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Friday, June 02, 2006
Car Buyers Beware of Internet Ads
It's bad enough to keep getting bogus emails saying my credit info needs updating for eBay, Pay Pal, or some national consumer agency. (Don't click that link! Test it. Put the cursor over it, and see if the same address shows up elsewhere in your browser, often at the bottom. If a different address appears, it's a link to a phony site. Still worried? Then go to eBay's real home page, for instance, and check things out from there. Read more on avoiding such "phishing" scams.)
Anyway, recently we browsed online ads to find a car, and found what seemed like a great deal. Low mileage, low price. Lots of pictures. But things started to sound fishy when the "seller" didn't directly answer questions about where exactly the car was, or when we could go see it. Oh, the seller just got a job in the United Kingdom, and could arrange to bring the car, which was garaged in Philly, to us. More questions from us. More evasions from the seller. Was this a con? Could the car be stolen? So, playing a hunch, I slapped the VIN into Google and did a search. Up popped a link to eBay where the real car, with the very same pictures, had recently sold far from Philly for $5,000 more!!! A little more searching, and gee, found a story of a swindled Minnesota woman who wired $8,300 to the seller who supposedly had just moved to London! Sure enough, next email from our seller wants a four-digit sum to prove we're serious. BEWARE! Just found a new CNN report with more on such scams.
Inquirer consumer columnist Jeff Gelles comments: "There's a common thread between your scam, the one I may write about, and the eBay bridal gown scam I wrote about recently. They all involve scammers who request wire transfers of funds. "
Actually, Jeff, this guy asked for cash ... and suggested it get put into escrow. Yeah, right. Like it would be tough to create a phony web site for a phony escrow service.