I Got Scammed, How Could I Be So Dumb?

Fraudsters suck. They got me. They really did. Their trick was so slick it worked.

I should have known better. I’ve always thought I was smart and savvy and could spot a scam a mile away. I mean I work in fraud detection trying to help people avoid fraud all day long.

But I was wrong. I am not that smart and they got me. And I feel like so dumb.

I Was Searching For Lysol

We are in the middle of a Pandemic, so my wife and I are very careful with keeping things sanitary around the house and particularly on packages that we receive from Amazon. She likes to spray down surfaces and packages with disinfectant, just to make sure that no germs spread.

She has been trying to buy Lysol online for weeks, but it is sold out everywhere. I suppose everyone has the same idea as her.

So I decided I would try to help her. So I went online and went searching for Lysol. I went to Amazon and I did find some sellers offering Lysol for about $15 per can. I am not sure if that is price gouging but it was so expensive!

I Found A Really Great Deal!

After about 10 minutes I decided to Google Search to see if I could find Lysol from other places. After I typed in “Lysol” into the google search bar, I could not believe it but I was immediately directed to an advertisement to buy Lysol cans right from the manufacturer for $6 a can.

The best thing was that they were having a “Flash Sale” which meant I could buy as many cans of Lysol that I want. I could not believe my luck.

My wife was going to be so happy. She loves getting great deals!

I Loaded Up My Shopping Cart and Got a Surprise

So I loaded up my shopping cart with 6 cans of Lysol for a surprising price of only $30.06 and free shipping.

I was still gloating that in 10 minutes I had been able to find such a great deal, when my wife had been searching for months. She was going to be so proud of me.

I decided to pay with my Apple Card because it is so convenient online and only requires me to type in my CVV number to complete a transaction. I hit submit on my order, and within 3 seconds, this message popped up on my iPhone.

What the heck? I was shopping on Lysol. Who was Nakashima Akiyuki? And why did Apple Card think this transaction was suspicious? I shop online all the time and this was a relatively small transaction?

I immediately clicked on “No, I did Not Authorize This Transaction” and decided that I needed to look into this more.

To My Horror, I Discovered I Wasn’t Shopping on Lysol.com At All

I went back to the website and decided to take a look. Things just didn’t look right when I went back. The prices looked a little too good to be true.

Then I looked at the URL and I was shocked. I wasn’t shopping at Lysol.com at all, I was shopping on Lysolcg.com.

I had been spoofed, and I just gave out all of my details to a fraudster that had no intention of sending me any Lysol.

Not only that but I am sure this website was harvesting my email and password to commit fraud on other sites as well. Now they had my credit card, my shipping details, email and password to commit fraud on any merchant site they wanted.

And there were other warnings on the website if I had looked closer. For example, they warned that tracking packages would be “very difficult” due to the “Crown Epidemic” which is a reference to Coronavirus used in China.

There was also a warning that swimwear and underwear could not be returned. Who buys underwear from Lysol?

How Could I Be So Dumb?

So I felt really stupid. I spend virtually my whole day trying to help companies and people not fall victim to fraud, but here I was not even following my own advice.

The fact is, if I could fall for such a dumb scam, there must be tens and thousands of other people falling for the same scam too.

It Turns Out, There Is A Wave Of Lysol Scams and FTC is taking Action

It turns out that there has been a wave of scams against consumers that are searching for a deal on Lysol.

In November, the FTC announced a complaint against defendants who are using fake websites (with real product names in the web address) and real product images and logos of well-known brands like Clorox and Lysol — all to make people think they’re buying products from the companies’ official websites.

The FTC said that none of the sites are owned by, affiliated with, or authorized by the companies that make Clorox and Lysol and that none of the people who paid for cleaning and disinfecting products from these sites got what they ordered.

The FTC is currently working to shut down the sites, stop the defendants from setting up future sites, and help people protect themselves against these kinds of scams.

The websites named in the FTC’s complaint were: 1) cleanyos.com, 2) arlysol.com, 3) broclea.com, 4) cadclea.com, 5) cleancate.com, 6) cleankler.com, 7) cleanula.com, 8) clean-sale.com, 9) clean-sell.com, 10) clorox-sale.com, 11) clorox-sales.com, 12) cloroxstore.com, 13) crlysol.com, 14) elysol.com, 15) littletoke.com, 16) lybclean.com, 17) lysoiclean.com, 18) lysol-clean.com, 19) lysol-cleaners.com, 20) lysol-free.com, 21) lysolsales.com, 22) lysolservicebest.com, 23) lysol-sell.com, 24) lysol-wipe.com, and 25) thaclean.com.

But even as the FTC shuts down these websites, more appear. In fact many are blatantly advertising on Google through paid search.

I took this screenshot which shows just how brazen their advertisements are.

I Learned Some Valuable Lessons From This

So I learned some valuable lessons first hand about scams from this experience.

#1 – Your Likely To Be Victimized When You Are Vulnerable

I fell for the scam because our family, like many out there are simply just trying to protect those close to us from the Virus. We are all vulnerable and that is why scammers are targeting us.

#2 – Scams Are An Epidemic And We Are All Being Targeted

The fact is, there are so many scams right now that ALL of us are being subject to a wave of scam and fraud attempts against us. We have to be vigilant at all times.

#3 – If It Is Too Good To Be True It Probably Is

The fact is, I knew the deal I was getting was too good to be true. But I ignored my gut and put all my information into the site anyway. I knew it was wrong but I wanted to save a few bucks.

#4 – Scams Are Confusing and You Always Need to Slow Down

Scammers rely on confusion and urgency to get you to act. They want you to act fast without thinking. In this case, they presented me with a “FLASH SALE” that I needed to take advantage of instantly. They created a rush, I got confused and I fell for it.

#5 – Trust Your Gut

The biggest lesson I learned was that I really need to trust my gut. I knew something was off, but I ignored the red flags. You should always trust your gut.

#6 – I Was Grateful For Apple Card Saving Me

The last thing I learned was that I was super grateful to my credit card company Apple Card (Goldman Sachs) for blocking the transaction and checking with me.

I felt like they saved be $40, that I would have otherwise been responsible for. I can’t underestimate how important it is that banks realize that when they stop a scam, they are saving their customers money and making their customers more loyal in the process.

Thank you Apple Card! Next time I will not be so stupid.

I am Frank McKenna, a fraud expert from San Diego. The views and opinions expressed here are entirely my own and do not reflect those of Point Predictive.