Warning About Scams

About Scams

It has come to our attention that club members have been contacted by scammers pretending to be genuinely interested in cars or parts advertised for sale on the internet. Most people already have some awareness about this potentially serious matter. We would like to make everyone aware of the motives, tactics and potential problems that may arise out of dealing with these less than scrupulous merchants.

A scam is a essentially a seemingly excellent deal conceived to lure the unexpected into some type of business deal whereby the scammer takes advantage of the victim for the purposes of financial gain. Merriam Webster simply refers to it as "a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation".

Scams are nothing new. They have existed for decades - even before the internet. Originally, scams came to your door though conventional mail. As the fax machine became common place in the home, scams took advantage of their immediate proof of delivery. Now, with computers and email in wide use, scammers take advantage of email to lure unsuspecting victims into shady deals. Please have a look at the Vancouver Better Business Bureau website, where you will find a complete list of top ten scams and how they work. bbbvan.org

There is a saying, "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is." Scams routinely offer bait to the victims, enticing them to entering into some arrangement. It may be as simple as, "You have won $5000. All you need to do is send us a cheque for $100." If you are advertising merchandise for sale, a scammer may contact you claiming that they will not only buy your article, but pay you well more than it asking price, possibly in also requesting that you return part of the overpayment. These arrangements are NOT normally part of any honest business deal. If it looks suspicious, you should question the buyer.

The most common scam associated with selling vehicles is the counterfeit cashier's cheque. It works something like this. A prospective purchaser will contact the seller seemingly interested in a car for sale. It may be that there is interest in the car, especially if it is rare, collectable and valuable. However, the purchaser may simply be pretending to be interested. You can always ask, "Why on earth would you be interested in purchasing my 20 year old Volvo with 475000 km on it, when there must be one on continental Africa that would cost you substantially less." This is a key. The buyer may also be uninterested in learning about the condition or history of a car for sale. Unless the car is rare, such as a 1929 Bentley, chances are that no one would be willing to incur the cost of ocean transport.

The scammer will typically offer some bonus or will inevitably make an overpayment for the sale of the merchandise, usually sizeable. Regardless, it is common for the scammer to send a cashier's cheque and then ask for you to send a certified cheque or bank transfer to some party. You may or may not ever see your merchandise leave your possession, but the long and the short of this scam is that a week or more after depositing the cashiers cheque and parting with your money or your merchandise, the bank will contact you to tell you that the cashier's cheque was counterfeit. Don't be fooled into thinking that just because the cheque goes in and two days later your balance goes up $25,000 that all is rosy. Worst case is that you may be out of a $20,000 car, $5000 cash and the $25 fee the bank charges you for the returned cheque. This is like paying a thief to steal your car. Needless to say, you will not be successful in contacting the purchaser again. A wire transfer of the funds is normally a safe approach.

We provide example #1 , example #2 , example #3, example #4 and example #5 for your perusal. Thanks to those who contributed. If you have a story that you would like to share, please send it along. Use your browser Back button to return. If you are interested in knowing whether a particular scam is common or not, take a small phrase from the email, such as "once payment is confirmed cleared by you" and perform a search on Google. In general, most scams will have other common elements over and above the overpayment aspect. The sender may write as if to be personable and caring, will not easily take "no" for an answer, and may not exhibit superior english skills. That would be extraordinarily unlikely, especially for someone named "Stephen Williams" who claims to be from London. Watch for excessive uses of phrases such as "lovely family"

You may also receive emails from individuals who are claiming to make you rich either through aiding them in transferring money into the country or by some long-lost wealthy relative of yours whom you have never heard of, much less met. The same cautions apply.

The origin of many scams are from outside of North America, frequently Africa. It is virtually impossible to go after the scammers and the local authorities will have virtually no support for your case.

Believe it or not, there are even people who scam the scammers. There are some great stories on the internet about scammers being pulled along for months at a time by individuals who have been contacted by scammers but have been wise to the dealings. In one case, the scammer was lured into thinking that he was earning the trust of a victim, but his alleged victim was a professional scammer scammer.

What to Watch Out For

  • Off-continent purchasers
  • Lure of overpayment or bonuses
  • Payment by cashier's cheque
  • Purchasers not knowing your name, even though it was stated in the ad
  • Any instance where the purchaser asks you to send them money
  • Purchasers unaware of what type of car they are purchasing
  • Purchasers uninterested in the condition of the vehicle for sale

Theft of Identity

On a somewhat related topic is that of Theft of Identity. In the interest of personal security when it comes to theft of identity, never give out your address, banking information, date of birth, mother's maiden name, SIN information, driver's licence number, to suspicious individuals. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre, has published a lengthy report on Theft of Identity entitled IDENTITY THEFT: THE NEED FOR BETTER CONSUMER PROTECTION and written by Written by Philippa Lawson and John Lawford. We have provided this link to the document. It is 454 kB long, but the best half-megabyte that you could read. Please take the time to read it! If you son't feel like reading the whole thing, then just read the first 8 pages. [pdf report, 454 kB]. Please note, the old new URL of http://www.piac.ca/IDTHEFT.pdf was no longer active September, 2007; the above hyperlink was updated to reflect the change.

More information can be found by simply performing a search containing, "combat identity theft."

Resources and Articles

omgtr.ca Thanks to our friends at the Ontario T Register
ebolamonkeyman.com/Ablert_Fred1.html (Warning: some offensive material)
US Federal Trade Commission
RCMP Warning about Nigerian Letter Scam
Warning from carbuyingtips.com
Warning from MTBReivew

Thanks also to John Dymond, Clive Jenkins (Scotland) and Del Slavens (Portsmouth, VA) who have passed on warnings to club members about this topic.

Phishing Scams

This scam is pretty old. If you get an email from a sender claiming to be your bank and asking for you to confirm your account information online, don't do it. Your bank will never ask you to submit information on this basis. The text of the email will look like a legitimate form, as will the text of the URL. The trick is, that the link information will actually guide you to some unrelated site run by criminals.

Below is a typcial example. This happens to be the bank of America, but you could substitute your own bank's name. In this case, the real URL was: "http://math.gotfork.net/www.bankofamerica.com/". The victim may see only the "bankofamerica.com" part and think it is legitimate. If you hover over this link, you will notice that the URL actually just points back to this page. This simply demonstrates that the text and the URL can be completely different. Forged graphics usually reconfirm what looks like an authentic site.

Dear Customer,

We recently have determined that different computers have logged onto your Online Banking account, and multiple password failures were present before the logons. We now need you to re-confirm your account information to us.

If this is not completed by September 23 2008, we will be forced to suspend your account indefinitely, as it may have been used for fraudulent purposes. We thank you for your cooperation in this manner.

To confirm your Online Banking records click on the following link:

Thank you for your patience in this matter.

Bank of America Customer Service

Please do not reply to this e-mail as this is only a notification. Mail sent to this address cannot be answered.

© 2008 Bank of America Corporation. All rights reserved.