Internet Scam Artists

Now that we are back in the United States, my wife has become the #1 user of our 2008 Nissan Murano. I am really happy for her, but quite often, I want to run a little errand and I have no car. So I decided to buy a small affordable car as a second car here in Myrtle Beach.

Just like all of America, I go on line and start searching. I focused on two sites, and Craig’s List. I had no idea what car to buy, what model, or even my price range. So I just browsed these sites for hours on end. After considerable time, there was one car that stood out. In fact, I had decided that I wouldn’t even negotiate the price because it was so attractive. It was a 2006 Grand Cherokee with low miles for only $4000. On top of that, the photos looked like it was in very good condition. Here is one of the photos.

I guess at $4000 this Grand Cherokee was too good to be true.

There was one peculiarity, which was that her gmail address was watermarked on the photo. I did not think much about it and I wrote her a note asking to see the car. Shortly after that, I received a note from Jennifer. She is with the US military and she is anxious to sell her car immediately because she has been assigned to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, I could not see the car because it has been boxed up and put in storage by the military. Of course, by this time, alarm bells are going off, and I told her so.

She assured me that this was legitimate and that she was using eBay Motors. The reason the price was so low was because she had to sell the car urgently. She also sent me 16 more beautiful photos for the car. She said she understood that I was skeptical, but eBay Motors was handling the transaction and all she needed was my name and address to provide to eBay. I thought that there was a 99% chance this is a scam, but it did not hurt to give them my name and address. That is public information and can be found in the phone book. So I sent it to her.

Next I get a professional looking email from eBay Motors. Here is a copy of the header. The problem is that the email was not from eBay but from I could not figure out who they are. But here’s the kicker. They did not want me send payment to eBay, but they wanted me to send the money via Western Union to a randomly assigned person in West Palm Beach, Florida named Henry Costa.

The email from eBay looked professional enough except that it wasn’t.

UNBELIEVABLE! eBay purchased PayPal but somehow the money needs to be sent via Western Union to a total stranger!

Obviously, this is the end of my tale. Jennifer wrote me several more emails wondering how it all had gone wrong and I ignored them. Poor thing. I guess she is off looking for her next sucker.

But this is the underlying problem. I checked on Craig’s List and and if you look carefully they both have warnings of scams of this nature. I don’t think it is reasonable for them to vet every seller on their web site. They would quickly become mired in bureaucracy.

The problem is that 99.99% of the people do not fall for the scam. People like Jennifer Wayne and Henry Costa (if that’s their real names), are counting on the 99.99% to do absolutely nothing. I have talked to quite a few people about my experience and the reality is that the internet is chock full of scammer and rip off artists. The world is changing. Before if you wanted to rob somebody, you needed a weapon and a dark alley. Even in a dark alley, the felon was still running the risk that someone would notice and intervene.

The problem on the internet is that we have no way to intervene. In my case, I have a name and an address for Henry Costa. He lives at 905 Cotton Bay Dr W, Apt 110, West Palm Beach, Florida. I assume if I had sent the money, that he would show up there and take the money. He probably would even have to show identification.

I believe that people like this should go to jail. The problem is that there is no institution or agency to contact about this stuff, so Jennifer Wayne and Henry Costa continue to operate in the shadows of the internet. Some day, there will be justice on the internet just like in the rest of the world. I don’t think that it will take a lot, but people like Jennifer Wayne and Henry Costa need to know that there are consequences to their scams.

UPDATE: 6 Indicted in Internet-Based Car-Selling Scam

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6 thoughts on “Internet Scam Artists”

  1. Hi … I was recently looking for a 4×4 and saw a similar ad … A Ford Expidition … I think 08 and they wanted 3 or 4 thousand for it …. a rediculous price … again the seller said they were in the Army [US] and the ad was in kijiji in Kingston Ontario Canada …. I thought that was weird in itself and know over the border laws are hard to enforce …. They claimed to be moving to Montana or somewhere like that and I wrote back and told them to advertise their car a bit closer to where it actually is .
    I figured it was a scam
    the old addage … if it looks too good to be true ….. it is.

  2. I ran into a similar scam in Canada on when I was looking to buy a bigscreen TV. The tv was supposedly brand new and the guy had already moved back to England and a family member had the TV packed in storage. Everything seemed possible until I got the email where TST (an expedited shipping and freight company) was supposed to hold onto the money that I was supposed to send via Western Union and then they would ship the TV to me. I happened to be familiar with TST having known an executive a number of years ago and this seemed really sketchy. I then Googled the address I was supposed to wire the money to in England and 9 of the first 10 hits were about scams related to that address. Needless to say, I ended up buying a new TV from a local brick and mortar electronics store. If the transaction isn’t in person, paid in cash, do some research and keep your money.

  3. I have these calls often but my method of dealing with them is to be polite and lead them on into the madness that is my invented world. My intention is to take as much of there time as possible without allowing any risks. I have pretended that my computer is a VAX 750 (I used to be a system manger) and let them struggle to help me connect it to the net. I have also had (in my head) windows 3.11, various sun computers. I tell them that I am really pleased that they called and that I run a computer museum. My typical call time is around 20 mins but as a retired person I have nothing but time. I have said that the PC is in the other wing of the house and take them on a virtual walk through the grounds (hang on I won’t be long – I have taken the short route through the servents quarters!!) I have a well developed routine that will often lead to the caller spelling the phonetic alphabet phoneticaly. It is a real laugh and I love the opportunity to take the piss out of a willing volunteer. so “a” for horses. “b” for you ask, “c” for miles etc

  4. Yes, sadly Craigslist is full of these.
    I was looking myself. Contacted ebay motors, and they said, “no way do they do outside deals.”
    Then expanded my search and seen the same pictures, and ad, listed 9 different places in the US.

  5. Over this side of the Atlantic a common fraud is to involve a legitimate seller in what looks like a profitable deal.

    The scammer offers to pay over the asking price on condition that the seller gives him some back in cash. So he will offer £5000 for a £3000 car and ask for £1000 cash.

    The buyer hands over a cheque for £5000 and the seller (not being totally stupid) waits for it to show up in his bank account. When it does he hands over the car and £1000.

    The next day his bank tells him that the cheque bounced and take the credit off his account. He not only gave the car away but £1000 cash as well.

    1. This was tried on me about 5 years ago. I live in Kansas, but I am no hayseed. I received an offer on my RV and was sent a $20,000 cashier’s check for a down payment. The perp said he would send somebody to pick up the RV with the remaining balance. (Did not attempt to negotiate my asking price… red flag #1). I took the check to my bank and asked an officer to verify its validity. She did a short investigation and told me the check was no good. Not only that, but the same check had been used in numerous scams over the past several years! I contacted my local police and a detective filled out a report, but told me not to expect any help…. he was right. Never heard back. I contacted the FBI, same-o, same-o. Law enforcement admits this was a felonious crime, but it was too difficult to investigate. I was willing to play along with the perp and attempt to catch him, but law enforcement had other fish to fry.

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