My garden shed never arrived. Is this a PayPal scam?

Facebook scam

Sharon Keenan orders a garden shed through Facebook. But instead, her neighbor receives a strange parcel from the shipper. Is this a PayPal scam?


I have a question about something that looks like a PayPal scam. purchased an outdoor garden shed from an ad on Facebook and paid $1,200 through PayPal. I received an email from the merchant with a USPS tracking number.

But there was a problem right off the bat. The USPS weight limit on packages is 60 pounds, so there is no way that this garden shed shipped via the postal service.
I received an alert from USPS that the shed had been delivered between 9 a.m. and noon. But when I got home, there was no shed in my driveway.

I called my post office and they tracked the shed to a different address. It was the same house number, but the street was about four blocks away. According to PayPal, the town name and ZIP code matched and there was a tracking number that shows it was delivered. So in their view I received my shed.

The postal carrier even remembered the package because there was no specific name on it It was addressed “Dear Resident.” I went to this neighbor’s home and I retrieved the package. The only thing in the envelope is a single page from the October issue of Costco’s Connection magazine! No shed.

This guy is a scammer. He knows that all he has to do is have the same town name, the correct ZIP code and a tracking number to prove delivery to PayPal. So he looks up the same house number in the same town but with a different street name and he sends some random “junk” piece of paper in the envelope addressed to “Dear Resident.”

I want my shed. Can you help? — Sharon Keenan, Schnecksville, Pa.


You ordered a $1,200 garden shed and received a single magazine page — delivered to your neighbor? Yep, that sure sounds like a PayPal scam to me. At the very least, you’re entitled to a refund through PayPal.

I think you handled this problem by the book. You took pictures of the magazine page, kept the tracking information and wrote brief, polite emails to PayPal to get this resolved. Very nice work.

This isn’t the first case I’ve had involving merchandise sold through Facebook. You have to be careful when you’re buying merchandise online and using PayPal to pay. Look at the reviews and beware of too-good-to-be-true (or too-cheap-to-be-true) items.

Is this a PayPal scam?

This is a clever little PayPal scam. The shipper sent something worthless to the wrong address. So if you dispute your PayPal charge, the scammer can easily say, “I delivered the merchandise. Here’s the proof!” When you tried to explain it to PayPal, it didn’t understand the problem. Everything lined up, as far as its system was concerned.

I’m putting this in our rare cases file (right alongside this Maryland Speedway case). Rare, but still worth covering. My advocacy team doesn’t like any kind of scam, no matter how uncommon.

But you had photos and a long paper trail to prove that you were being ripped off. Unfortunately, PayPal wasn’t paying attention. I publish executive email addresses for PayPal on my consumer advocacy site, In your case, however, they didn’t really do much good.

I contacted PayPal on your behalf. It reviewed your case and offered a $1,200 refund. Please don’t buy any more tool sheds — or anything else — through Facebook.

I’d like your opinion, my friends

Because to me, the point of this story isn’t that you have minimal protection when you buy something through PayPal. It’s Facebook. Do you think we should be buying anything through Facebook. Wait, are you still on Facebook?

Please share your thoughts. The doors of the forum have swung open. 🏟️ Scroll down. Leave your thoughts. Tell me I’m wrong. Or right.

Editor’s Note: I started writing Problem Solved in 2010 to help all consumers, not just travelers. Two years later, Money Magazine picked it up. A year after that, it went into national syndication through King Features. But during the pandemic, my syndicate decided to discontinue our distribution agreement. So now this weekly feature is available here exclusively. Just here, nowhere else.

I hope you like it. Oh, one more thing. Let’s have some fun with it, shall we?

Posted in Problem Solved Tagged , , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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