Internet Scams

Big Red Car here.  Hope you are enjoying this great weather and temperature.  Ahhh, the ATX is some nice living.

Into this great weather is injected just a spot of trouble — the continuing presence of absurd Internet scams and scammers.

The Boss was recently the prey for a couple of scammers.  Imagine picking on The Boss to try to scam him out of money?  Not very nice.

The Vacation Rental Scam

The Boss offered a Spring Break rental on a ski property he owned.  The Scammer indicated a willingness to rent the property and paid with a check drawn on a ridiculously absurd bank account for a private school in Tulsa.  The check was for an amount in excess of the agreed upon rental and the Scammer wanted The Boss to send the Scammer a money order for the difference.

In spotting this very obvious scam, here are the touch points that would alert you to the scam:

1.  The Scammer did not have complete command of the English language.  The Boss came to refer to him as the Language Mangler.

2.  The methodology of payment — by a “financial agent” — was silly.  Renting a vacation home is a pretty straight forward exercise even on the Internet.

3.  The Scammer sent an obviously fraudulent check.  When The Boss called the private school in Tulsa, they were fully aware of the scam in its entirety and without any proddng were able to immediately validate that it was a scam.

4.  The Scammer became quite animated about getting his money order.

5.  The addresses of the Scammer when viewed with Google Earth did not check out.

6.  This scam was more than a bit obvious and apparent.

Look for these signs whenever you attempt to transact business on Craigslist or other public venues.

The Ebay Second Chance Scam

The second scam was a bit more finely crafted.

The Boss was attempting to purchase two used Canon Model 5D Mk II cameras on Ebay.  He had identified several such cameras and had bid on several of them.

He had successfully purchased one camera and was still in the market to purchase the second camera.

He received an email that purported to communicate an Ebay “second chance” notification.

An Ebay Second Chance notification implies that the successful bidder was unable to purchase the camera for whatever reason and that as the next highest bidder, The Boss would be given the opportunity to purchase the camera at The Boss’s bid price.  This is a perfectly legitimate Ebay transaction and methodology though The Boss was not familiar with it at the time.

The Boss had bid on several cameras and did not remember the specifics of this particular camera, so he had to look it up and get the details.  At this instant in time, The Boss did not have any misgivings about this transaction.

The plot thickens

The email which transmitted the notification of the Ebay Second Chance offer looked legitimate and alerted The Boss to be looking for an email from Ebay outlining the specifics.  The email was conversational and well written and appeared to be perfectly legitimate.  It had none of the obvious flaws of the Language Mangler’s hamhanded emails.

The first suspicions were aroused when The Boss went to Ebay and researched the specific transaction and saw that he was, in fact, not the second bidder but that there were a number of other higher bidders.  Why was The Boss as the fourth or fifth highest bidder selected as the Second Chance bidder?  Did not seem to make sense to The Boss.

The Boss researched the Ebay bids on the camera and saw that the transaction was reported as having been concluded satisfactorily and that the successful bidder had, in fact, provided favorable feedback on the transaction.

The Boss then received an official looking email purporting to be from Ebay that did, in fact, indicate that The Boss was the Second Chance bidder.  It looked pretty good but there were a couple of things that did not look just right.  The email contained a reference to an Ebay payment location in Budapest.  And we all know that Ebay is not located in Budapest.

The Boss called Ebay — getting an actual live person on the phone at Ebay is no mean feat — and together they researched the message log attached to The Boss’s account to ascertain that Ebay had, in fact, not sent out any messages to The Boss.

The plot comes undone

Pro tip:  before getting involved with any messaging from Ebay check the “messages” file of your Ebay account which will contain the complete conversational thread of any communications between you and Ebay.  The Boss learned a thing or two right here.  The Boss does not know everything — haha, Big Red Car had better watch himself in criticizing The Boss but he’s got a pretty thick skin.  Hey, Boss, you messed up!  Haha.  You should have checked the messages first.  Sorry, sometimes the Big Red Car can’t help himself.

So, it became apparent that, in fact, this was a scam also.  The Scammer wanted The Boss to pay for the camera via PayPal and then the Scammer would ship the camera to The Boss for his inspection and if not satisfied then the PayPal and the Scammer would return the funds.  Right?

The other thing that spooked The Boss was that he had asked the Scammer if he had any lenses, tripod or other accessories and the Scammer responded that he did and they were all included in the sale.  Of course, the lenses would have been worth $500-800 and the camera was $1,200.  The original offering on Ebay did not mention any of these accessories and The Boss was just fishing, so when the Scammer said they were included that seemed a bit odd.

Long story short — on Ebay be very careful about any messages and particularly about any Second Chance successful bids.

Check, double check, re-check EVERYTHING when buying expensive goods on the Internet.

But, hey, what the Hell do I know anyway?  I’m just a Big Red Car and I never scam anyone.

Be good to yourselves and keep your guard up.


6 thoughts on “Internet Scams

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  3. Back in the day I owned a company called – a we had a TON of “Nigerian Scams” – your first example. A bank president alerted me when his mom fell victim.

    Interestingly, we worked with the United States Secret Service to help protect our customers.

    Again – this was the late 90s and early 2000s – when we were all so young and innocent.

    We had a few hundred people posting cars for sale on our site every month, as well as around 200 dealers. The private parties would receive the legitimate request, and receive a cashiers check, drawn on a US bank, for more than the amount. The private party would take the check to their bank, and it would clear. The buyer would then tell the seller to send the excess to their “transportation” agent. No would ever show up for the car.

    About a month later it would be discovered that the check was counterfeit – though drawn off of a legitimate account. The liability then would rest with private party.

    We ended up writing some sophisticated algorithms to spot the information requests before they went to the buyer… we also created a blog to publish the offenders email addresses and IP information. I think at the peak we would trap hundreds of scams a month.

    We also cooperated with Car Soup and other early pioneers – though after I sold the company no one seemed to care anymore.

  4. Ebay is pretty good about catching scams. My wife was duped by one a few years ago buying a Christmas gift for her brother, and in the subsequent conversation, something seemed way too good to be true. Before we could contact Ebay, they reached out to us and told us not to submit any type of payment to that individual. Craigslist on the other hand, is a scammer’s wet dream. I only deal in cash, even when the amount is a couple thousand dollars, and I maintain a separate email account solely to do craigslist transactions.

    • .
      In ATX I have had great luck with Craigslist but I only deal in cash and only in person and only locally. I can certainly see the potential for bad dealings.

      Ebay has a great system and if you know how to work, it is pretty safe.


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