of a scam
By David Horowitz
A CLOSE COLLEAGUE reported to me that he had
come within moments of falling victim to a scam
while searching for a used car for his college-age son.
The scam fascinated me with its sophistication and
cleverness, and I’ve learned that unfortunately it has
claimed many hapless victims.
This friend explained he found the perfect car on
craigslist: a 2000 Toyota with low miles at a killer
price. The listing included photos, a vehicle identification number and notes that the car had been meticulously maintained and was in great condition.
He enthusiastically sent an e-mail to the seller,
“Tricia Kilroy,” who explained she was selling the car
because she was living in Scotland and had tried to
bring the car with her, but couldn’t. She was reluctantly selling it as a below-list price because she
wanted to move it quickly.
The deal, “Tricia” explained in an e-mail, would
involve the buyer sending a payment via Western
Union to a company called WorldPay, which would
hold the money in an account, have the car delivered, then release the money to the seller when the
buyer approved the transaction.
It began sounding fishy, so my colleague immediately researched WorldPay. It indeed is a bona fide
Internet payment solutions company, part of the
Royal Bank of Scotland group. It has a Web site and
a customer-service phone number. Good to go.
So, as instructed, he submitted the $3,000 to
Western Union, payable to a “James Scoler” in
Bristol, England. Then he anxiously awaited notice
of when the car would be delivered for inspection.
Instead, that day he received a call from Western
Union’s security department. They had put a hold on
the payment because the transaction raised alerts on
their end. “Do you personally know the person you
are sending the money to?” the security agent asked.
She explained that Western Union couldn’t in
good faith release the funds because they believed
the deal was a scam. Numerous Western Union customers had been burned.
My friend immediately contacted WorldPay,
which confirmed that the company is being defrauded
by these transactions. A ring of very clever Internet
thieves is posing as the company and luring victims
into sending money to their “representatives.” The
scam, which reportedly started on eBay and spread to
craigslist, has snared hundreds of victims.
Western Union’s diligence thwarted the crime
this time, and my friend got his money back.
What shocks me about this scam are the subtle
details. Online buyers are often looking for those
TO CONNECT with a
cruise in Italy, I flew
from New York to
Munich on Lufthansa,
then Munich to Elba on
delays on the Lufthansa
flight made me miss my
connecting flight. I had
to pay extra for a flight.
And returning home, I
had similar problems
with Lufthansa, and
ended up having to stay
overnight—at my cost.
All in all, the delays cost
me about $2,000, along
with frustration and
New York City
“killer deals,” and their excitement over scoring one
can cloud their judgment. This deal had it all: a fantastic price, friendly notes from “Tricia,” photos, etc.
The scam artists even created phony WorldPay documents to carry it out.
It was all enough to lure even my colleague, an
occasional online buyer and one of the most skeptical and cautious people I know. “I thought I checked
it out thoroughly,” he says. “It was just too good of a
deal to pass up.”
I checked craigslist t o see if it
had any information about these
scams. The warnings are posted
in big bold letters in a section of
the site, “Avoiding scams and fraud”
scams.html). Most scams,
the site says, involve an
inquiry from someone
far away, often in another
country, an impersonal
means of payment and
the inability or refusal
to meet face to face.
These are good
things to know, particularly as the holiday
and purchases increase.
Deal with reputable
companies, and read
the warnings on any site
you use for online purchases. It’s hard to accept
this as you look for those
bargains, but if it looks
too good to be true, it
probably is. C
David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate.
His “Fight Back!” commentaries are heard daily on
the Jones Radio Network. For stations and times,
check the radio page at www.fightback.com.
me you won’t get
anywhere with the
office. Instead, con-
corporate office in
tation and send it
to the head of the cus-
ment. Follow up with a
phone call, and discuss
how these terrible mis-
takes were both costly
and ruined your vacation.
If you stay calm yet assertive, you may get a positive response.
P.S. Lufthansa listened
to Christine and said she
deserved full reimbursement for her extra expenses!
© 2007 FIGH T BACK! INC. ALL RIGH TS RESERVED.
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