OMAHA, Neb. — A consumer from Mission recently a victim of a scam on Craigslist. She described what happened to her on BBB’s new Scam Tracker www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us. BBB Scam Tracker is a free interactive online tool that allows consumers and businesses to report scams as they occur and to view scam activity geographically.
The victim found a 2010 Ford pickup advertised for $8,000 on Craigslist and contacted the “seller” by email. The “seller” stated that the vehicle was located in Omaha, and the buyer had five days to test the vehicle before she paid for it. She was also told that she had the option to return the vehicle at the “seller’s” expense with a complete refund if she found something she didn’t like about it. The buyer sent her name, phone number and shipping address with the understanding that “eBay” would contact her to complete the sale.
She immediately received an email that appeared to be from eBay with the invoice for the truck and a message stating it would take 12-24 hours to process her payment. The woman borrowed $8,000 to purchase the vehicle.
Then, she was instructed to send a $2,800 deposit, using a wire transfer service, to “Carlos Smith” in Mississippi. The woman went to Walmart where she was questioned by a Walmart employee about the transaction. She showed the employee her email from “eBay,” that included the eBay logo, and convinced the person that it was legitimate. The funds were then sent by MoneyGram to Mississippi.
The following day, she was instructed to send an additional $2,750.00 to cover the insurance required to get the pickup. Fortunately, she became suspicious and did not send this money. She contacted eBay, MoneyGram, Craigslist and BBB Scam Tracker and gradually came to the painful conclusion that she had been scammed and that her money was likely long gone.
“This is a fairly common scam that we’ve been warning folks about for years,” stated BBB CEO Jim Hegarty. He further stated that “the scammers are very good at social engineering. They create correspondence that appears as if it’s coming from legitimate sources, and are masters of illusion. It’s easier than most people imagine to be drawn into one of these traps.”
Hegarty also stated that “BBB’s Scam Tracker tool is making it easier for victims to report scams quickly and confidentially, allowing the BBB to issue timely warnings about scams occurring in our area.”
BBB offers the following advice for persons shopping for vehicles online:
• Try to deal only with established businesses when looking for a vehicle online. Verify that a business is legitimate and has a physical address.
• Never send money in advance for a car or truck unless you have thoroughly checked out the seller and are convinced the offer is real. Be especially wary about paying money using wire transfers like MoneyGram or Western Union, or by giving a seller the access code to a Green Dot Moneypak or similar loadable card. Such money transfers are very difficult to trace.
• If the seller suggests going through a third party, like eBay, to secure the transaction, make certain that you have confirmed the sale through the third party.
• Never trust that a phone number belongs to a business without verifying it independently. This usually can be done by researching the business’ phone number online and calling it to confirm.
• Scammers use low prices to lure victims. If the price of a vehicle seems unusually low, it likely is a scheme to steal your money.
• Pay by credit card whenever possible in the event you need to challenge the charge.
• Be cautious of purchasing any vehicle without a full inspection.
• Ask that the seller supply information about the vehicle in writing, including mileage, history and any warranty.