Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Hard Lessons

In last Monday's random musings post, I alluded to the fact that I was almost the victim of a Craigslist auto scam well, I fell for it so I guess I was a victim only I was saved by my BIL before I lost any money.  I debated whether to write about it but the comments from a few of you said if I help just one person avoid getting scammed, then it would be worth talking about.

So here it goes....

We are in the market for a decent used car for the twins to share when one or both of them get their drivers licenses this summer.  I've been looking at Craigslist and my BIL (who is a gear head by nature) has been on the hunt as well.  Friday night I saw a posting for a '99 Passat Turbo that was in the price range.  The posting was very vague and asked for an email response.  This isn't that unusual though so I sent an email asking about mileage, if it was an automatic, stuff like that.  I got a reply almost immediately:

   The car is still for sale if you want to buy it. My name is Tracy Roberson and I am the legal owner of the 1999 Volkswagen Passat Turbo Automatic. I would like to tell you that the car is in perfect condition, never wrecked, clean and clear title with only 155,000 miles. This car is in excellent running condition with no issue. I have all the documents, manuals, service records and I decided to sell it for $1,600 , shipping included. The buyer will receive it with all papers and receipts that he needs to register it so if you buy it you don't have to worry about the paperwork. Also you will have 5 days to test and inspect the car once is delivered at your address.
  I am in possession of this car from my father who unfortunately can't enjoy it anymore as he died. I moved back where I was born in Lincoln , Maine and now it will be shipped from here. Please get back for more photos and info if you are interested to buy it.
I have a contract with eBay so this deal must go through them.According with eBay you have 5 days from the time you receive the car to inspect it and decide if you want to keep it or not (but I am sure you will not be disappointed). The inspection period will be set to five days and I think is enough for you to make an opinion about the car. The inspection period will allow you to test drive and inspect the car for a period of time that we agree on (in our case 5 days). Typically, an inspection will give you a detailed report on the car's current condition. If you refuse it eBay will send you a full refund. I will get paid by eBay only after the inspection period is over.
If you have the money and want to buy it I only need your full name and address to move forward with the transaction.
I also want to inform you that I am entertaining another two offers for it at this moment so please let me know your decision as soon as possible to know what to do.
Sorry for the long email I have tried to explain the entire process.
Thank you,
Tracy Roberson"

I forwarded the email on to my BIL and emailed back a forth a few more times with "Tracy".  She/He sent a link to a photobucket acct with many more pictures of the car and I shared those with the kids.  They were obviously quite excited and this type of car was exactly what we were looking for.  I still hadn't heard back from my BIL but this sounded like a great deal so after discussing it with the husband, we decided to bite the bullet and agree to purchase the car.  I sent a final email to "Tracy" and went to bed.

I woke up in the middle of the night because my sleep is so very broken and turned on my phone. I saw this message from my BIL: 

"This is a scam.  It would cost $800 to ship that car from Maine.  EBay does not have a contract with anyone, nor does anyone pay EBay.  You pay the seller.  EBay then sends a bill to the SELLER.
Here’s the real listing for this car, by the real owner in Louisiana… (I removed the listing)
All this Craigslist SCAMMER did was steal the photos off of this legitimate EBay listing.   Note the Louisiana license plate on the EBay listing.  Notice that in the scammer’s photobucket account he has blurred the license plate.  (I removed the pictures as well)
Whatever you do, do not share any more information about yourself with this idiot!!!
Oh shit....I had given this asshole scammer my email, phone number and address.  I spent the rest of the night awake, feeling sick to my stomach. In the morning, my BIL sent me this email that described what I should've looked for in the posting on that car.  
If you re-read the opening email response, all the classic con-man techniques are there.
1)      They give their full name to build trust.
2)      There is a bit of a hard-luck story to further build some trust
3)      The deal is guaranteed by someone else you tend to trust (eBay)
4)      The deal is complicated. 
5)      And if you read carefully, the language they use is a little off. (i.e. written by a foreigner)
Needless to say, I really felt like a complete and total moron.  I fell for every one of that asshole's lines.  Even after I emailed the jerk back to say I had information that lead me to believe he was running a scam and I wasn't buying anything, I got a reply that said "I'm so glad you decided to buy  the car, you won't be disappointed, I'll have eBay send you an invoice." WTF???? Seriously??? 

My BIL called later to talk me off my ledge and it made me feel a little bit better, but the damage was already done.  In the course of 24 hours, I'd managed to let someone take advantage of me and cause me to lose all faith in society.  I hate that people are out there with their sole purpose in life to scam honest, hard working people out of their money and their ability to trust themselves.  Had I been searching Craigslist on the computer (rather than the mobile app on my phone) I would have seen this message - right on the front page when you search for cars and trucks:
Hopefully my naivete and stupidity will save someone else the embarrassment and potential loss of their cash. I'm so very thankful he was able to see through all this and save my ass before I sent the  f*ckwad my money. Needless to say, I'm being much more cautious now and shopping locally.  I send every link I find to my BIL and I know to approach them all with caution and skepticism.  It's just sad that I now feel like I can't trust anyone.  

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