Unfortunately, as money gets harder to come by, people sometimes lose sight of what’s real and what’s not. Scammers are pretty sharp and they prey on fear and greed. Their scams are pretty sophisticated and can catch even those who are careful. Here’s one we’ve been seeing more frequently that we wanted to warn you about. We’ve had several people come to our store or call us lately asking about a car they’re buying online. They’ve found the car on the popular classifieds website, Craigslist. The ad usually offers a very good deal on a car and looks very legitimate. The seller appears to be looking out for your best interest, because they tell you that they would like to insure the transaction through eBay, for both your protection and theirs. You then receive an e-mail which appears to be coming from eBay’s Transaction Services division (which doesn’t exist), and it even has a Transaction Service ID number for you to reference. The e-mail tells how you will be protected and provides payment instructions using Western Union, or some similar money transfer service. You send the money and waits for the next instruction regarding delivery of their car. That’s where the happy store ends. Your money is gone. You’ll never see the car. You’ll never be able to reach the “seller” again.
Here are the keys to this transaction:
- EBay and Craigslist are competitors. In fact, they’re suing each other right now. EBay does not assist with any transactions that are not being performed on eBay, and especially not with a competitor. GM doesn’t warranty Toyota cars. EBay doesn’t guarantee Craigslist transactions either.
- Any time someone wants you to pay through Western Union or some other money transfer service, that’s a huge red flag. Those services are the next best thing to sending cash through the mail. They’re great if you are sending money to someone you already know and trust, a family member for example. However, they’re immediate and non-cancellable. Once you’ve sent the money, you can’t get it back and the thief knows that too. The thief is using a fake name too, so when they pick up their money (and it is theirs now), its gone forever. Do not pay using a money transfer service!
Thankfully, these potential victims have come to us first and asked about this transaction. We’ve been able to stop them before they made the mistake and helped them report these fraudsters. One potential victim was very adamant, claiming that this couldn’t be a fake because the person was so nice and polite. We finally convinced her not to send her hard-earned $3000.
If you’ve been approached by someone online and this scenario sounds familiar, run far and run fast from this deal!