COM website, it clearly showed a professional looking 4D Anatomical Model on offer as the advert stated. It has all the removable organs in great detail. From the initial outset, it looks legitimate with a website, also supporting common payment options such as VISA, Mastercard and even PayPal. When you went to purchase the item it actually used PayPal to process all the payments regardless of the card used. This is common because PayPal does support paying without an account, or directly using your Debit or Credit Card.
Off went the order and payment was made using her registered PayPal account. Soon after, she received confirmation of her order and all seemed ligitimate so far.
Provided below, are a few screenshots from the website demonstrated above. See if you can spot any issues at this stage!
The confirmation email was received and has been provided below. Certain details have been removed to protect the privacy of the mother in question:
What did the mother actually receive?
I am betting you are looking at the item above thinking… ‘yep! a complete scam having been sent something so inferior to the item advertised’. If you are not, I suggest to adjust your moral compass some more. After a little research online, the item sent could actually be purchased online for as little as $8.99 dollars. As it stands, this is clearly a scam because the item sent does not match the item advertised on Facebook.com, or the website selling it.
What Does This Have To Do With PayPal Supporting Scammers?
This is where those terms and conditions come into play and it vital to anybody wanting to claim a refund because they have been clearly scammed.
PAYPAL DOES NOT ENTITLE YOU TO RETURN POSTAGE FEES!
If you read the PayPal Buyer Protection terms and conditions, it clearly states as quoted:
IMPORTANT: You may be required to return the item to the seller or other party we specify as part of the settlement of your claim. PayPal Buyer Protection does not entitle you to reimbursement for the return shipping costs that you may incur.PayPal UK User Agreement – PayPal Buyer Protection – as of the 16th December 2020 Update
This basically means, in order for you to be refunded due to being scammed by a complete online scammer, you have to pay out of your own money for the item to be return to the scammer. The return postage must have tracking paid for, and insurance incase something goes wrong in transit.
In this particular case, the scammer was not based in Canada as many of their websites stated, or were they in the United Kingdom as some material suggested. They were actually based in China.
After constant communications back and forth with the scammer offering partial refunds, and them clearly referring to the fact it would cost the mother money to send the item back to them, she decided to open a case with PayPal using their Resolution Centre. Here’s hoping some protection would kick in and all will be handled correctly… recognising this was an online scam and should be treated as such.
The case was opened on the 11th October 2020 after spending almost a month dealing directly with the scammer. Remember, if you read the PayPal User Agreement, it is clearly stated you must communicate with the seller first before opening a case.
For the sake of PayPal ever acting upon this article, I have provided the transaction details below:
- Case Number: PP-D-87284481
- Seller’s Name: keidson
- Transaction Date: 12 September 2020
- Transaction Amount: $97.98 USB
The contact had been made with PayPal whom opened up a case and initially allowed the seller and buyer to communicate with each other for 20 days. Before this time, the seller could offer a refund or another option, the buyer could accept or refuse. It is important to note, at this point in time, PayPal is legally not involved in the dispute. It is only when you Escalate this Case does PayPal actually get involved. If you do not escalate the case before the 20 days expires, the open case is closed in favour of the seller regardless of any evidence.
The seller did not respond to the open case against them and refused to communicate via PayPal. On the 18th October 2020, the case was escalated to PayPal because the seller was clearly not responding. PayPal confirmed the escalation, and stated they had contacted ‘keidson’ (the seller’s PayPal account) for more information.
The seller took until the 04th November 2020 to respond to PayPal. Only, their response was to offer a full refund, minus the initial postage costs, and any costs associated with returning the item. They wanted the mother to pay for returning the scam item back to them before any refund would be honoured.
On the 06th November 2020, PayPal emailed the mother asking her to send the item back to the scammer (seller) providing full proof of postage, including full tracking and insurance information. There were no other options presented either within the email or on her PayPal account. The only option presented was to upload an image for the tracking information receipt and proof of postage.
Remember, in the PayPal User Agreement, you release your rights and hand them over to PayPal whom is then, legally able to make the final decision. The only issue with this is, your bank could help you get your money back but the actions of PayPal could restrict or even stop you having your bank step in on your behalf.
PayPal provided no option to appeal the decision (as per their user agreement) and would automatically close the case in favour of the scammer (seller) if the item did not reach the seller (scammer) by the 25th November 2020. The mother then had to pay a further £18.00 British Pounds to have the item tracked, insured and sent back to an address in China. Otherwise, PayPal would close the case in favour of the scammer (seller).
The item was indeed sent back against all my personal advice to contact her bank directly and seek their assistance. The mother was overwhelmed by the whole process and decided to return the item at the additional cost to her. The item did arrive before the date requested and PayPal refunded her the initial purchase cost plus the original postage costs.
HERE IS WHAT I PERSONALLY REALLY HATE:
Within the notification email regarding issuing the refund from PayPal, the first sentence reads as follows:
We’ve reviewed the case you filed on 11 October 2020 and have decided in your favour.PayPal Refund Notification Email – 25th November 2020
PayPal clearly make out they have done you a favour and ruled in your favour.
What Did PayPal Actually Do?
Here is exacly what PayPal have just done… PayPal supported the scammer and not the victim of the online scam. Why do I say this? PayPal forced the buyer to pay additional costs at their expense (without any way to get those costs reimbursed) in order to return the item to the scammer before they would issue any refunds. They forced her to accept defeat and allow the online scammer to win.
The scammer got their product back, no mark was made on their PayPal account, nothing was reported to Action Fraud or the other police crime units, Facebook was not notified of the scam, PayPal still got paid their fees (certain seller fees are non-refundable), Facebook.com got paid for their advertising costs, and the victim lost £18.00, had to deal with the scammer directly for over a month, had to deal with all the stress, and had to physically go and post the scammer’s item back to them, and payout even more money.
What Were The Scammer Tell Tale Signs?
This is always the common question regarding cases like this. Many victims state it is impossible to see the signs of a scam, or you have to be very technical in order to recognise certain tell-tale signs. However, I personally do not agree with this stance. Here is why!
The internet (World Wide Web) is nothing but a digital representation of a physical street…ThinkOgram 2021
The internet is nothing but a digital version of the physical street. The adverts represent a person walking up to you in the street and offering to sell you something on the cheap. You would not normally accept anything in these circumstances so why do people accept adverts online as legitimate offers? Surely, you would carry out a little research first about the seller just as you would in person, speaking to them, and asking around.
The first thing to note about the seller of this item online, is when the link from the advertisement was clicked, the buyer was presented a website that had vital details missing.
The missing items which are vital to any purchase made online were the following:
- not having any company information
- no registered company number
- no VAT number (if applicable)
- no registered address (physical location)
- different email addresses to the website
- Terms and Conditions clearly stated another company name (Survival Addicts – which just searching up online clearly showed the exact same terms and conditions that had been copied across to the scammer site)
- at the time of sale, the website only had 3 products on
- shipping times were 4-6 weeks as standard
- incomplete shipping terms
- website had incomplete (sample) text
- website was clearly an incomplete template with placeholder text
- different domain names provided
- different email contacts provided
- spelling, punctuation and grammer mistakes commonly associated with scammers on the website
- website clearly showed four different products as being the same one
- website actually had one image of the item you were going to receive
- website had fake images of certifications and conformity documents (any company whom holds those credentials would provide valid details)
- website showed two genders for the product but did not give an option to choose one or the other
- the discount was too good to be true (common sense)
- the advertised product was hundreds of British Pounds anywhere else online
- fake safety test reports as unclear images and not actual documents to read
- the other limited products for sale were also having massive discounts
- the other limited products did not cost that much else where online
- clear discrepancies between the images provided (4 different versions of the product)
- the fake business name (HUMAN BODY) did not match the domain name (DCWNSS DOT COM)
- had a random domain name called DCWNSS DOT COM
- had a ‘Hurry Up’ countdown that reset everytime you refreshed the page
- had incorrect information at the bottom of the order confirmation webpage
- the exact same item was selling on eBay cheaper than the discounted item from China using a Chinese seller
Now, for some slightly more technical stuff:
- the website was a Chinese registered domain name (ICANN)
- the confirmation email domain name was also Chinese (ICANN)
- the confirmation email domain did not have a working website
- the communication email provided was different from the website
- the communication email domain did not have a working website
- the website also had a Chinese version exactly the same using a different domain name (BABYMLOVE DOT COM)
- the website had another identical copy using the domain name (POLARROYAL DOT COM) but this one advertised the exact product received for lots of money yet used all the same false images too
- lots of Chinese websites selling the really cheap item for lots of money but pretending it was better quality using professional images (FREDGETS DOT NET, ITYUS DOT NET, HYPOXIA DOT SHOP, ANATOMYSTUFF DOT CO DOT UK, SWABLUE DOT SHOP, FIRSTDAY DOT COM, SEELLYE DOT COM, ZOOECHO DOT SHOP, POOMOY DOT COM, CCINLIFE DOT COM, PRINTEFFIE DOT COM, TOTOMAST DOT COM, BELUNAS DOT COM and many many more)
The above list of domain names where the exact same scam was found, resulted from a simple 10 minute search using a common search engine for the exact same product name ‘4D Anatomical Assembly Model of Human Organs’.
On another note, AliExpress sells the exact same rip-off online scammer product for as little as $11.74 at the time of writing this article. However, if you actually visit AliExpress you will see lots of the same cheap nasty scammer product being sold for much more, yet they all use the more professional product images to make you believe you are getting the better one.
From some basic searches using common engines, the actual cost of the professional item ranges between £350.00 to £750.00 British Pounds.
Are the PayPal User Agreements – Buyer Protection really PROTECTING YOU?
Unfortunately, the outcome of this article will advise you to always read the terms and conditions and not so blindly agree by clicking those boxes away. The PayPal User Agreement offers the buyer very little protection when purchasing online.
The advice I would personally give out if you find yourself in this situation, is to always contact your banking provider. You will find you have much more protection going through your bank than you ever will using such payment processors like PayPal.
You have much more protection going through your bank than you ever will using such payment processors like PayPalThinkOgram 2021
Your bank can ‘Claw Back’ the money without you having to return the scammer’s product at your expense. I also suggest you look out for the tell tale signs.
TELL-TALE SCAMMER SIGNS
- No company information
- No registered physical address
- Random domain names
- No contact details as standard
- Contact details don’t match the website name
- Deals too good to be true (they generally are not real)
- Don’t trust an advert just because it’s on a big website like Facebook, Google, YouTube, SnapChat, Instagram, Amazon, eBay and more
- Incomplete website information
- Commonly present spelling, grammer and punctuation mistakes
- Pressure buying tactics (involving fake countdowns, timers, unrealistic offers)
RECENT UPDATE 2021
After revisting the original website to check to see if it was still live, I can confirm the website is still live, they are still running Facebook Advertisement Scams, and they have changed their fake business name from HUMAN BODY to KAWSE. Be careful, I can confirm there are many websites offering this scam product, as well as other similar scammer products, and adverts are all over search engines and social media platforms. Follow the Tell-Tale Scammer Signs above, and also, refer to the list of information missing, along with running some additional checks yourself.
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