In an era dominated by digital transactions, the comfort of e-commerce also hides the lurking presence of scammers waiting to exploit innocent buyers. These scammers deploy many deceitful tactics, and the upsurge of fake escrow services has emerged as a highly sophisticated and malignant form of cyber fraud. While initially it was limited to the realm of online vehicle purchases, these scams have extended to surround various consumer goods.
Let’s understand the mechanics of fake escrow services, arming ourselves with knowledge and wariness to evade these scams and safeguard our online presence and financial well-being.
What is an Escrow Service?
An escrow service is a trusted third party that holds funds or assets during a transaction until set conditions are met. It helps provide a secure platform for buyers and sellers, which ensures a safe exchange of goods and services. Escrow services minimize the risk of fraud, giving peace of mind to buyers and sellers.
Understanding Fake Escrow Services
Fake escrow services or scams refer to fraudulent activities where scammers deceive individuals by posing as legitimate escrow services or using reputable companies’ names.
To avoid escrow scams, first, we must understand how these services work. They use specific tactics and manipulations to gain the trust of their victims, such as:
Scammers often create enticing, lucrative advertisements on popular online platforms such as Facebook, featuring products at unbelievably low prices. Such scams might also be present on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. So, be careful when posting ads or contacting buyers with attractive items.
Manipulating buyer’s emotions
Escrow scammers manipulate the buyer’s emotions by fabricating stories such as imminent military deployment, inherited vehicles, financial issues, and divorce. After this fabrication, they introduce the concept of escrow service, falsely claiming the safety of the transaction. Whereas these escrow services do not exist, resulting in the loss of money for the victims.
Using Reputable Platforms to build trust
Escrow scammers assert that the transaction is secure and protected by big reputable platforms like eBay to build trust.
Creating Fake Websites
Escrow scammers often create fake websites that look just like legitimate ones, convincing the victims that the seller is trustworthy.
How to Avoid Escrow Scams
Escrow scams can leave a massive hole in your pocket, disrupting your financial life and well-being. To avoid these fraudulent activities and to keep yourself safer, here are a few tips to stay ahead of escrow scammers.
Advertisements with significantly lower prices
Advertisements with significantly lower prices, especially accompanied by emotional narratives, have a high chance of being related to a scam.
Check the website’s authenticity
The website’s authenticity can be checked by looking for a lock icon on the top left of the web page. Along with this, check the other links of the websites and try checking all their social media handles.
Apart from this, try going to the contact us page and double-check the contacts mentioned there, double check that the pages don’t lead to malicious web pages. Additionally, try to find information online about the escrow service. Does it have reviews from previous users? For instance, if a service has a homepage and nothing else, it should be a red flag.
Perform thorough research on the seller
Conducting thorough research on the seller can reveal any red flags or prior scams. Review their online ratings on a reputable platform, and check for any bad reviews, giving you a clear picture of the seller and their business.
Suggest other payment methods
Scammers will be fixated on using an escrow service. Thus, you should suggest other options. In other cases, offer to use reputable escrow services instead of the ones offered by the seller/buyer.
Furthermore, avoid using peer-to-peer payment services as they should not be used to send money to strangers. They offer limited buyer protection. Thus, buyers have a clear disadvantage if something goes wrong.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
You can install a Virtual Private Network to protect your data on unknown websites. In some cases, a VPN for PC can even block access to websites suspected of phishing. Thus, look for a tool that offers such features. In addition to this, a VPN encrypts data that you submit to unknown websites. Therefore, if you visit an HTTP website, your communication remains secure.
Combating escrow scammers requires a collaborative effort from consumers and law enforcement agencies. Including sharing information and implementing stricter measures for advertisements and e-commerce, can play an essential role in preventing and reducing escrow scams.
Understanding the concept of escrow services is essential for protecting oneself from scams and fraudulent activities. While legitimate escrow services provide security and transparency in transactions, escrow service scams pose a significant threat to consumers. It is crucial to be alert and employ preventive measures by researching the involved parties. Escrow scams can be prevented if enough awareness is spread across the internet.