How to catch a Romanian fraudster

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eBay have revealed some of the ways they targetted Romanian fraudsters who attempted to perpetrate fraud on eBay buyers. Matt Henley, a member of eBay’s US-based Fraud Investigations Team, spoke about the three year long campaign during a two-day conference on online fraud in Sydney, Australia: he said “a huge percentage of the fraud we were seeing was from Romania.”

Although scammers had many ways to separate unsuspecting eBayers from their money, the fake second chance offer was favourite. Fraudsters would attempt to contact losing bidders off-eBay by guessing their email addresses, adding their eBay user ID to a variety of popular email providers such as Hotmail or AOL. Simply by sending out a huge volume of email, the fraudsters would achieve some level of successful contact with buyers.

The scale of the fraud was so wide that eBay set up their own team to work with local law enforcement officials to try to trace the scammers. Local conditions made an instant trace difficult: police knowledge of the internet, and resources to get online, were often severely lacking, and in some cases, officers were using the same internet caf´s as the criminals! eBay staff worked both to educate Romanian police in how the scams could be worked, and in some cases provided the actual equipment to get them online. Henley estimated that “several hundred arrests” have been made in the last three years: “at least now there is the knowledge that there is a risk associated with being involved in this fraud.”

But it’s an ongoing problem: wherever technologically-able people have few chances to make money legitimately, there is the temptation to use the internet to commit fraud, and that is not something that will go away overnight, or even over the *next* three year campaign.


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