6 On Your Side: Disinfectant wipes order turns out to be a scam

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville man is warning others about an online scammer pretending to sell cleaning supplies and using an apparent PayPal loophole to pull it off.

Like many people, Rick Austin likes to connect with friends and family on Facebook. He also has found some good deals on Facebook Marketplace.

Shortly after the coronavirus pandemic began, Austin said disinfectant wipes were hard to find at the store, but in April, Austin found a website that advertised Clorox disinfectant wipes.

“So, I go through the process, click on it, it takes me to a link. It looks like a real legitimate big company link. So, I place the order; $71 and some odd cents for nine three-packs of Clorox disinfectant wipes.

The next day after I placed the order, I went to the website, it has been removed. Gone.”

Rick Austin

Eventually a small package from Fujian, China was sent to Austin.

“So I open it up and I have a $71 pair of socks. They probably wouldn’t even fit me to begin with.”

Rick Austin

Austin went to PayPal to dispute his purchase; here’s how the scam works, since he was sent a package with a tracking number on it, PayPal at first denied his claim. He got socks, but no Clorox.

Austin however, was persistent, after first being denied his refund, he sent pictures of the socks and other documentation.

“They wanted me to provide information on my claim. Claim number. I sent pictures of what I received. Probably within an hour they made a decision to refund my money.”

Rick Austin

Recently, Austin was able to buy Clorox wipes from a local store; the lesson learned, know who you are dealing with when buying online.

The people who placed the ads using Facebook Marketplace, they knew how to take advantage of world events around the coronavirus pandemic.

The Federal Trade Commission says the websites of these con artists will run for a few days, then vanish forever.

The legitimate Clorox company did nothing wrong, neither did PayPal, and as Austin discovered, once he got through and sent his documentation, the payment service did listen to his dispute.

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