Byjeff ostroff, Consumer Advocate, Editor-in-Chief
Posted on November 16, 2015
Foreign scammers posing as used car buyers, trick sellers to run VIN# history reports to prove their car is good
Here at CarBuyingTips.com, we are known as one of the most knowledgeable resources on covering online fraud anywhere. For years, we've investigated and reported rampant fraud on eBay and Craigslist. Foreign Scammers Organized Nigerian, Russian and Jamaican gangs are getting smarter with their scams, swindling sellers and buyers from every known classifieds site.
It starts with a vague initial contact from a "buyer"
I sell a lot of cars and other items on Craigslist and eBay, and it has become a real problem when you post something of remarkable value, you attract scammers within hours of your ad being posted. This has proven true for me almost on a script over the past few weeks with two $800 stills I have listed. Within hours of listing I started receiving initial vague text messages and emails from people I knew to be scammers using the same words in multiple articles I listed.
Used Vehicle History Report Scam
The scams continued the other day after I listed a friend's 1997 Jaguar XJ6L for sale on Craigslist at 11am. At 6 pm. m. that same day a person who i immediately knew was a scammer messaged me because i have been doing this for a long time and it is very predictable. He said, "Hi, is your green 1997 Jaguar XJ6L 4-door luxury sedan still for sale?" Nobody talks like that, and these are common methods used by Nigerian scammers.
This scammer was obviously using a bot and scraping the title of my used car listing off Craigslist to feed his script to his text message. See screenshot above of my texting thread with this Craigslist scammer.
Fake vehicle history reporting sites are stealing credit card numbers
You can see in the screenshot of my text message thread above, after a few text messages asking if I ran a vehicle history report on the Jaguar, the scammer sends me a link to what I already know is a fake vehicle history reporting website, one he set up just a few days earlier. He wants me to buy a VIN report for my car there to reassure him that my car is fine.
Anyone foolish enough to visit this unsecured website and enter their credit card number to purchase the report will likely have their credit card number stolen and an actual vehicle report will likely not be produced either. Here you thought you were just selling your used car, but you actually got sucked into the vortex of a phishing scam.
The scammer's link in our screenshot of the text message stream shown above is a shortened Google URL link leading to the very suspicious website called vinhistoryreporting.com, a domain name created on October 15, 2015, just a few days ago. That should be your first red flag, along with the fake text on their homepage claiming they are better than CARFAX.
Is a website that no one has heard of before, only a few days old, really better than CARFAX? Also, the fake counter on their homepage that shows the millions of reports they have delivered is growing suspiciously before their eyes.
Some red flags about unsafe sites
Many people are unaware of the security features of the internet and websites and would be easily fooled by this scammer's professional looking website, but look at the below screenshot of the website and we want to point out that the scammer's website is not secure, there is no "https" flag " at the beginning of the address, where the "s" would indicate a secure, encrypted site.
All legitimate shopping cart sites are safe and start with https
Any shopping cart that is not secure and encrypted with https is a scam. Any legitimate site would have a layered secure socket and there would also be a padlock next to the URL if it was a secure site. Therefore, this scammer's website shown above is neither secure nor encrypted, which should be your biggest red flag that it might be a scam site. Scammers are too lazy to create secure websites because it takes a lot of effort to do it and make it secure.
The core of your scam, they knock you down
Scammers waste no time creating legitimate business accounts that would require security and encryption and leave electronic trails in your bank accounts. Instead, they install a simple form on their fake vehicle history reporting website that simply emails your number. you entered.
There you have it, the core of the scam is a simple form on a simple website page that collects the information you enter and emails it to you so they can start using your credit card right away. This is the vortex of this scam, this is their goal from the first text they send you, to taking you to the form to enter your credit card number. After that you never hear from them again, they usually download the email account they used or the online account to generate the fake text messages they sent you.
CarBuyingTips.com is a secure site
Look in the upper left corner of your browser's address bar for our website CarBuyingTips.com where you are reading this article now, you will see that even our website, which does not sell anything, is a secure website, we have the lock icon , it's green if you're using Google Chrome and we have https in our address.
Trusted sites likeautomatic check, which we've used for years to run real vehicle history reports, you'll always have your shopping cart credit card page completely padlocked. Whoever created the aforementioned Vinhistoryreporting.com site was careless, and as you'll see later in this article, the site was copied from a previous iteration with a different domain name and forgot to change the Vinchecked.com logo to the name. . oops! I always catch my little puppet dealers missing these little details. I like to play with them.
What a legitimate commercial shopping cart page should look like
See this screenshot below from the known and trustedAutoCheck.comthat sells legitimate vehicle history reports, here's what to expect from a legitimate business.
You will see in the above screenshot ofautomatic check, their website is secure, they have the padlock and https so you know your credit card is secure. The next time you're in a shopping cart for any major site, pay attention and you'll see the pattern of safe sites and you can spot a scam site a mile away.
A little common sense goes a long way on Craigslist
Now that you know what to look for, using a little common sense, you can avoid losing your credit card information to these phishing scammers. We believe these scammers mostly live in Russia. Russians prefer to run phishing scams and steal your bank account and credit card details, usernames and passwords where they can go on to steal thousands more from you like the gift you keep giving.
But the Nigerians, who mainly operate in the city of Lagos, Nigeria, prefer to extract a small amount of reliable money from their Craigslist victims by using fake checks and money orders, and having the victims send money via Western Union or MoneyGram. through Walmart, for example.
Scammers are not always so smart
These seemingly crafty scammers sometimes make so many stupid mistakes that many victims who were even dumber missed a number of red flags that could have saved them along the way. Take a look at this screenshot below of another domain name website these scammers created with the same design as the other scam we mentioned above.
Scammers reuse website designs; forgot to change logo names
Scammers often reuse their sites' code, running them for a month or so until everything hits the fan, then their host figures out they're a scam and shuts them down. No problem, they just retrieve and create another domain name and copy all that code over to the next site for a few months. You can see that the first scam site we mentioned has the same design as the screenshot above, but they forgot to change the name in the logo.
As you can see in the above screenshot of the supposedly fake vehicle history reporting website called vinchecked.com, they have become sloppy and in addition to having no https and lock icon, no About Us page, no FAQ or Contact Us. page there is no way to contact anyone and of course there is no link to the Better Business Bureau report because there is no report because there is no company. This is another red flag that should make anyone think twice about using a site like this one.
Also, the domain name of that scam site above is only a few months old, hardly an established brand, and look how our screenshot shows you can nab them with your own tricks by not entering a VIN number in the form on your checkout page, however if you look at the screenshot above you can see in the top right hand corner it says "Found!" By the way, I didn't enter any VIN, so the credit card form is blank on the previous page. Funny how they let you "order" a report with your credit card even without a VIN number so they can create your report!
Who are these scammers, you ask? You'll never find out who they really are, they're too good to leave a messy trail behind, but you can do a domain name search on their website like we did below:
Here you can see that the site was created on October 15th, just a few weeks before this article was written. The domain name lookup report shows that it is hosted by Amazon AWS. A complaint has been sent to Amazon to investigate the site and shut it down if it determines the site is a scam. At the time of writing, we still haven't heard from Amazon about shutting it down, and the scammer's website is still up and running.
Avoiding Craigslist scams is simple
It's very easy to avoid Craigslist scams, but many people have their brains on autopilot and don't pay attention. Your success lies in understanding how a legitimate Craigslist trade is done. If you have your car listed and you are contacted by someone claiming to be a buyer, always remember that a real buyer wants to see the car now. A scammer is lying about wanting to buy without seeing it first or never showing up because they aren't even in this country.
Many web hosting companies facilitate these fraudulent websites.
Over the years, we've had mixed results dealing with web hosts and convincing them to shut down a fraudulent website they host. Some web hosts would rather make a profit than spend a few minutes looking for the fraudulent site and doing the right thing to shut it down. They like to look the other way and coldly say that it's not their job to moderate a site's content.
Real buyers want to buy your item; do not send links to websites
A true buyer never sends you any link to visit any website. If you do nothing else and simply ignore any emails or text messages that contain links, you will likely save yourself from 90% of the scams out there. If they send you an email link and ask you to contact me here in my Gmail account, don't. This premise is so stupid, if they were able to contact you through your listing using the Craigslist controlled email system, they may still be able to contact you through your response.
The moment you hear the words Western Union or MoneyGram, you better run. Just stop communicating with them and don't reply to any of their emails. Every time you see these words, Western Union is a scam.
That's why Craigslist tells you to always trade locally in person with cash and never get caught using anything else. They also warn you against using these money transfer services because your money can be withdrawn anywhere in the world, it doesn't go to a moving company or payment agent in the US, it goes to an organized gang in Nigeria.
They are trying to get you off the Craigslist communications system, where they will start other scams on you involving sending cashiers checks for thousands more than the asking price, asking you to send the excess via Western Union or MoneyGram, and then , your check jumps.
If someone sends you a link to get a vehicle history report and it's not a trusted household name known asautomatic check, then you know they are trying to scam you. Just never click on any links sent to you by a stranger. If you need to log in to a banking website, for example, always go straight to the website to log in, never click on any links that say it will take you there.
How to Tell Real Craigslist Buyers From Scammers
The bottom line is that you want to eliminate who is really a local Craigslist buyer and who is, in fact, a criminal. Anyone who takes you in any direction other than driving to see your vehicle for sale is a fraud, end of story. Keep that in mind at all times and you'll be fine.
Scammers are not local to you. They are mostly found in Nigeria, Russia, London and Romania. That's why they send you links to click on instead of showing up, or want to send you checks in the mail without even looking at your car first.
Real shoppers come to spend money; don't send you to places to spend
Remember this important point: you are selling something online; money should flow to you, not away from you. A real buyer doesn't send you to a site to spend money; a true buyer comes to you to spend money. Know the difference and never be fooled by anything related to sending money. You better figure it out and ask yourself "Why am I sending them money? Should they send me money?"
It's perfectly safe to sell your car online, and if you follow all of our advice here, you'll never get scammed and actually have fun catching your scammer puppets in the act.
Make sure you're up to date on the latest car buying scams. read ourtop 10 scamschapter.
Now it is your turn. Have you been contacted by a buyer or seller whose story has you a little concerned as if it were a scam? Let us know below in the comments.
About the author: jeff ostroff
A lifelong consumer advocate with over 20 years of unrivaled experience, Jeff is the Founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of CarBuyingTips.com. As a leading consumer advocate, he oversees a team of experts who cover all aspects of new and used car buying and selling, including leasing and financing.
For decades, Jeff has been the recognized authority on vehicle buying, frequently sought out by the media for his decades of experience and commentary, on live radio business talk shows, and frequently cited in the press for his expertise in smart car buying. methods and prevention of consumer scams and online fraud. Jeff has been featured in: CNN, MSNBC, Forbes, New York Times, Consumer Reports, Wall Street Journal and many more.
Jeff also has extensive experience and knowledge in new car brokerage and used car sales to customers on eBay and Craigslist. Connect with Jeff viaE-mailthe enGore.