Suspicious Messages

If you receive a suspicious message concerning an item in your shop, please proceed with caution.

The message might be sent by an individual attempting advance-fee fraud, also called the “419 scam”.

What to look out for

In combination, the following characteristics may indicate the message is a scam:

Does the buyer:

  • Use odd phrases, or strange formatting in the message?

  • Offer to send you more money than you are asking for your item? This is known as an overpayment scam and is described under How the Scam Appears below.

  • Say they are a traveling businessperson, an oceanographer, or away at sea?

  • Insist you reply via a personal email address, off of Etsy? A buyer who immediately insists on communicating off of our site may be questionable.

  • Seem to not have read or looked at your listing, based on their vague questions?

  • Refuse to go through Etsy Checkout, thereby disqualifying the transaction from any Etsy protection?

  • Have a particular interest in an item of relatively high value? Scammers tend to focus on mid and high-value listings.  

How the scam appears

The scammer will attempt to convince a seller to accept a fake payment for more than the item is worth. If they are successful, the scammer will get both the item and the money. In nearly every case, the con artist will not be caught.

Here's an example of how the scam can play out:

  • Your item, listed for 1,000 GBP, gets the attention of a 419 scammer. They offer to send you 1,800 GBP by cheque, the extra intended to cover international postage costs or the costs of the scammer’s private delivery company. They ask you to transfer the remainder back to them once you have dispatched the item, sometimes even offering to let you keep a few hundred pounds more than your item costs.

  • You deposit the 1,800 GBP cheque into your bank and then return the 800 GBP to the scammer. The scammer counts on you doing this before the cheque officially clears your bank account. This window between deposit and processing is known as “float time” and can last seven days, ten days, or even longer if the payment is international. During this time the money can be transferred, but it has not been verified by your bank as real.

  • Once the payment is processed, your bank will determine that it is fake. They will take the entire $1,800 back from you. Since you will have already sent the $800 back to the scammer, you must repay the bank $800 of your own money. If you have spent any of the $1,000 you thought you earned, you will also need to replace that. Your item, if dispatched, will also be lost.

These scammers typically create multiple accounts on Etsy and send the same message to different sellers with little or no personalisation. Scammers target sellers who list high-priced items in their shop and have fewer sales.

Example of a real 419 scam message

Hello Seller

is this item still ready for the immediate purchase, before i proceed with the payment i will Like to ask about the item...

  1. What is the present condition of the item?

  2. Do you accept PAYPAL as your mode of payment?

  3. what is the final asking price?

kindly get back to me with your reply to my private email :

hope to read from you soon.

Best Regards

Why does this scam work?

The scammer’s payment (typically a check or money order, but increasingly an electronic invoice sent via PayPal or another payment processor) is a forgery. In the case of a check, it is not real. It is only worthless paper. Your bank may allow you to deposit it, but the payment will not clear. Your bank will hold you responsible for the entire amount.

In the case of a PayPal payment, the scammer will either send a fake PayPal confirmation email or pay with a fraudulent payment source. Whether you return the “overpayment” via PayPal or a wire transfer service such as Western Union or MoneyGram, you will still be held responsible for all of the money involved.

Never trust a PayPal payment which is contingent upon you dispatching the item before funds are “released” to your account, unless you are willingly using an escrow service.

Remember: Money sent back to the scammer is money which is lost forever.

What you should do

Do not respond to the message. Etsy does not recommend engaging these scammers for any reason. Responding will encourage the scammers and cause you to receive further scam messages.

Etsy is actively engaged in preventing scammers from targeting our community members.

If you receive a suspicious message, you can report it by following these steps:

  • Sign in to Etsy, click the Messages icon and select the suspicious message.

  • Click the More > Mark as Spam link at the top of your inbox.

This will move the message to your Spam folder and send a copy of the message to a queue which is reviewed by Etsy Admin daily.

If you have further questions regarding a suspicious message you received, or if you exchanged money with a suspected scammer, please contact us by clicking the link at the bottom of this page.

At that point, we also encourage you to contact your local law enforcement and financial institution.

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