The first website, Electalk.com, conned Ellis Koufodontis and countless others by offering brand-name electronics at ridiculously low prices. The catch was their insistence on being paid by wire transfer. Once they received payment, Electalk.com demanded additional money, supposedly so the items could clear Chinese customs. Koufodontis refused to pay, demanded his money back, and received nothing but empty promises to refund him.
Although Electalk.com is sometimes offline, a nearly identical sister site, Sellelecs.com, is also busy cheating consumers with an identical scam, and recently swindled another Consumer Ally reader out of more than $400 for several cell phones. The victim, a disabled veteran who wishes only to be referred to by her first name, resides in Florida and sent us the following note:
Like Koufodontis, Roni made the mistake of wiring Sellelecs.com money. For unlike credit card purchases, which are protected by law, once you wire someone money, there's no way to get it back. Soon after wiring Sellecs.com $415 for several cell phones, Roni received this email, which we've edited for space constraints:
"Hello, my name is Roni. I just lost $415 dollars to a company called Sellelecs.com. This company is a fraud and a total scam. Please help me help others not to fall into the same trap I did. I am a disabled veteran and I have a 19-month-old son. I am attending school full time on the GI Bill and was buying products to resell to help feed my family."
Dear friend :
Hope you everything goes well . We have contacted the officer which in custom so many times, but a piece of bad news : Mr. Lin Wei has delivered the 2 LG VX8500 Cherry Chocolate Phone , NOKIA N70 , LG VX8500 White Chocolate Phone Verizon Wireless and Cingular 8125 PDA Phone to Hai Dian Custom on Jan 6th, 2011. And our staffs have inspected the packing list. In fact, all formalities they have handed in are all professional and clear, but according to the new regulation which became into effect , we have to charge 200 USD for additional exporting tax.
This is an unhappy thing that we have never experience. They told us that our company can not pay for the custom tax , because our item price is so low. Because the USA and some western countries impose pressure on the custom, they state that some Chinese company are conducting the dumping activity. Usually you don't need to pay the tariff , but this time you have to pay for it.
I am sorry that we could not know it early! If you can understand us, you could pay for custom fee to our company so that our company can pay that to CIQ. After you made the payment, you will receive your item in 3 days. When you are ready to pay the tax, please contact our seller online .
Have a nice day !
Sellelecs.com, which according to WHOIS launched last October, did not respond to requests for a comment.So how similar is Electalk.com and Sellelecs.com? First off, the homepages of both sites offer victims a choice between a U.S. or European site. Both sites also feature the same amateurish design and layout, with poor-quality, badly-sized images of smiling young women posing with various electronic gadgets. The "Contact Us" pages list different Beijing addresses, while both offer Hotmail and Yahoo email addresses.
The "About Us" pages of both Electalk.com and Sellelecs.com also use identical language, and both feature images of "related documents," unexplained Chinese certificates undoubtedly designed to confer an air of legitimacy. And both sites say the following about themselves: "We are one online B2B wholesale electronics store based in China. We pride ourselves in how we serve you, our valued buyer, when you shop at our store."
While both sites boast logos for Visa, MasterCard, American Express and PayPal on their sites, they accept only bank or wire transfers. Electalk.com and Sellelecs.com also give the same reason for not accepting PayPal, in exactly the same laughable English: "we have many bad experience by paypal,in that it make the every deal last a long time and sometime lead to our business to be cheated by disloyal buyers."
Both sites also sell the same high-end products for a fraction of the U.S. retail cost. In some cases, both sites offer the same item (and product number) for the same price. Check out a Nikon D90 ($900 on Amazon.com), which goes for $231 and is listed as Product ID: 6410 on both Electalk.com and Sellelecs.com.
When you do shop online, especially from sites you've never heard of, follow these 10 tips for safe online shopping from the BBB.
"Please do not trust people if you can not use your credit card for payment," Roni told Consumer Ally. "Do not, I repeat do not wire money to these crooks."