The Italian Scam: Seller's Tips & Lessons [26 Jan Upd.]

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This a warning for any seller trading with eBay member  nicagoras (formerly known as g.squillace4) whose real name is Giuseppe Squillace from Italy. In the following sections I dissect and expose his scamming tactics which rely on the following:

1) Paypal's defunct Claim system

2) The inability to track online items shipped to Italy

I will expose his blatant lies one by one and show some simple techniques every seller should use. Read this Guide and learn how to identify fraudulent buyers, and which measures you should take to avert such frauds. Sadly, my experience from the recent  months suggests that the number of eBay scams both from rogue sellers (see my previous Guide ) and from fraudulent buyers is increasing exponentially.
11 Jan update: g.squillace4 has changed his eBay ID to nicagoras , most likely because sellers refuse to sell anything to that crook after reading this Guide.

I Smell a Rat

On 16th September 2007 nicagoras purchased eBay items 140155468413 and 140155448834. He agreed to pay £19 and £35 for these items (£54 in total including P&P). After receiving two payments from him, I shipped the items to his confirmed address using signature-receipt airmail service.

Tip #1: use signature-receipt when sending items to problematic users in problematic countries! Signature receipt means that the sender affixes a postal form (internationally recognized as postal form CN07, see photo)  to the package and fills in his and the recipient's address. When the recipients collect the item, they must show an ID and sign the form. The signed form is then mailed back to the sender's address on the right. It is therefore important that you fill in your return-to address correctly and clearly!  Read  another seller's Guide to find out why shipping to Italy is so dangerous.

On 28th September, only 5 business days after shipping, the buyer opened a Non-Receipt dispute with Paypal for item 140155468413, although I had informed him that shipping time could take up to 10 business days. I provided the tracking number and asked nicagoras to wait two more weeks for the item. In spite of that, the he threatened to escalate the dispute to a Claim, which he did on 6th October. Since the Italian postal services do not offer an online tracking service, I had no means of refuting his claim, although I knew all along that he was lying. Paypal, to their dreadful shame, didn’t bother to inform me that this crook had filed numerous fraudulent non-receipt claims before. To add insult to injury, Paypal also used a Temporary Hold on the disputed amount. I had no choice but to issue a full refund.

...And Another One

Euphoric of his successful scam, Giuseppe Squillace decided to repeat the same con and filed another fraudulent dispute regarding the second item. Again, he insisted that he hadn't received it and threatened to escalate the dispute to a Claim.  I was forced to refund yet another £35 (yes, my refunds included the P&P). In total I lost £54 to the Italian crook. A week later the first receipt arrived, bearing the signature of no other but mr. Giuseppe Squillace himself (see second scan). The postal mark and the date confirmed beyond any doubt that the item had been delivered on 4th October:

THE BUYER HAD RECEIVED THIS ITEM BY THE TIME HIS DISPUTE WAS STILL OPEN, AND MADE A CRIMINAL OFFENCE WHEN HE FALSELY STATED ON 7TH OCTOBER THAT HE HADN'T RECEIVED THAT ITEM! Does Paypal care about that? Not at all.

You're probably wondering how nicagoras dared giving a false statement when he had signed a delivery receipt. He's an idiot. He didn't realize that he was signing a form that would be sent back to me. You will immediately see another example nicagoras's idiocy.

Nice Try: "A Letter from America"

A couple of days later I received the second signature receipt, bearing the same signature, date and postal mark. I contacted Paypal's Security Center on 10th October and reported nicagoras's two fraudulent claims. They never bothered to reply and of course, didn't act either. I also complained to eBay's Trust and Safety. Other than polite words and ridiculous proposals ("complain to the Luxembourgian police"), they didn't seem to bother either. At the same time, I kept emailing nicagoras and included scans of the postal receipts. He pretended he didn't understand my questions, and then came up with a new incredible story:

hello. I will be in Usa until 25 November, but I will ask if someone received the items. Best regards, Giuseppe
----Messaggio originale----

Data: 22-ott-2007 15.31

His USA fable didn’t make sense at all. Why would he keep buying items on eBay knowing they would be shipped to Italy while he was allegedly in the USA? But let's stick to hard evidence. This idiot didn't realize that every email message contains IP addresses that expose his location:

Received: from pswm3 (192.168.70.17) by vsmtp21.tin.it (7.3.122)

Thereafter, he didn't reply to any other message from me.
Tip # 2:
Select your mail client's " View Full Header Details" to find out where an enail message you received was sent from.

I reported the criminal activities of Giuseppe Squillace to the Italian Guardia Della Finanzia (the financial police of Italy, which handles cybercrime).

Giuseppe's scams don’t end here. After several weeks he won a third item from me, although the listing clearly excluded Italians from bidding. He probably hoped to cheat for the third time. I cancelled his purchase, added him to my eBay's blocked bidders list and resold the item.
Tip #3: Now would be the right time for you to add nicagoras to your blocked bidders list!

In early December I contacted Paypal again, asking them to take actions against nicagoras and reverse my payments to him. They reopened one of his claims, but turned my appeal down without even notifying me that the case had been closed. No explanation was given. Tip #4: Inform Paypal that you intend to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service. I sent another email to Paypal's Executive Escalations agent:

I would also like to note that I consider PayPal as accountable for my financial loss of GBP 19 since I recently found out that this Buyer had opened numerous fraudulent non-receipt claims against other innocent sellers before[…]. PayPal should have been responsible enough to bring this valuable information to the sellers' attention and restrict the buyer's abuse of the PayPal claim system [...] I therefore reserve the right to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service against PayPal unless I receive my GBP 19 back from the Buyer or PayPal[...]

Happy End? Hardly

After two days, I received a reply which stated that Paypal was not responsible for my losses but as an "act of goodwill", they reimbursed my £19 immediately. Too little, too late. I  decided to complain about Paypal's negligent behavior to the UK Financial Ombudsman Service for the second time in one month. Stay tuned for updates [note: my  other Guide provides more details on how to contact the FOS and how to get most of this procedure].

In Conclusion

If you've been stung by a criminal buyer such as nicagoras, don't let it pass unnoticed.
  • Do complain to Paypal and eBay just for the record (though they're going to do much about it),
  • Leave negative feedback as I did, to warn other sellers
  • Do complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service to force Paypal to review your case properly and issue a full refund.
  • Share your experience with other eBay members by writing a Guide and referencing it from your listings.
  • Please spread this Guide among your friends and colleagues thereby helping eBay become a safer trading place.
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