Complicated scam utilizes magazine, eBay for false car sale

March 25, 2009
Santa Paula Police Department

Once again if it seems to be too good to be true it usually is, as a Santa Paula resident learned after he lost $12,500 for a Cadillac Escalade that didn’t exist.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesOnce again if it seems to be too good to be true it usually is, as a Santa Paula resident learned after he lost $12,500 for a Cadillac Escalade that didn’t exist. According to Santa Paula Police Senior Officer Ken Clark, the man lost the cash in recent weeks due to an elaborate scheme that involved an auto sales magazine and the Internet.The victim, according to Clark, first spied an advertisement for a 2007 Cadillac Escalade in the Auto Trade Express magazine, listed for sale at $12,500, “an unbelievable price,” as such a model, although used, would still fetch about $50,000. The victim told the SPPD when he called the number listed in the advertisement, “They sounded legitimate” and directed the potential buyer to the listing for the vehicle on eBay, an online marketplace. Such a move was to add to the patina of transaction legitimacy.The seller agreed to sell the Cadillac to the victim, but instead of finalizing the transaction through an established service - which carries checks and balances - Clark said the “seller calls and says the car is ready to ship, but he needs the money today.” The seller then provided the victim with a bank routing number to deposit the $12,500 payment in the seller’s New York-based bank account.The seller provided the victim with shipping information and “gives him an actual date and time to be home to receive the vehicle,” supposedly being trucked over from Palmdale. “It doesn’t happen,” and Clark said when the victim notified the seller he was told “the truck broke down, it was getting fixed, it will be there... then it never happens.”
When the victim tried to followed up he was told the “person did not work there and they did not even know them.” Clark noted the scam was so detailed that the victim “even received e-mails from eBay,” then a “spoofed” one about the transaction having to be completed through the seller’s bank. “The victim then got a call from someone saying they were an eBay representative and that the cash had to be sent” to the New York bank account.The phone number used by the victim to contact the seller has, Clark noted, “a reputation” online and is listed on The site lists the same phone number listed by the seller and the same name used by the suspect. “Fortunately,” said Clark, “the people who listed their stories on the site didn’t complete the transactions, so they weren’t out of money, but they posted” the information “to warn others.”And there’s one warning that must be taken very seriously: “If the deal seems too good to be true, it usually is, and if the transaction is completed online” or by any other means, always, always use conventional and protected pay methods.The victim, noted Clark, was lured by the supposed great deal on the Cadillac Escalade. “Of course, sellers have great excuses” of why they wish to sell “so cheap and so fast,” ranging from divorce to excuses particularly believable in today’s economy - the quick need of money to feed the family, forestall foreclosure or pay medical bills.

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