Scammer Database

How does the typical vehicle sale scam work?

Posted in database, ebay spoof, scammer by Chief on October 14, 2010

Let’s say I am in the market for a clean, small pickup truck for use around the house and moving kids off to college. I have browsed and and found the prices a bit too high for my taste. A neighbor mentions, so I give it a try. Wow — I find the ad below and hurriedly read it. [click it to enlarge]

Yowza – that’s quite a bargain! So I fire up my email client and launch a note to John Wilson. In my haste, I misspell Ford and leave my caps lock on.Boy, am I ever excited. This vehicle is thousands, thousands of dollars less that the ones I saw on the lot at the local dealer last weekend. Early the next morning, John sends me an email:

What? Montana? I don’t know anybody in Montana! I was looking in Craigslist here in my city. Maybe it was just an honest mistake. [Note: the typical scammer script at this point would have included verbiage regarding the “free” shipping of the vehicle in his email. John appears to be an apprentice.] Observe that he ignored my question on gas mileage. I email him to let him know I am disappointed.

In the subsequent email, John apologizes for his mis-configured picture album and provides the details of how he will ship the vehicle to me and proposes the use of a (fake) escrow service.

At this point, the normal consumer would have replied to John regarding this somewhat unconventional process, and John would have replied with language to encourage the victim to expedite the process: he has other buyers waiting, he must sell in a hurry, he can’t spend much time dealing with this, etc. I’ll cut it short since this is such a great, once-in-a-lifetime deal and I don’t want to lose this deal to another buyer.

Within one hour, I receive this email from John:

And the email from his fake escrow company arrives soon thereafter.  Here’s a screenshot:

Very professional-looking, yes?  Scammers are not stupid, they are criminals.

If you haven’t gotten the message yet, never, ever (ever) send money to someone you do not know personally via Western Union (or MoneyGram)After the criminal has picked up the money, it is gone — poof — with very little traceability.


I did not continue my correspondence with the criminal. HAD I sent him money, he would have gone silent for a while.  Upon subsequent prompting by the victim, the criminal would have made some lousy excuses, then is very likely to have demanded more money for some contrived fees: insurance, titling, etc.  Since the victim is getting such a good bargain, the extra fees would appear to be financially viable to him.  Said criminal will milk the victim for as long as he can.

What happened to the money? A mule or “arrow” would have picked up the money, subtracted his “commission”, then wired the  money to perhaps another arrow, and he in turn might wire it back to Romania.  You can see how that money trail would be very difficult for law enforcement to track. See a very good article here on a town that is a hotbed of cybercrime in Romania.


24 Responses

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  1. natlie said, on January 25, 2011 at 10:59 am

    this exact thing happened to me and I fell for it, I dont know what to do I feel so stupid.

  2. Chief said, on January 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm


    These criminals are professionals. What they sit around and do all day long is create lies that will sound plausible to the citizens in our culture who value honesty. Lying is how they make their money, and they are good at it. You have nothing to be ashamed of. These guys burn honest folks by the dozens every day. I encourage you to be vocal with those close to you and let them know how these fraudsters work!

    Sorry this happened to you. Stay in touch, please.


  3. Silvie said, on March 2, 2011 at 8:13 am

    I also stumbled upon one of these scammers, but on a german webpage I have to say that they reacted very fast and his advertisements were only online for several hours in the night. The car he offered was a lot cheaper than those cars usually are. Once I wrote to his email, he replied that he lives in England now, but worked for one year in Germany. THat is why he still has the german car. He tried to sell it in ENgland, but it did not work because the steering wheel was on the wrong side for them. He needs the money now. And so forth…
    Anyway, same thing, first he says he pays for the shipping, but then he wants money in advance…

  4. Chief said, on March 2, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Thanks for posting, Silvie. Yes, these are international criminals; I’ve personally investigated similar scams on three continents.

    — Chief

  5. Dana said, on March 17, 2011 at 4:20 am

    We have same experience as Silvie.
    We answerd on the same email as she did and the man said to us exactly the same thing.
    He also send us copy of his pasport and picture of the certificate of roadworthiness.
    But we were also worried to send a deposit of 50% to transpor company.
    He realy tried to persuade us and make us feel that he is serious seler and we are not serious buyers. By the way we are from Czech Republic.
    Thanks for the page it really make us feel good that we didn´t do it.

  6. Chief said, on March 17, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Thank you for your comment. Yes, these criminals tell 100% lies to convince us to send them money. Good for you that your instincts told you he was a fraud. Please post another comment with the scammer’s email address — it will help future potential victims find your warnings more easily.

    — Chief

  7. Lorraine said, on March 28, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Same thing happened to me!! I didn’t fall for it. The 2005 Sundowner Sunlite horse trailer for 2950.00 was too good to be true. Lots of BS with the urgency of the sale. Glad I investigated first and found this website!!

  8. Chief said, on March 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Glad you found the site, Lorraine. Spread the word to your friends and family on how these scammers work!

    — Chief

  9. Michelle said, on April 12, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I am very lucky I am aware of these scammers. I am looking for a vehicle and found this very cheap Infiniti SUV on Craigslist. I emailed the person and she sent me an email exactly the same as the examples on this site. I asked where she is from so I could take a look at the vehicle personally, and she said she is from a different province. I got curious so I searched her email on Google. And Voila! Her email is on this site 🙂 I am quite proud of myself about catching this person.

  10. Chief said, on April 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    We’re glad you were curious enough to seek more information, Michelle. Now – tell all your friends and family how these scammers work. An educated buyer is our goal.

    — Chief

  11. Marc said, on November 4, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Same story in overnight..
    The initial advert had a header quoting a car dealer in Wolverhampton, UK active since 2009, but said not to use the web mail facility from ( but send a message to instead. The advert was half in English half in German and made mention of Polish as an alternative language. But After that I received a message from somebody called Alexander Stuart ( including a copy of a fake passport.. I almost fall into this..looked so real.. thanks for posting your experiences!

  12. A. Ophoff said, on December 7, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    PRAISE JESUS FOR WESITES LIKE THIS!!! My husband is overseas and ALMOST fell for this trap from a the whole story seemed fishy, especially her PVERUSE of words like safe and secure. I googled her first and last names (because she talked about her son killed in Iraq and I wanted to just see some type of obituary) and the FIRST website to pop up was a SCAM SITE!!! Needless to say I’m still waiting to hear from my husband to make sure he doesn’t follow through with this and I want to tell you to KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK PROTECTING OTHER PEOPLE!!!!!

  13. Chief said, on December 7, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Agreed. I take no credit for this site. I have been blessed well beyond my basic needs and am glad our Creator receives the glory.

    — Chief

  14. Melisa said, on February 16, 2012 at 8:03 am

    My story is the same as Michelles. I found a really sweet deal on craigslist. I emailed the seller, he emailed me more specific details about the vehicle the very next day. I tried to search for the vehicle again on craigslist but couldn’t even find the ad. He said that he would contact ebay, ebaywould email an invoice with instructions for the transaction. I even emailed the “ebay accountant” by the email address he provided on the invoice asking if it was legitimate or a scam. Within ten minutes I received a response “accountant” says “after reviewing transaction it appears Justin Stewart has been an ebay member since 2007 with several transactions…”. I didn’t buy the story…I called Ebays direct number and they confirmed the scam. Everything posted above, is exactly what my emails look like.

    – Melisa

  15. Tim said, on February 27, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Thanks for keeping me from getting scammed. Sarah.matheny3 almost had me if not for u.

  16. Chief said, on February 27, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Glad we could help. Thanks for posting.

    — Chief

  17. Maximus said, on March 15, 2012 at 3:53 am

    Hi guys, I just found the same thing with a tractor that I was looking at on I had a feeling that it was too good to be true so I did a fast search on the net and found this site! Thank you for confirming my thoughts.

    Oh here is my reply to the scam artist.

    Hi there Robert,
    You may want to work on your scam a little better as a quick search on the internet has provided your modus operandi almost to the letter here on this website.

    For shame, taking advantage of people like this is a crime and makes you the lowest form of life on this planet. Congratulations on being “that person” we all look upon and say “wow I bet their parents are proud of them”.

    Shame, Shame, Shame you should be disgusted with yourself!

    Kindest regards,

  18. Kelsie Johnson said, on April 13, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    I just posted about a rental scam, but I can’t stop reading all this information! THANK YOU. I’m glad I didn’t get all the way to sending money, but I still feel so dumb. I really appreciate what you’re doing.

  19. Chief said, on April 14, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s what continues to fuel our effort.
    — Chief

  20. Puente Paola said, on May 16, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Just happen today… was about to get scammed by a Sargent from Alaska, he was gonna send the truck in a plane from the military, with a personal truck from there to my address. lol, he was selling a toyota truck on craiglist with an email on the add after a couple mails he send the ebay case id.. and all… id case. LPP66735160M173 the email and his name is Brian Ferguson. email. brian_ferguson74@aol.
    when we asked for the add on ebay to make sure that the truck was there the scammer said that he took it away from ebay because a bad customer… later on he just said he was a christian fellow trying to sell a truck because his family member needs the money for medicines. We never send any money..

  21. Dennis said, on May 19, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Wish I would have found this a couple of days ago,just been had.

  22. Chief said, on July 6, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Dennis, I’m sorry these criminals took your money. Every day, they take advantage of the honesty of dozens of folks. I hope you have reported this to law enforcement — the details are important as authorities investigate this crime.

    — Chief

  23. Priscilla G said, on August 8, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    I’ve been recently looking for a car and replied to an ad on craigslist for a 2002 Honda Civic for $2100 thinking it was too good to be true. Guess what sob story the seller made up? Copied directly from my e-mail:

    Is still available and has 62,760 miles,4-cyl. 1.7L engine and automatic transmission.My 2002 Honda Civic EX is excellent in every way, has no accidents reports,with no need for additional repairs and clear title.Anyway, thank you for your interest in buying the car. I am selling it at this final price $2,100 because my husband died 2 months ago (he had a heart attack) and brings me bad memories and that’s the reason I want to sell it asap.I along with my daughter decided to sell the house and we moved to my sister in Cleveland, OH trying to start a new life.I already have tones of emails so I hope you understand that I need to sort them out.Also, I take in consideration only those buyers who are really interested in buying the car, to be sure that I don’t waste my time with endless discussions.This way, I shall be assured of the serious intentions. So if you are interested please email me for more details and pictures .
    Best Regards! Elisabeth

    Further e-mails revealed: “Before leaving I had prearranged the deal with eBay Motors so my presence isn’t necessary.They will not give me any money until you receive and test the car .The car is at the shipping company,ready to be delivered.The shipping cost is included in the total price of the car!You have 5 days to test it and inspect the car.”

    When I asked if the car was in my state, I never got an answer. She wanted me to send the money via Money Gram to and “eBay agent” by the name of Derek Duff from 499 N High St, Columbus, OH.
    I found her IP address from the e-mail and found out that the address is from Mountain View, CA, not OH
    from her sob story.

    Such a well crafted scam, if I had been a beginner internet user, I would’ve been scammed.

  24. Chief said, on August 9, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Priscilla, these are scripts that are used thousands of time each day by the criminals in the scamming industry. The vehicles, names, and cities may change, but the script carries the same tone.

    Thanks for posting. Someone will search for the text you posted, find it, and avoid being scammed.

    — Chief

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