Free Market Scam

How I almost fell into a scam when selling my MacBook Pro through Mercado Livre

per Osmar Leão

Due to my hobby of photography, my MacBook Pro started to complain about memory when I needed to edit large images. Although my taste for photos is quite old, the game started to get serious when I bought a DSLR camera and specific lenses: the JPEG files become RAW images with gigantic sizes and the effort of editing the computer becomes much greater. So I decided to upgrade my Mac.

I also have an aggravating factor: I travel a lot for work and carrying a big laptop is bad for several reasons. My setup is: 13 ″ MacBook Pro, period. When I purchased it, there was no way to put more than 8GB of RAM; however, today it is already possible. So I decided to replace my “old” MacBook Pro 2016 with a 2018 model with 16GB of RAM.

The path for those who want to sell something over the internet in Brazil almost comes down to two websites: S $ and Free market. I chose the second for reasons of personal security – and it was precisely that security that was put to the test and that I will describe in this article.

On the night of November 14th, I decided to create the ad: I used my camera to take some cool pictures, I put a good attraction as a differential of the ad (give my Magic Mouse 2 as a free gift), I collected all the technical data of my MacBook Pro and created the ad on Mercado Livre. It was very close to my bedtime – I would go to Salvador the next morning and wake up very early to catch the flight.

I woke up early on the 15th; it was 4:45 am when i saw that i had already received three emails regarding my ad; I ignored it until I was in Uber, heading for the airport. There were two supposed messages from Mercado Livre and one from the “buyer”. I had sold my MacBook with no bargains, no questions asked, and a 3x higher shipping charge paid by the buyer. Of course I got excited about all that! I was going to Salvador and my MacBook Pro box was (with Apple stickers and everything) at my parents’ house waiting for this moment … it was the timing Perfect!

The waiting time at the airport and a good deal of experience as a salesman and life made me realize that something was not right. So I decided to see the details of the sale and reread the emails calmly:

Free Market Scam

The amounts were “provisionally blocked” for “security reasons” and would be released after shipping?

Second email I received:

Free Market Scam

Submit my bank details to Mercado Pago via email? Anyone who has made sales through Mercado Pago knows that it doesn’t work like that …

And the third email:

Free Market Scam

The buyer asking for me pause the ad and that confirmation could be in my mailbox spam / junk?

· • ·

The magic of the sale had been undone and anger washed over me. I waited two days to resume the subject and look at everything with a cool head; someone tried to outwit me and had my email. He managed to send a message to me less than two hours after the ad was posted and that was quite weird for a secure online sales system in Brazil.

My first attitude was to gather all the emails, print their headers (it’s how we can track the sender), as much data as possible from the “buyer” and make a complaint on the Mercado Livre website. I did this after the two days of this “sale”, already with a cool head, reporting each situation and with all the data as the site requires. I even informed them that it would be much more interesting if the company itself requested measures to the police, as it is a legal entity interested in the subject and with thousands of customers. I never received a response from Mercado Livre, today is December 11th and I haven’t even received a confirmation of receipt of a complaint.

I appreciate the confidence of MacMagazine, space and credibility so that I can alert those who want to make a sale as in my case. We thought about making a report, but I don’t want to use the term “report” in this article. As strange as things may be in my account, I prefer the benefit of the doubt to everyone involved (including removing the name and address of the “buyer”).

It is worth mentioning some details that are easily identifiable and that occurred in my case:

  1. Mercado Livre does not use the address “” to send confirmation messages of the sale;
  2. Mercado Livre does not request that the advertisement be paused in a sale;
  3. The Mercado Pago transaction is carried out within the Mercado Pago system and protected by encryption (used in HTTPS), not via email;
  4. Be wary of the amount received for shipping – Mercado Livre informs the amount to be charged to the buyer when creating the ad.

The most important: contain your euphoria! That’s how we fall for buying scams. Always find out what’s going on and, at the slightest sign of something strange, ask for help from the website support.

Despite reaffirming that I would like to give the benefit of the doubt to those involved, there are personal notes and complaints about what happened:

  1. Mercado Livre ignored, lost or does not give due attention to complaints on its website. This is worrying; I stopped using other sales methods because I trust the credibility of the website, even my ad is still active until the present date.
  2. How did an alleged impostor get my email to send fraud messages? Was it a security breach or just an unfortunate coincidence?

This article is to demonstrate the dangers of selling products online and to assist new sellers on the path of Brazilian online sales. It also applies as a charge for improvements in customer support for Mercado Livre and general alert for other sites that have the same purpose.