How the Buying & Selling Scam Works in a Nutshell.
Legitimate Seller (LS) places an ad for the vehicle on the Internet (or elsewhere) with an e-mail address for responses.
Scamster Buyer (SB) responds to ad saying he'll pay the full asking price plus some extra. Different reasons are given for the extra amount, usually for shipping the vehicle to a foreign country or because someone owes SB some money. The extra amount is usually between $4,000 and $10,000. Moreover, SB offers to pay with a cashier's check!
LS is amazed and delighted to be able to sell his vehicle for the full asking price and responds to SB.
SB responds immediately but then some kind of delay usually crops up.
Eventually, SB sends the cashier's check to LS. It is often mailed from a foreign country (to thwart USPS investigators checking on postal fraud).
LS replies to SB that the cashier's check has arrived and, presumably, deposits it in his bank. The bank honors the cachier's check (usually within 1 or 2 days) and makes the money available to LS.
SB urgently requests that the difference between the cashier's check and the cost of the vehicle be wired to his shipping agent after which he will make arrangements to pick up the vehicle.
LS wires the money SB.
Days or weeks later, LS is informed by his bank that the cashier's check is counterfeit. SB has disappeared. The vehicle is never picked up.
Read on for a real example of the scam from start to finish...
The original ad appeared on my web site back in early 2003. (See photo above) In brief, it advertised a 1½-ton Chevrolet military tow truck on which restoration work has been started. The body is sandblasted and primed. The engine had a depot rebuild in 1961, although it is not currently running. I have new wiring harnesses, stainless steel brake lines, and many other new parts, but they must be installed. The cab needs a great deal of work. Asking price for the truck was $4,900.
On August 12, 2004, I received this e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org (I have made no corrections at all in spelling, grammar, or punctuation in this or any of the following correspondence).
good day i was going through the internet and i found out that ur company wants to sell a used car which i am interested in buying and i hope u are willing to sell.if u areinterested in selling mail me with details about the car i.e the model and other important things about the car.
I replied the same day with the following:
Hello (do you have a name?):
Thank you for your e-mail. The vehicle that I have for sale is a wonderful, old 1942 Chevrolet Tow Truck that is just waiting for someone to restore it to its glorious original condition. A full description of it with photos is on my web page, www.swapmeetdave.com/Chevy/ It takes a special kind of person to restore an old truck like this, but when it's done you'll have a most impressive vehicle of which you will be very proud.
I'm most anxious to sell it because my wife feels that where it is parked in our yard frightens her pet chipmunks so she wants it gone.To the right is a picture of her favorite chipmunk, Fred.
It doesn't sound like English is your native language. You're not from Iraq are you? I would not want to sell my wonderful truck to someone from Iraq.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Imperialcharityhome@yahoo.com replied on 8/13/04 as follows. The jerk left the caps lock on.
THANKS FOR YOUR REPLYAND GOOD DAY TO YOU.
I WAS VERY DELIGHTED TO HEAR FROM YOU BUT NOT WITHSTANDING WHEN WILL YOUR VEHICLE BE READY FOR SALE CUZ MY COMPANY NEEDS IT URGENTLY. WHEN REPLING DO NOT FORGET TO TELL ME THE AMOUNT THE TRUCK WOULD COST SO I CAN CONTACT MY CLIENT AND PAYMENT WOULD COMMENCE,.AND TO LET YOU NO IAM FROM NIGERIA AND NOT FROM IRAQ.
I replied the next day as follows:
I guess you didn't look at the pictures of my truck for sale on my web site or you would know that the price I am asking is $4,900. That is a very good price for this truck, even though it needs some minor restoration work, as there are not many other 1942 Chevrolet tow trucks like it available.
I'm so glad to hear that you are from Nigeria and not Iraq as I would not want to deal with someone from Iraq.
I gesss the caps lock key on your keyboard got stuck down. Do you know that mail with all capital letters is more difficult to read than mail in mixed case? Did you like the picture of my wife's pet chipmunk, Fred?
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Now, on Aug. 17, we get a reply in all caps and bold from someone new, a Mr. Powell Wendler:
THANKS FOR THE REPLY WE WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT I AM REALLY INTRESTED IN BUYING YOUR (1942 Chevrolet tow trucks ) I WILL PAY $4,900 FOR IT , BUT THERE IS SOMETHING I WOULD LIKE YOU TO KNOW ABOUT THE PAYMENT IS COMING FROM A CREDITOR OF MINE IN THE STATES WHO IS OWING $10,000 US DOLLARS BEING FOR REFUNDS OF PAYMENT OF SOME GOODS HE BOUGHT FROM US ,SO HE WILL ISSUE OUT THE CHEQUE TO YOU SO AS SOON AS YOU GET THE MONEY ORDER I WANT YOU TO CASH THE MONEY TAKE YOUR $4,900 FOR THE 1942 Chevrolet tow trucks . AND SEND THE REMAING $5,100 TO MY SHIPPING AGENT THAT WILL COME TO YOUR HOUSE AND PICK UP 1942 Chevrolet tow trucks SO CONFIRM THIS AND MAIL US BACK WITH THE FOLLOWING FOR MY PAYMENTS INFORMATION FOR THE 1942 Chevrolet tow trucks NEEDED
ZIP CODE ...................
SO THAT WE WILL FORWARD IT TO OUR CREDITOR TO ISSUE YOU THE MONEY ORDER MAIL ME AS SOON AS POSSIBLE...
Mr Powell Wendler
Sales Marketing Manager
Later in the day, I get the following e-mail:
Thanks for your mail,well i want to let you know that Mr Powell Wendler is one of our staff here in nigeria am Mr Walter who is having the transaction with you well i would like to let you know that you are sending the balance to our shipping agent who will come to ur location for the pick up and i will like you send me your mobile phone number or any phone you are having so i can get in contact with you.
So I reply the next day (8/18/04) as follows:
Well gosh, thanks for your three (3) e-mail responses. But now I don't know if I should address you as Walter, Mr. Walter, or Mr. Powell Wendler. I guess it doesn't matter as all of you seem to be the same person and all of you seem to want my decrepit (look it up) 1942 Chevrolet tow truck. I'm so pleased that you need this truck. It was used by GIs in WWII in Palau to haul disabled aircraft off active runways and for other related jobs. Perhaps you have a contract with the Lagos Airport to haul off aircraft damaged by guerillas. By the way, I've always wondered why you hang around such inhospitable areas like Lagos. Why not go inland to Maidugurl or is that just too darned hot?
But I digress. Send your check or money order (make sure it's good and not counterfeit) to Dewey Bluffum
12 Indian Head Road
Morristown, NJ 07960, USA
How do you want me to send the $5,100 shipping fee to your agent? By Western Union, a large wad of cash in a thick envelope, or some other means? Personally, I get quite excited at the thought of large envelopes full of big bills.
A week later, "Mr. Walter" sends a somewhat annoyed reply:
WHY HAVE YOU REFUSED TO REPLY THE PREVIOUS MAIL I SENT WHEN YOU KNOW I AM IN DIRE NEED OF THE TRUCK, I ASKED FOR YOUR MOBILE PHONE NUMBER FOR EASY CONTACT.I GOT THE ADDRESS YOU WANT ME TO SEND THE CHEQUE TO ,PLS DO NOT HESITATE TO SEND THE BALANCE OF MY MONEY BECAUSE MY CLIENT WILL USE SOME OF THE MONEY TO SHIP THE TRUCK DOWN TO ME ,SO IF THE MONEY HAS BEEN CASHED SEND IT TO ME IMMEDIATELY SO I CAN SEND MY CLIENT TO YOU TO PICK IT UP.I WANT YOU TO EXPECT IT ANYTIME FROM NOW.
On Aug 26, I send this reply:
Hello Mr Walter:
I have not refused to reply to any e-mail you sent. I don't have a mobile phone or cell phone, which is why I didn't give you that number. I will let you know just as soon as your check arrives. If you'll recall, I asked how you wanted me to send the money for shipping to your agent; please let me know.
I looked at the truck just yesterday and it is in the same fine condition I described earlier.
Two weeks later on Sep 11, Mr Walter replies (in blue!):
hi dewey, :
goodday,sorry for my long unreplied mails,it was due to the fact that the courier service i used to send the check was delayed by some reasons best known to them, so pls pardon me for that coz you know i am still very very interested in the truck and i hope you have not sold it and i hope you are still interested in selling it to me.like i said earlier ,the check was delayed but i have used another courier service to send it (u.p.s)and it will get there as soon as possible lets say 4 or 5 working days from now .so pls when you cash it wire the remaining balance to me through western union money transfer .thanks. :
how is your wife and her chipmunk pet (fred),extend my greetings to her. :
I did not hear anything for a month, so I send this on Oct 8:
Hi Mr Walter:
Some time ago you agreed to buy my Chevrolet truck I had listed for sale for $4,900. Another person has just contacted me about buying the truck, but since you were the first one to contact me I felt I should find out if you are still interested in it. In our last correspondence in August you said you were sending a check to me for $10,000 and I had agreed to wire $5,100 by Western Union to your shipping agent. But since I never heard from you again, I assume you changed your mind. If you are still interested, I will hold the truck until I get your check for ONE WEEK ONLY!
12 Indian Head Road
Morristown, NJ 07960, USA
Now we're back to full caps, but he's still interested:
I AM STILL VERY INTERESTED IN THE TRUCK ,SO LIKE WE EARLIER AGREED ON THE CHEQUE WILL BE PREPARED AND SENT TO U FROM NOW TILL THE END OF NEXT WEEK SO PLS GIVE ME TIME BEFORE U SELL IT OUT TO THE OTHER BIDDER.
(A day later, he sends something about a nationwide strike delaying the mailing of a check. Really dragging on here.)
So I wait a week and send this on Oct 15:
Hi Mr Walter:
I'm sorry about the nationwide strike in your country and understand your problem getting the check to me. However, I cannot put off the other buyer much longer, so get me the check SOONEST!
A month passes. I figure the whole thing is dead, but then I get this on Nov 26:
the cheque has been sent as agreed and i have been waitin to hear from u whether u have received it or not but i waited but did not hear from u ,so i want to know if u have received it or not but i guess u have received it bcoz its close to a week it left my countrt so if u have do go and deposit it in the bank and write me back.
I reply the same day:
Hello Mr Walter:
NO, I did NOT receive your check. I have been patiently waiting for it because you promised to send it. But I think you are lying to me about the check being in the mail and I think I will sell my truck to another buyer.
Oooooo, now he's getting emotional...:
i beg u in the name of GOD.i am not lying or fooling u bcoz if i am i will not gain anything out of it.so pls pls pls .i will prepare it again and this time i will not let u don ,but promise me u will cash the cheque and send my balance through wester union.u will get the cheque very soon so pls do not sell it out ,i beg of u.
What a crock! I reply on Nov 29:
NO, I have NOT received your check. Where did you send it.
Six weeks passes. The deal is dead. But then, out of the blue, I get this on Jan 16, 2005:
how do u do and how is ur family.i hope u wont think i am no more interested in the truck and i hope u have not sold it bcoz i just found out that the courier i used in sending it just sent me a message that u will get the check from now till tuesday so pls if u have sold it help me cash the 10000 dollars and remove 1000 for urself then send the remaining to my agent who has moved to uk .i will give u the information in which u will use in sending the money to my agewnt but if u have not sold it pls keep it then when u receive the check remove ur 4900 and wire the remaining 5100 to my agent in uk.pls pls pls i apologise for all this problem i have been giving u ever since i met u but is now i really need ur help so help me do any of the above and the business will be successful.happy new year.
I reply the next day:
Hi Mr. Walter:
No, I have not sold my truck. With the cold winter weather, no one is looking. So I am waiting for your check and will let yuou know the minute it arrives.
We're back in business. Three days later on Jan 20, this arrives:
thanks for the reply to my mail i am indeed very reatful and like i said in my previous mail and like i said u will get the check soon so pls do ensure u keep checking ur letter box often so that the post man does not come to deliver it without u seeing it and just before i forget when u get the cheque i will like u to take it to ur bank to cash it .reards
Two days later, lo and behold, the check actually does arrive! I reply as follows:
Hi Mr Walter:
I'm pleased to tell you that your check for $10,000.00 arrived today. I have a small problem in that I am leaving for England later today to see my daughter who just had a baby. I will be in England until February 1, after whcih I will be back in New Jersey and able to take care of business.
But tell me what you want me to do with the $5,000.00 for shipping the truck to you. Do you want me to find a shipping agent, or do you know of a reliable one?
The check comes alone with no cover letter or any explanation in a plain manila envelope cancelled 1/18/05 from Queens, New York. No return address. The check, dated 13 Jan 2005, appears to be a cashier's check in the amount of $10,000 drawn on Regions Bank, Fifth North Front St., Memphis TN 38103. It is made out to Dewey Bluffum and has no remitter's name.
As forgeries go, this isn't too bad. But under closer examination, it starts to fall apart. The trim isn't quite even. The left side is 3-31/64" wide, the center is 3-30/64, and the right side is 3-31/64". The black printing is not quite straight, about 1/64" off in alignment, and there is a dropout in the type in the center of the logo. By themselves, both of these are probably tolerable. However, the microprint signature line, which should read "AUTHORIZED SIGNATURE ONLY" over and over, is completely muddy and unreadable. Incorporated in the blue pattern are the words "VOID," which should appear if the check is photocopied. You can see the words by holding the check at an angle, but they do not work correctly with a photocopier. The artificial watermark on the back, which reads "CHECK PROTECT" is actually there, which is a minor accomplishment, except for the fact that every other word "PROTECT" is upside down!
Pertaining to the information typed in, one would expect that a bank in Tennessee would type "00 CENTS" and not "00 CENT." Also, one would expect the date to be in U.S. fashion, i.e., "JAN 13, 2005" and not European fashion, "13 JAN 2005." Also, the amount should be "$10,000.00" not "$10,000:00."
And then there's the real giveaway. The North Front Street Branch of Regions Bank closed several years ago. Moreover, Regions Bank merged wtih Union Planters Bank in June 2004 and now has a completly different logo.
"Mr. Walter" is not happy that I am going to England for a week and he replies:
i just got ur mail .thanks for the prompt response .
well dewey i do understand that u daughter just got delivered of a baby but the fact here is that u must do business before pleasure (i am very sorry if i sound very direct ).u know very well that i am in need of that truck so much and i just got the good news that the check that i have been trying to send to u since only just got to u today and u are telling me that u will be leaving the states for the uk but u did not include in the mail u sent to me what u gonna do with the check if its gona wait till u return from uk or if u are gonna cash it and send it to me while u are in uk or even before u leave for uk.if ur plan was to cash it when u come back from uk then i think u should pls replan bcoz i need to send the money to my agent who is also there in the uk bcoz he needs the money to arrange somethings.So dewey i want u to send the money to my own shipping agent who is very reliable.so i want u to send the money to this information
Dewey i am very sorry for what this might cost u but as things are now my shipping agent sent me a mail that since u have received the check u should go and cash it in your own bank but since u are not in the states as u said i want u to send my agent the 5100 dollars from your own money (thats if u have )so that he can go and pay some bills at the port so that the customs wouldnt cease my truck when its coming over to me and he needs the money to that urgently so the prices wouldnt go up.so like i said if u have the money send it to the above info i gave u and when u cash the check i sent to u u can remove ur money there.
I forgot to include this in the mail i last sent to u .if u send the money to my shipping agent in uk pls remember to send the mtcn to my box and the secret answer and question ,and all the neceessary info i need thats including ur fullnames so i can give it to my agent.i do hope u understand .
I ignore his e-mail and on Feb 1 upon my return from the UK, I send this:
Hi Mr Walter:
I am back from England and will deposit your check for $10,000 in the bank tomorrow morning. I checked with the Valley Pharmacy (the closest place from which I can send money via Western Union) and they said they can only handle $1,000 in a single transaction. So I will have to find a Western Union outlet that can handle a larger transaction. The fee to wire $5,100 to your agent will be $224, so I will subtract that from the $5,100 and send you $4,876. The Western Union agent told me that the person picking up the mony at the receiving end must have a government-issued photo identification (like a passport or driver's license). Does your agent, McCarthy Williams, in Oxford, England have a suitable ID? I don't want to wire the money unless I am sure he will be able to receive it without any problems. And what is this secret question and answer you mentioned in your second e-mail? Western Union used to use such a method to identify people but today I think they mainly rely on the photo ID. But I will find out when I wire the money.
By the way, the truck is covered wtih snow, so be sure to tell the person picking it up to bring along a snow shovel.
Two days later (Feb 3), "Mr. Walter" sends this:
i just got ur mail ,how was ur trip to england and ur daughter hope she is cool.well i rad ur mail and undersdtood every bit of it and i have tried to contact my agent through fone but i have not been through but since the money is available now i want u to send it to me here in nigeria so that when i get it i will pay in into my agents account or i will send it to him myself .so pls send it to this information
FIRST NAME .........ADAKU
ADDY.................NO 16 SONUBI ST OFF BAKARE STREET KETU.
I WAS AT WESTERN UNION OFFICE TODAY AND I ASKED WHAT I NEED TO RECEIVE MONEY FROM THE STATES AND I ALSO ASKED THEM WHAT THE SENDER WOULD NEED TO SEND MONEY TO ME SO THEY GAVE ME THIS TO GIVE U
PETS NAME.....WHAT IS MY PETS NAME
SO THE SECRET QUESTION I HAVE CHOSEN IS WHAT IS ABOVE AND THE ANSWER TOO IS ALSO ABOVE ,SO WHEN U SEND THE MONEY SEND UR OWN INFORMATION AND THE MONEY TRANSFER CONTROL NUMBER (MTCN) TO MY EMAIL ADDRESS SO I CAN CONTACT MY AGENT THEN HE WILL FLY INTO AMERICA WITH HIS SNOW SHOVEL TO PICK UP MY TRUCK.
N.B.... also ask them in the western union office how much it will cost to send 5100 u.sdollars to nigeria then deduct the amount and send the balance to me.
Work has piled up in the week that I was away, so I don't get back to the scam right away. "Mr. Walter" is annoyed:
mr dewey, i really dont have the slightest idea what you are up to, but i must tell you i have kept silent long enough , you told me you had gone to deposit my check to the bank and it has been up to 5 days since you did that. .. i sent you the information you need to send the money to my agent in the uk but since you had slight problems with that, i decided to send you the info you need to send the money to me here in nigeria... please send me my balance for 5100 or let me know if you have found a better offer and lets settle this whole thing cos ... im tired of been taken forgranted and im really running out of patience... good day
The next day I get a blank Western Union money transfer form, fill it out, and send "Mr. Walter" this reply along with an image of the form. (It goes without saying that I did not actually wire him any money.)
Dear Mr. Walter:
I am pleased to say that yesterday morning I got to the big Western Union office where they will handle transactions over $1,000. To confirm, on Feb 8, 2005, I sent $4,862.00 to Adaku Njoku, Lagos, 23401, Nigeria. As you requested, I included the secret question, "What is pet's name?" with an answer of "Ada." However, the agent told me that you probably will still need a government-issed photo identification to collect the money. The money transfer control number is 6277569210.
The way I calculated $4,862 is that it is our agreed-upon shipping charge of $5,100 less the Western Union charge of $224 less NJ state tax of $13.44.
Attached to this e-mail is an image of the Western Union money transfer form.
The truck is awiting your agent to pick it up. When you are ready to get it, contact me for exact directions as to its location.
A day later on Feb 11, I get this rather peevish e-mail with the subject line, "fake information"
mr dewey, the information you sent to me as regards the money transfer controll number is invalid . i already sent you a message but you did not reply, please if you know you are no longer interested then let me know,, it was very embarrasing for me to go to the bank to claim a controll number that never existed, my agent has been kept waiting and cant pick up the truck unless the fund is made available to him. i expect you to go back to the bank where you claim to have sent the money and rectify the whole issue and send me the right information so we can round up the whole buisness ..... good day
A day later, an e-mail titled "legal response" arrives:
i really have exercised all manner of patience but now something must be done. you will hera from my lawyer in the states. i think he is in a better position to handle this.. good day
Another identical one arrives the next day.
Finally, on Feb 13, I decide to pull the plug on the whole operation.
Hello Mr. Walter, aka Scamster:
Hey, nice try. Your counterfeit check was not bad looking at all. But did you know that there are five (or more) separate security features on a bank cashier's check and your check had only one of them? These security features make bank checks very difficult to forge and you blew it. You know, if you spent the same amount of time and energy in an honest job, you could probably do quite well, feel some pride in yourself, and improve the reputation of your country.
And don't go throwing around the name of God because He takes a very dim view of cheating and fraud. Here is what the Bible says about fraud in Micah 2:1-3. Woe to you who lie awake at night, plotting wickedness; you rise at dawn to carry out your schemes; because you can, you do. You want a certain piece of land or someone else's house (though it is all he has); you take it by fraud and threats and violence. But the Lord God says, "I will reward your evil with evil; nothing can stop me; never again will you be proud and haughty after I am through with you."
Do not call or contact me again.
For all the good that it will do, I report the scam to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center www.ic3.gov
and to the "Submit a Tip" page of the FBI web site https://tips.fbi.gov
I finally sold my Chevy truck for next to nothing. Ah, well.
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