I have almost been a victim of an incredibly expensive scam.
It began last week when I put the Fusion on Cars.com. Since that posting I’ve had three brokers call offering to sell the car for a fee – each of them guaranteeing success in the sale. After the second broker call I received an email that began the scam.
The first email, from a Kelvin Klaser or firstname.lastname@example.org, asked, “Is the posting still valid.” He asked about condition, and gave several indications that he hadn’t actually looked at the ad. While this should have been an immediate red flag, I didn’t want to be rude and reply “Why don’t you look at the cars.com ad.” I did direct him to the video walk around. He noted that he was out of town and would complete the deal online. He also told me that he would have the car picked up and shipped overseas.
The next email he offered to purchase the Fusion at the asking price and to pay via Pay pal, to pay the fees for receiving a payment via Pay pal. Only he didn’t call it just that. He seemed to know how to use Pay pal that marked him as an advanced user. I took a day off from the deal and began to think about what I had to do to complete the sale. I had a list of what had to be done on Monday in order to complete the sale.
In other words I was sure that this was going to be a quick sale that would enable us to get rid of the Fusion and not lose money on the deal. On Monday I read an email saying that I should invoice him via Pay pal and he would get the payment to me. I created the invoices on Monday – Pay pal will not let you invoice for more than $10,000, so I had to create three invoices – two for the car and one for the cost of the receiving the cash.
Things were going fast, and I didn’t feel right about the whole deal. I had the good sense to post my ill feelings to facebook, and had the good friends who warned me about what was going on. Deb Levy came thru with a description of the exact scam that I was now involved in.
So I went to the bank and reported. I went to Pay pal and cancelled the invoices. Then I opened my email. I had four emails. Two from Kelvin and two purporting to be from Pay pal. According to the emails, Kelvin had deposited over $18,000 into my Pay pal account, but it was being held pending my sending $1500 via Western Union to his shipping agent in the UK.
I responded by telling Kelvin that the deal was off. If there was to be a deal it would have to be by cashier’s check and that I would not be sending any money anywhere.
I was able to do that with confidence because his scam had followed the list Deb showed me nearly verbatim.
Then I called Pay pal – something Marjie B. Anderson advised. They assured me that there was no money deposited and on hold for me. I reported Kelvin to Pay pal (email@example.com) and to Google (all the email addresses were gmail addresses).
The key was “send me $1,500 and I’ll send you $18,000 and pick up your car.” Because I would not get burned that way (I’ve never been tempted to send money to a Nigerian princess/Suffering Pastor/Millionaire to be Oil Magnate). I also don’t have $1500 to send to anyone right at the moment. That’s why I’m trying to sell the Fusion! But I followed along to the crucial moment of the scam, even though my gut told me there was something wrong.
Part of the answer is because I’d never encountered this kind of scam before. I’ve been scammed face to face many times by people who got money out of my pocket and into theirs with all sorts of sob stories. This scam was different.
The steps in the scam are:
1. The scammer makes contact asking about the validity of the posting – no mention of the product. You will fill that blank in for the scammer.
2. The scammer cannot meet you face to face because he’s out of town.
3. The scammer promises to pick up the item through a third party.
4. The scammer needs to complete the transaction quickly. Pay pal seems to be a way to get things done quickly and gives the seller a sense that they will be safe.
5. The scammer promises to pay more than the asking price.
6. Finally – and this is where the scammer pulls the string – the money includes a payment to that third party who will pick up the item to be shipped overseas. You have to pay the shipper and then you can get your payment.
Now that I know the steps I’ll be a little better prepared for the next phishing email.
But I also got caught in this because I wanted the sale to be real. It was my desire that made me almost fall victim to the scam. The Buddha was right about desire.
Thanks Deb Levy and Marjie Benbow Anderson for excellent advice and to all the rest of my facebook friends for reassurance that my gut instinct was right.