Scam Alerts !!
PIGEON DROP ALIVE AND KICKING --
December 6, 2012
After all these years
we are still hearing about people being ripped off by internet
scammers using the classic "pigeon drop," a term used
to describe a scam that con men have run for centuries. We've
been reporting on this scam for 15 years on this website and
we still can't seem to break the cycle.
A nice lady from Hawaii called
us this past week to tell us about a scam she fell victim to.
She was advertising a 2000 Pontiac Trans Am WS6 for sale. A person
that she thought was a buyer sent her a cashiers check for the
amount of the car plus an extra $1,900 which he indicated was
for the shipping. He instructed her to send the $1,900 to what
she thought was a shipping company at a P.O. Box number. Unfortunately
the cashiers check was a fraudulent check and by the time she
found that out she had already forwarded her payment of $1,900
to the fake shipping company address. She was out $1,900 from
her own account because the bank confiscated the funds for the
fraudulent check she thought she had deposited.
This is a classic example
of the pigeon drop that we have been talking about for the past
15 years. The worst part of the story is that the woman who was
scammed was a police officer. She said she had never sold a car
over the internet before. Now she says she will never try it
again. That's not good for the collector car market. It is why
we work so hard to get the word out about scammers and how they
NEW SCAM: GOOGLE WALLET --
July 19, 2012
Recently, a reader brought
to our attention another phishing scam where a seller tried to
get him to pay for a vehicle through Google Wallet, a service
for making protected credit card payments. Our reader, who was
the buyer in this case, was being baited by the scam seller to
provide his Google Wallet user ID. Since the buyer didn't have
a Google Wallet account, the scammer encouraged him to open one.
Then the scammer would try to trick the buyer into giving him
the buyer's user ID or login information. Luckily, the buyer
got suspicious and did not open an account, nor did he provide
login information. To push the scammer a little further, our
reader requested an in-person exchange at which point the scam
seller immediately cut off communications with him.
What COL has found is that
if the situation would've gone any further, the scammer would
then send a spoofed Google Checkout page for the buyer to fill
out. When the buyer filled out the spoofed form the scammer would
then be able to access his Google Wallet login and password and
therefore have access to credit card information. In very short
order the scammer would be using it to make major purchases on
The very premise of this scam
is false. Google Wallet was never intended to be used for person-to-person
purchases and does not allow them. But the scammer will try to
convince you that the transaction can be made with Google Wallet
just to get your information. Only approved merchants can make
transactions through Google Wallet. Also, Google Wallet does
not approve vehicle purchases. Be wary of any seller that tries
to encourage you to use Google Wallet for vehicle purchases.
It should be noted that Google Wallet is a very safe service
when it is used correctly. They too are victims of this scam.
NEW ESCROW SCAM ALERT --
June 28, 2012
On the morning of June
26, 2012, Cars On Line was contacted by a buyer from California
about an ad that was placed on our site concerning a 1969 Camaro
SS from Spring Valley, California. The buyer spoke with us about
what she thought might be a scam. She said that she contacted
the seller and wanted to purchase the vehicle. Naturally the
price was right, only $11,000 for what looked like a pretty nice
Camaro in the photo. The woman seller told her that the car was
in the state of Maine and could not be inspected. Then the seller
indicated that the buyer could put money for the car into an
escrow account. The seller would then send the car to the buyer
and they would have five days to accept or reject the car.
At that point the female seller
sent an email from the email address "[email protected]"
with a link that was said to be for a website called Escrow.com.
In our own research we found that Escrow.com only accepts amounts
below $5,000. However, the link that the seller sent was not
an actual page from the Escrow.com website. It was what we call
a spoofed page, a copy of the Escrow.com webpage. Some of the
links did not even work. But it was a way for the "seller"
to gain payment information from the buyer. We suspect that the
"seller" did not have a car for sale, they were only
interested in gaining access to the buyers payment.
Long story short, the buyer
called us to ask if this might be a scam. It was. What concerns
us is that since the phone number was through an Arizona area
code these scammers were probably right here in the U.S. Usually
scammers are from overseas. We called the FBI who would have
jurisdiction in this case if there is complicity from within
U.S. borders. Needless to say the buyer dodged a bullet by asking
us about this seller. Buyers should be aware that scammers are
now using fake Escrow.com web pages to try to gain payment information
from car buyers online.
NEW PAYPAL SCAM ALERT --
May 24, 2012
Recently our readers have
been emailing us about a Paypal scam with a new twist. We find
that the "bad guys" of the internet are continually
revising their attack. Scammers have often in the past used fake
Paypal pages to lure their victims into giving them important
information about their Paypal accounts. We thought our readers
should know that there is a new twist to the Paypal scam. (It
should be noted that Paypal is a legitimate company that has
nothing to do with the scammers. They too are victims in this
Sellers are contacted by the
potential buyer (scammer.) The scammer copies the look of the
Paypal page so perfectly that Paypal users can't tell the difference.
Beware when they only want to use Paypal as a form of payment.
Then they will tell you that they want to pay you the amount
for the car plus the amount that is to be forwarded to the transport
company to pick up the car. They will then ask you to pay the
transport company by Western Union. The scam is that their Paypal
payment will be worthless and you will have forwarded your own
money through Western Union back to the scammer.
This fake purchase scam is
similar to the Nigerian Scam, but this scam only gets worse for
the seller. A typical practise for the scammer is to send you
a fake email request from PayPal. We found that they will send
an email to you saying that there is a problem with your account.
The fake notice will look like it is from PayPal. They will tell
you to log in to correct a problem. When you log in you are actually
logging into the scammer's website. At that point they have access
to whatever is in your Paypal account. The best way to avoid
this phishing scam is to only log in to your Paypal account from
Paypal's website, never from a link in an email.
Here is an example of a real
scam attempt. A seller placed an ad on several popular websites
trying to sell their car. They began receiving typical emails
from interested parties. However, these buyers only wanted to
work through PayPal. Their excuse was that they were out of the
country or in the military service and contacting the seller
from a distant location. One scammer told the seller that they
were a crew member with Air Canada and another said they were
at sea. As the scam progressed they were told that the "buyer"
would forward them the amount for the car and an extra amount
for the transport company. They told the seller that he would
have to forward the money for the transport to the transport
company through Western Union. The seller was given the forwarding
information. When they ask you to pay someone else some money
out of their payment, that is where the scam happens. Years ago
it was called a "pigeon drop." You lose the amount
of the payment which you send through Western Union.
This seller also pointed out
that the scam buyers asked redundant questions such as what the
asking price was when it was listed on the ad, or they would
ask for pictures even though they had already been provided on
PAYPAL EMAIL SCAM --
When dealing with a buyer,
a scammer might be trying to get the buyer's financial information.
This type of scam is more commonly known as a phishing scam.
An email, sent to you from a generic email address such as [email protected],
leads you to believe that they are Paypal trying to contact you.
The email asks you to log in to your Paypal account through a
link in the scam email or an attachment. If you log in using
the link which they provide it takes you to a fake Paypal page.
It will look like Paypal's login page. If you log in using this
link that the scammer provided they will be able to see your
login identification and your password. When they have access
to your PayPal account, they can take what funds are available
and transfer the money out of the account.
You can avoid getting scammed
if you only login to your Paypal account by going to the official
Paypal website and using their login. Paypal will never send
you an email that asks you to login through a link in the email.
Here are some tips to spot
1) Watch out for generic greeting. Many will begin with a general
greeting such as 'Dear PayPal member.' If you do not see your
first and last name or the name you registered with, it is most
definitely a scam.
2) A sense of urgency is implied by the scammer to push you into
doing what they ask you to do. Some even suggest that an unauthorized
transaction has already or "might" have occurred on
your account, therefore, you need to update immediately.
3) Misspellings and bad grammar. Scammers are usually unfamiliar
with American English and their phrasing may seem odd.
4) Pop-up boxes occur when you access the email. PayPal never
uses pop-up boxes in email messages.
5) Attachments, like the fake links, are frequently used. These
attachments can contain viruses, spyware and malware in general.
These types of cues can help
protect you from being on a bad website that has
great potential to be a scam website or avoiding con artists
posing as buyers. For more information, Google "PayPal purchasing
scams" or "PayPal email scam" and you can find
hundreds of stories and even more tips on how to avoid falling
victim to a scam.
Cars On Line continues to
monitor our website by making personal contact with each person
to ensure that they are indeed a legitimate seller before publishing
an ad. Let's keep the internet safe for buyers and sellers.
ESCROW SCAM UNCOVERED
-- November 6, 2009
We're hearing a lot about a new scam that is making its way around
the world wide web. An auto dealer from Wisconsin replied to
an ad that was listed on the website last week. The seller tried
to lure him into a phishing scheme that used eBay's Vehicle Purchase
Program as an escrow account. We immediately deleted the page
from our website. Here is what we discovered.
It seems that a motorhome was listed
for sale and the "seller" was asking a very low price
for what looked like a nice 37-foot recreational vehicle. When
emailed, the seller claimed to be out of the country for work
reasons but said the RV was in Oklahoma. The scammer assured
that he wanted to sell the vehicle and that he would use eBay's
Vehicle Purchase Program as an escrow to hold the payment untill
the buyer received delivery of the motorhome. The scammer said
he would forward eBay's link to the buyer. The way the scam works
is that the scammer will send the buyer links from a website
that was constructed to mimmick the look and function of eBay.
The pages had been faked to make them look like official eBay
website pages. The purpose is to get your personal information
and/or your credit card information.
Ebay says its Vehicle Protection Program
is not meant to be used as an escrow. They do not hold money
for the buyer or seller during the course of a transaction.
This scam would probably be best characterized
as a phishing scam. They actually copy an eBay page layout to
make you think you are at a safe site. The unsuspecting buyer
may give up important information that the scammer will use to
access bank or credit card accounts. People are telling us that
Craig's List is getting bombarded with these postings.
To find out more about this scam you
can type these words into a Google search: ebay vehicle protection
program scam. I found over 500 complaints from all over the
United States. You can read the complaints for more info.
To avoid any scam is simple. 1) Always
try to contact a buyer by phone. Scammers often do not speak
English. So if they won't talk to you that is a dead giveaway.
2) Tell the seller that you won't give him a nickle until you
have the vehicle inspected by the Cars On Line Inspection Service.
If you are dealing with a scammer, that will stop them dead in
Cars On Line is dedicated to getting
these scammers off the internet. We are so vigilant that every
ad is vetted by a real person before it is allowed to appear
on our website. That's why Cars On Line has remained safe for
both buyers and sellers.
SCAM EMAILS -- February
Last week we told you about a new scam relating to Internet classified
But advertisers still have to be careful of the traditional
Nigerian scam (the one where the "fake buyer" wants
to pay you with a cashiers check made out for more money than
they've agreed to pay so you will have to refund them the overage.)
We keep track of scam emails that have been received by Cars
On Line sellers. Here is a list of recent scammer email addresses.
Be sure that one of these scammers is not trying to contact you.
You can help us keep track of the scammers by forwarding any
questionable emails to [email protected].
We will be sure to check them out and let you know if they are
NEW SCAMS UNCOVERED -- February 16, 2007
On Wednesday we heard from a Cars On Line advertiser who reported
a new scam tactic that may be being used on classified advertisers.
He received a contact by phone and by email from a man who seemed
interested in buying a car he was advertising for sale. The seller
said he spent a lot of time with the potential buyer because
he seemed genuinely interested in the car. "I stopped when
he asked me to send his bank a copy of my drivers license,"
said the seller. "He (the buyer/scammer) stopped calling
when I sent him an email saying I wanted everything done by email
so I would have a record of the transaction." He said this
man had called him from an 818 area code.
The same seller said he has since been contacted by other
"buyers" who end up asking him for personal information.
This is an identity theft scam. They get enough information from
you through casual conversation to be able to use your identity
to apply for credit cards or borrow money in your name. This
particular seller said the "buyers" would usually tell
him they were from Los Angeles or San Bernadino, California.
They never haggle over price, and asked very little information
about the condition of the car. They tell you that they must
apply for a loan. After a day or two, they call back and say
the loan is approved. But then they ask the seller for information
so that the bank can send them the money. They asked this man
for a copy of his drivers license. But they also might ask you
for a Social Security Card.
Although this is unrelated to the collector car community,
another development is arising that has implications for investors.
We have recently heard that scammers are gaining access to online
investment accounts. If you visit a website that plants spyware
on your system they can actually "watch" you type key
strokes on your computer. It is as easy as placing a "cookie"
on your system. With the spyware resident on your system the
scammer can watch the keystrokes you use when you enter your
investment account with Schwab, Ameritrade, etc. If they acquire
your login information they can raise havoc with your investment
account. To clean spyware off your computer, you can run a spybot
program. It is like an anti-virus program to detect and destroy
spyware on your system. We recommend you run the spybot weekly
if you do any amount of internet surfing.
A NEW TWIST ON THE NIGERIAN SCAM
(Reprinted from the Cars On Line Daily Update Newsletter,
March 31, 2006)
Newsletter readers know that Cars On Line is a leader in the
effort to stop scams on the Internet. We believe that the more
you know about how scammers work, the less you need to fear from
This week we found that there is a new
twist being used in the Nigerian scam. One of our regular advertisers
from Arkansas was contacted via an Operator Assisted Relay service.
Operator Assisted calls are a service provided to handicapped
persons who cannot speak or cannot hear, or both. The service
allows a handicapped person to communicate with the Operator
who will call the seller and act as an "interpreter."
The Operator talks to the seller and communicates with the handicapped
buyer via his keyboard, thus asking the seller a question and
typing the answer to the handicapped buyer.
An Internet scammer posed as a handicapped
person and used the Operator Assisted call system to communicate
with our advertiser. He then offered to buy the vehicle and asked
the seller to accept the purchase price by cashiers check. The
seller agreed and then the scammer also asked him to accept an
additional amount to cover payment for the transport company.
If the seller had agreed then the scammer promised to send a
cashier's check for the entire amount. But immediately after
the scammer hung up, a fake transport company called the seller
and told him they needed the payment for the transport right
away. The seller smelled a rat and did not go along with the
scam. He called our office to alert us that this was going on.
We had already heard a similar story from another of our customers.
The fake transport company will pressure
the seller to pay them upfront with a credit card or Western
Union money order. Of course, the deal never happens and the
seller would be out any money he paid to the fake transport company.
While I don't think many of our Cars
On Line readers are going to fall for this scheme, it is just
different enough that they may catch a few people off guard.
It is reprehensible that the scammers are using a handicapped
service to try to rip off honest people. How low can some people
The "Nigerian Scam" is one
of the most often used scam techniques on the Internet. The scammer
contacts you and says he wants to buy your car. If you haven't
read our Scam Warnings information please refer to our Nigerian
Scam page. The reason we call it the
Nigerian Scam is that when we've traced the IP addresses of the
scammers the trail always takes us back to an Internet Provider
in Nigeria, an African nation.
Watch out for the reverse of this latest
scam also. We have heard of scam sellers on other websites that
are using the Operator Assisted phone number in their ads. Their
excuse for not being able to talk to you is that they are mute.
They will then try to persuade you to send them a deposit on
a car that they do not actually have. The Operator Assisted phone
system will allow them to hide the fact that they do not speak
Stay vigilant. They are coming up with
new scam tactics all the time. We'll try to keep you updated
on them as we hear about them.
NEW TRICKS, BUT ITS THE SAME
(From the Cars
On Line Update Newsletter, 2005)
Internet scammers are coming up with some new tricks. In the
past we have told you about a "selling scam" that uses
a new approach. The "selling scam" is the reverse of
the classic Nigerian scam. The seller is the scammer and places
fraudulent classified ads. They will place ads for very special
cars at ridiculously low prices. What they are looking for is
someone who will believe them. Then they get the buyer to send
them a security deposit. They even promise to do the shipping
for free! Obviously their goal is to get your security deposit.
This week a COL reader informed us that one of these scammers
had set up as a dealer on the Auto Trader Canada website.
The fake dealership was said to be in Marquette, Manitoba, Canada.
The fake dealer was offering a 1970 Hemi Cuda with only 25,700
kilometers for $9,900. He was also offering a 1969 Camaro Z-28
with only 39,000 kilometers on it for $9,000 and a 1970 Pontiac
GTO with Ram Air IV and only 39,000 kilometers for $9,500.
We contacted one of these scammers and this is how he replied
"I hope you are serious in your intention for buying. Don`t
take it personally, but I am tired with people who offer to buy
my car and in the end they turn out to be scammers. Anyway, the
car is available and I guess you could be the owner if everything
turns out all right and you are serious about buying. Let me
tell you a few things about it: This vehicle currently has 9000
miles ... If you will take this price, I am willing to pay for
shipping and insurance to your location. I ONLY accept payment
though a wire transfer (western union). Don't worry, we will
use a third party service (Square Trade) to protect both of us.
I require a deposit up-front ($4,200 USD) to see that you really
have the funds in order to purchase and secure the car."
Notice the gall of this guy to refer to being "tired
with people who ... turn out to be scammers." That's what
they mean when they say, "the pot calling the kettle black."
The twist is that they are now offering to use an escrow or third
party to conclude the deal. But don't be fooled. Scammers aren't
interested in transacting a deal to its completion. They don't
really have the car. They are only interested in getting your
up front deposit via Western Union money order.
We are pretty sure that we have warned newsletter readers
enough that they won't be caught in one of these scams. But the
tactics they use are evolving and we want to make you aware of
what they're up to.
BUYER SCAM UPDATE
After running this page on the
Nigerian Scam for over five years now, you would think they would
have run out of marks. But as W.C. Fields used to say, "There's
a sucker born every minute." And I guess the Nigerian Scam
just proves that's right.
This scam only works one way. A foreign
"broker" contacts you and says he is going to buy your
vehicle which you have advertised. The broker asks a minimum
of questions about the car and then wants to send you the money.
They send you a cashiers check for more money than you are asking
for your car and then they ask you if you would refund the extra
money. They always have some reason for making the check out
for too much, i.e. "in case the shipping costs extra ...
a business associate owes me money in your country ... my secretary
made a mistake and made the check out for too much ..."
etc. The cashiers check will always be counterfeit. Your bank
won't know its a bad check for up to 20 days. You send the refunded
amount to them out of your money.
Many people have asked how to avoid
the Nigerian scam. It's real simple. It only works the way we
described above. It is really easy to recognize the emails they
send you. (They only work by email. Rarely will they call you
because they don't speak English very well. Their emails usually
don't make any sense either as you may have noticed.)
But if you want us to give you a set
of rules to go by, here are a few tips to avoid the Nigerian
Scam from effecting you:
1) Don't use your email in your ads
2) Only take cash for payment. (Cashiers checks or bank checks
are always a risk and have been long before the Nigerian Scam
came around.) Wire transfers are okay if you have a special account
to receive these funds. Do not use your checking account, savings
3) Only sell to buyers from your local area. (This one is pretty
extreme, only for the most paranoid of sellers.)
It really is pretty easy to identify
the scam emails. Don't let them bother you. One click and they
are deleted forever. But don't reply to the scammers ... it just
MORE ON SCAMMERS Update 2/13/04
As you know, we try to keep you up to speed on scammer activities.
See our recent alert on Internet scams in the Cars
On Line Update for Feb. 6, 2004. We're
getting pretty upset with these scumbags as are most people trying
to advertise vehicles on the Internet these days. At best they
waste our time, and at worst they seem to be able to pull the
wool over on some pretty nice people. Let's put a stop to these
guys. The only way to shut them down is to starve 'em out. When
everybody is alert to what they're up to, they'll be out of business.
We just came across a website that is
trying to form a database of the email addresses and the phone
numbers which these scammers use. The website is ScamChecker.com.
The link to their Scam Data Search Engine is: http://www.scamchecker.com/index.html
You can type in the email of a possible
scammer and see if it's in their database. You can do the same
for a phone number.
If a potential buyer contacting you
is in that database you'll know that it is a scam. You can report
a scammer at this website also, both by email address and phone
The problem with this service is that
it is so new that they don't have a big database yet. We have
typed in emails of known scammers and the database said it did
not have information on these guys. So if your buyer or seller
is not in this database it does not mean they are okay.
You need to be vigilant.
Since many of the recent scammers are
using Yahoo mail addresses, if you find out you are being contacted
by a scammer using a Yahoo address just contact: http://add.yahoo.com/fast/help/us/mail/cgi_abuse
Let them know about the scam and what you have experienced
with this scammer. They need to know the email address which
was used to contact you. They may need all of the header information
in the email as well. They will shut them down.
CRIMINALS EXPAND THEIR SCAM BASE Update 2/6/04
Cars are such a great hobby and I've met the best people through
car shows, car clubs, etc. It's just a shame someone is always
wanting to spoil a good thing. We've been posting warnings about
the Nigerian scam for five years now. That's the one where a
"broker" from overseas contacts you and says he's going
to buy your car for his client. Then they send you a cashiers
check for more than the amount you are asking for your car and
ask you to refund them the overage. (See below for more on how
But just recently there is a new twist on the scam and it
works like this. A "seller" acquires the credit card
identity of someone in the U.S. Then he uses it to place fake
ads on Internet web sites. The purpose of the scam is to get
you to send him a "deposit." They will promise to sell
you a car or motorcycle at a price that is way below the average
value on that vehicle. Often they will tempt you by including
shipping. Of course, the car does not exist and they are simply
trying to get your "deposit" money. These sellers may
say they are from somewhere in the U.S. or Canada, but when we
track their IP addresses they are always from Romania, a former
Eastern block country.
Sometimes these scams are easy to identify because the scammer
does not want to talk to you by phone. They usually give fake
phone numbers or the phone number of the person whose identity
they stole to place the ad. They want to deal only by email.
However, more recently we have noticed that people who are running
these scams have become so bold as to take phone calls and pose
as the person whose identity they stole. The way to shut them
down is to ask if Cars On Line can inspect their vehicle. That
usually stops them dead in their tracks.
We want our readers to be forewarned and armed with the right
information to do business on the Internet. The Internet provides
you with the ability to reach out to the whole world. But it
also allows international criminals access to you that they would
never have had before. Be vigilant and it will make us all safer.
THE CLASSIC NIGERIAN SCAM Update 1/1/04
A con game we call the "Nigerian
scam" is prevalent on the Internet. Most people who are
trying to sell something on the Internet have already run into
this situation. You are contacted by a "buyer" who
wants to send you a cashiers check for an amount that is more
than you are asking for your vehicle. The check looks so authentic
that your bank can't tell it is a fake. Then the "buyer"
asks you to refund the overrage to help him out.
The problem is that the original check
will be a fake and when you refund the money, it will come out
of your pocket. Last year, we had issued warnings for our advertisers
not to be taken in by this scam. The scam is being run
on anyone who may be selling something, i.e. real estate, jewelry,
boats, etc. But cars are a natural for this scam because cars
sell so frequently over the Internet that buyers and sellers
who are intently focused on the sale don't often stop to think
that they are being taken for a ride.
The way it works is like this: the buyer
(usually claiming to be a broker representing a wealthy buyer
or group of buyers from "whereever" (Sierre Leon, Israel,
United Arab Emirates, South America or even London, England)
sends a check for payment for the car. The check is for too much
money, so he asks the owner of the car to cash the check and
then send the overpayment back to the him. So the sting is that
they get you to send the money back before you know if their
check has cleared. Banks can't tell if the check is real for
up to 17 days.
It used to be that the scammers all
identified themselves as being from Nigeria, perhaps the most
corrupt country on the planet. Now they will tell you they are
from somewhere other than Nigeria, but when we trace the IP address
of these emails they are almost always sent from a Yahoo mail
account and the address always starts from Nigeria. The reason
for that is that this scam is protected by the Nigerian government.
Some say it is the fifth largest industry in Nigeria.
If you are contacted by buyers who identify
themselves as being brokers from overseas, refer to this link:
Please understand that any offer you
get from a broker should be looked at with some skepticism. Then
if they say they're going to send you a check for an amount that
is more than the price you are asking for your car, tell them
you will only accept the exact amount. It is best if you receive
your payment in a Western Union money order. That way you don't
have to give out your bank account number. They will use your
personal information and your bank account number to scam other
Please don't get so excited about selling
your car that you fall victim to one of these "criminals."
Here at the Cars On Line office we want to make sure that none
of our advertisers gets caught in the "pigeon drop."
The world is full of real buyers. Don't
get suckered in by this scam.