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Identity theft and eBay scam

We've been trying to sell our car in advance of our move to Thailand. Several weeks ago, I put up an add on Autotrader.com and someone calling himself George responded to my ad claiming that he had been looking for a car with just the features and color combo I listed. He said he would be buying it for work and that his company could come up with cash immediately. The first message I got came from dealerleads@autotrader.com. The "buyer" had apparently used a form on the Autotrader.com ad. Here is the initial message I got from him:

BUYER INFO
Name: George
E-Mail Address: georgegardner_ca@yahoo.com
Daytime Phone: N/A
Evening Phone: N/A
Best Contact Time: Day
Additional information requested on:
Comments: Hello!

I am seriously considering this car for purchase, could come up with cash within 24 hours, would you

consider selling it asap? Thanks in advance!
my e-mail: georgegardner_ca@yahoo.com

George


The sooner we got Spacemonkey (our car) sold, the sooner we could jet to tropical climes, so I was eager to keep things friendly with this guy. I wrote him a very personable message telling him about our son and our pet name for the car. The next message I got came from George Gardner's Hotmail account, but the letter writer signs off as Brian Gordon:

Hello Kevin,

thanks for your reply, I am really interested in purchasing this car, I've been looking for this specific combination of features and color. I am in San Diego, CA, I believe we could schedule an appointment for Wednesday or Thursday if it works better for you, can take care of shipping also. By the way, could you e-mail or fax me a copy of the title at # 1 661 420 82 55 when you get a chance - this is going to be my company vehicle and our Procurement Director would like to take a look at it to finalize the deal faster, we can wire you the funds the same day before we start the paperwork. Looking forward to your reply. Thanks!

Brian Gordon
Account Mgr
Educational Motion Picture Production
757 WEST IVY STREET
SAN DIEGO, CA 92101



I wrote back explaining that I was leasing the vehicle and that I could send a copy of the document I held in lieu of a title. I told this person that if he picked a specific day to make the transfer I would call Bank of America and get the exact pay-off amount for that date. I had not yet grown particularly suspicious, which amazes me now as I re-read George/Brian’s messages.

I sent a low-res scan of the title along with an explanation about not wanting to clog his inbox with a fat graphics file. At least I meant to send a low-res version. Actually, I forgot to attach the graphic to the email message. George/Brian wrote back:

Hi Kevin,
nice to hear back from you , my kids can't wait to see the Spacemonkey that you have for sale, actually there was no title attachement in your e-mail, I believe it just didn't upload, don't hesitate to e-mail a full-size image as there is enough room in my mail-box to accommodate it. Thanks for your time!
Brian Gordon
Account Mgr
Educational Motion Picture Production
757 WEST IVY STREET
SAN DIEGO, CA 92101


By this time, I can tell that I had at last grown suspicious because I wrote back:

Actually, I think I scanned the document, re-sized it, lowered the resolution, and saved the graphic and then forgot to attach the file to the message I sent you. Here’s the full-size model.

Also, if you would, please send a phone number where I can reach you. I marvel at the glories of this electronic age, but I’d rather attach a voice and personality to your disembodied cyber-presence before we move thru the final stages of the transaction.

Thanks and take care.

-Kevin

He totally blew his cover with his next message. He responded:

RAVINDER,
Thanks for your response, just got an extra minute to check my e-mail. The last thing I would ask you for before I book a ticket is if you could e-mail me some more pictures of the car about 5-6, digital ones if possible. Thanks for your time!
Brian Gordon
Account Mgr
Educational Motion Picture Production
757 WEST IVY STREET
SAN DIEGO, CA 92101


Ravinder? Who the heck was Ravinder? I figured that this guy was looking at several RX300’s on-line and stringing several potential sellers along so he could get the best car for the least money. Oh, my niavete! I still wanted him to buy my car (and not Ravinder’s) and releave me of my white elephant, so I sent him the additional photos.

I never heard back from him.

When I didn’t hear back from him, I grew suspicious. I looked for a website for an Educational Motion Picture Production company and didn’t find one. I looked for a company by that name in the San Diego yellow and white pages on-line. I tried to find phone listings for George and Brian. Nothing.

All this looked very suspicious, but when I didn’t hear from George/Brian again, I figured either that they were scammers but that I’d sent them packing by letting them know that I was suspicious or that they/he had bought someone else’s car. I gave it no more thought.

Then today, a guy called me on my cell phone. He asked for Kevin O’Connor, and when I said I was Kevin, he sounded confused. “You’re Kevin? I’m talking to Kevin O’Connor?” This guy's name was Jason, and he asked me to describe my car. When I did, he asked me if we’d hit a deer in it in Wyoming. “An antelope,” I said. He’d obviously read an insurance report on the vehicle, and sure enough, when I had him read the VIN of the car he bought on eBay, it matched the VIN for Spacemonkey.

It turns out that George/Brian had taken the title document and additional photos I sent and put my car up for sale on eBay. He/they posed as me and represented themselves to Jason as me when they “sold” him my car. He wired money to an escrow company who would hold the money until Jason took delivery of the vehicle. The vehicle never arrived, Jason called me, and the scam popped out of the bag, but what hope is there of catching the thieves now? The eBay ad is clearly fraudulent. I bet the “escrow company” turns out to be nothing but an anonymous off-shore bank account and that this whole scam was practiced and polished to efficiency with numerous successful prior iterations.

I didn’t do anything to harm Jason, but I still feel awkward. Someone wearing my virtual identity ripped this guy off.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
rimrunner
Oct. 10th, 2002 07:33 pm (UTC)
Something similar happened to a co-worker (I'm at the UBookstore in Bellevue these days, supplementing my writing gigs with a regular paycheck). She auctioned an uncorrected proof of the first Harry Potter novel on EBay, and someone used her scans and description to put up a fake auction of the same item, which, in addition, they claimed was autographed. EBay caught on and allowed her to repost her own, but still...
rainbrot
Oct. 10th, 2002 10:57 pm (UTC)
Relisted
The ebay link you provide says the item was relisted. That auction has ended, thuogh.
kmo
Oct. 11th, 2002 09:32 am (UTC)
Re: Relisted
Thanks, Rainbot. The re-listed auction has also expired without selling, but the people who got ripped off contacted the con-man by email when they saw that he didn't get the reserve bid for "his" car in the first auction. No telling how many people have fallen for this and will continue to fall for it for as long as eBay refuses to acknowledge the fraud or remove that fradulent listing from their publicly accessible database.
sgnp
Oct. 10th, 2002 10:59 pm (UTC)
Next time, don't show them the title until they give you money. (By the way, this is a nice way to sell a car if you don't really have one.)

On the same note, don't trust the passport office to shred your documents if you mess up while completing a form. It's got all of the information someone needs to try and be you.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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