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 operate.
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 internet.
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 scam.)
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 the website.
PAYPAL EMAIL SCAM
May, 2012 - 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 scam emails.
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 their tracks.
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.
February 23, 2007 - Last week we told you about a new scam relating to Internet classified ads.
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 scams.
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
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 them.
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 go?
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 English.
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 OLD SCAM
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 to us:
"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
8/25/04 - 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 account, etc.
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 encourages them.
MORE ON SCAMMERSUpdate 2/13/04 -
As you know, we try to keep you up to speed on scammer activities. 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.
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 this works.)
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: http://419coalition.org/
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 individuals.
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.