Classified Ad Scams: buy a used car
Scams and scammers using these names: William R. Butler, firstname.lastname@example.org, Helena, Montana, 2004 Nissan Murano SL,
"I have the car sealed at DAS terminal ready to be shipped out"
Are you looking to buy a used car? Did you respond to an ad from
"William R. Butler" claiming to be from Helena, Montana? Note that he says: "I
have the car sealed at DAS terminal ready to be shipped out". That's a
clue to a scam right there, but this scam is more elaborate than most; with a
website with photos of the car, his family, etc.
Notice that the scammer says he wants to use "ebay motors
vehicle purchase protection". Will that protect you from a scam? eBay,
"Please understand that the VPP program is not an insurance
policy, a solution for buyer's remorse, or a substitute for buyer diligence
(i.e. pre-purchase research and inspection). Therefore, we encourage you to
perform appropriate research and exercise proper care and judgment in the
purchase of any vehicle. "
and notice the exclusion for:
"Transactions occurring directly between the parties (i.e.
phone, email, mail, in person, by overnight messenger, etc…) and/or on
another website rather than through the eBay website. Note that all
transactions occurring through the eBay website (motors.ebay.com) will be
confirmed by a message from eBay in your My Messages inbox in My eBay."
So as long as you do everything through eBay, and you check the
car out, you'll be pretty much covered.
BUT... notice in the second email that "William" backs out of
the agreement to use the program, saying the price is only good for "sight
unseen". Whoin their right mind would buy a used car, sight unseen, from a
Here are the clues that this is a scam:
- First, you will notice the syntax and grammar. Often, is it
not pathetically bad, it's just plain strange. It looks like it was written by
someone who is not a native English-speaker, and writes very rarely in
English. This is very typical of scammers, who largely are in Nigeria and
have little formal education and probably none in English.
- Next, he wants to write a check in excess of the required amount. Why?
That makes no sense at all. If he hasn't got a bank account, he could always
pay in cash or get a money order.
- Then, he wants the "excess" from the check sent BACK to him or
to other individuals, often in many different locations, and always by Western
Union or Money Gram! Alarm bells should be going off by now. Western Union
wires and Moneygrams are not only untraceable, they're irretrievable. Once the
recipient picks them up (which can be done at ANY Western Union office in
the world), the money is gone, gone, gone!
- And then there are the little clues; signs like the strange name and
Maybe, first he's "David Rapheal", then he's suddenly Shawn Nickolas, supposedly in
England, yet the first name has an American spelling and the last name is
spelled more like an Eastern European or Germanic origin.
- The scammers NEVER can meet in person. They may have a $50,000
boat to sell to you or want to buy a $45,000 car from you, but somehow they
are always "out of the country" on business, in in the army, whatever.
In the real world, anyone buying or selling something for more than a few
hundred dollars, wants to see it first. And especially when renting a
house or apartment!
- The scammers typically ramble on about issues ("I have the car sealed at DAS terminal ready to be shipped out") that are irrelevant
to such a sale or rental; such as, how they are doing this for charity, or
recently moved to the UK, or are traveling in Africa right now. You as
a seller / landlord, don't and shouldn't care about these issues: you are
trying to find a legitimate buyer or renter for your item at a fair market
price. The scammer knows this and is merely trying to cloud the issue
and provide excuses for not complying with the basic requirements of a sale.
He's also trying to engender trust; one of the key elements of any con game.
- Scammers frequently refer to "trust", "faith" and God; in ways that no
rational person in western Society would ever do in a business transaction,
as in, "I know I can trust you", or "my faith in God tells me to enter this
agreement with you".
- Look at the huge number of misspellings, weird use of capital letters, poor punctuation and made-up
words. Again, this is typical of the scammer filth
who live and operate in Nigeria.
An actual email that illustrate this type of CraigsList scam:
Any highlighted passages below
are to draw your attention to typical scam clues:
Email 1 from the scammer:
Sorry for the late response but I work in the US Air
Force and it's very hard for me to reply faster. I wanted to let you know
that the 2004 Nissan Murano SL is still available, i had a buyer but his
loan did not get approved. The final price is $5,800 ,so if you are still
interested please let me know ASAP. Here is a link with more photos:
At this time the truck is in Helena, Montana with me
and we can use the eBay Vehicle Purchase Protection service to handle this
deal if you're not able to come pick this up. Let me know if you have any
questions, for some reasons your previous email did not load on my screen.
William R. Butler , TSgt, USAF
373rd TRS/Det. 11
Second email from the scammer
Hi there again, Sorry but
I cant use a phone being in a dgt mission,this Nissan Murano SL is a
perfect car and it will make you proud, it is in excellent
condition, never been involved in accidents, only
75k miles, vin # is JN8AZ08T64W212370, clean and clear title, no mechanical
problems, no smells and odors, no rust, no leaks, power options all
functional and it will need nothing in the near future.I inherited it from
my uncle who had health issues and took great care of this car, always
garaged and never offroad. I wouldn't hesitate to jump in and drive it to
China any time of the day. We are in a training mission here until 25th of
May but if you're not able to pick this up I have some great news for you.
The shipping will take 4-5 days thru DAS and it
will be free, my previous buyer already paid for it and DAS didn't want to
refund him so I have the car sealed
at DAS terminal ready to be shipped out. If we cannot meet face2face
I would like to use ebay motors vehicle purchase protection to take care of
this deal, smooth and safe.
I want to sell it because I don't have much use for
it and I could use some quick cash right now, rather than waiting for a
better offer (selling takes a lot of time too... and time is money).
So I'm willing to let it go for
$5,800 and since I only have one car, First come, First served.
Let me know if you have any other questions, hope i
didn't miss anything, if we use ebay
program this is not a sight unseen deal anymore.
William R. Butler , TSgt, USAF
373rd TRS/Det. 11
THE S/N CAR WAS SOLD ON E-BAY FROM A DEALER IN TEXAS
Review and Analysis
The scammer's website is on a free hosting company,
http://www.freeservers.com/ and he
uses this address:
And claims this is a photo of his family:
Notice that while there is a photo and some description, there is no contact
information, and the information doesn't match. He says he's in Montana,
and in the Air Force, but the link is to a base in Nebraska, over 1100 miles
from Helena, MT.
is a beautiful community situated near the Missouri River in the rolling hills
of southeastern Nebraska."
This is the description of the car he posted:
2004 Nissan Murano SL
Mileage: 74,110 miles
Vehicle Title: Clear
Engine: 6 Cylinder
Exterior Color: White
Interior Color: Tan
CD Player Leather Seats Side Airbags
Passenger Airbag Driver Airbag Anti-Lock Brakes
Air Conditioning Power Windows Power Seats
Power Locks Cruise Control
If you are in the market for a very nice luxury SUV sedan for your family,
at a very great price this is the one to own. The elctrical and optional
equipment on this vehicle has been checked to insure that it is all in
This vehicle's exterior is very clean. The interior is clean
and in good condition.This vehicle does not show any signs of collision damage.
In the photos you will notice that the car has floor mats that say "Auto
Aside from the car wax manufacturer, we could only find ONE "Auto Magic" car
detailing service in Google:
Which is located in area code 310, the South Bay area of Los Angeles,
California. That also matches up against the the hot arid landscape and
plants in the backgrounds in the photos.
So the car was in southern California when these photos were taken.
We have contacted the scammer, posing as a potential buyer to see if we can
get more information. Here's what we received back:
Hi there again, this
Nissan Murano SL is a perfect car and it will make you proud, it is
condition, never been involved in accidents, only 75k miles, vin # is
JN8AZ08T64W212370, clean and clear title, no mechanical problems, no
smells and odors, no rust, no leaks, power options all functional and it
will need nothing in the near future.I inherited it from my uncle who had
health issues and took great care of this car, always garaged and never
offroad. I wouldn't hesitate to jump in and drive it to
China any time
of the day. We are in a training mission here until
25th of May but if you're not able to pick this up I have some great
news for you.
The shipping will take 4-5 days thru DAS and it will be free, my previous
buyer already paid for it and DAS didn't want to refund him so I
have the car sealed at DAS terminal ready to be shipped out. If we cannot
meet face2face I would like to use ebay motors vehicle purchase
protection to take care of this deal, smooth and safe.
For pictures visit my website :
I want to sell it because I don't have much use for it and I could use some
quick cash right now, rather than waiting for a better offer
(selling takes a lot of time too... and time is money). So I'm willing to
let it go for $5,800 and since I only have one car, First come, First
Let me know if you have any other questions, hope i didn't miss anything,
if we use ebay program this is not a sight unseen deal anymore.
William R. Butler , TSgt,
373rd TRS/Det. 11
Notice that it is a cut-and-pasted edited version of the email he sent the
other victim. We wrote back to him to say we wanted to inspect the car and would
fly to wherever it is and pay any price, to get it out of storage, and any other
fees associated with it.
Tom Johnson wrote:
Great! So, when and where can I go to see it? Where is the
shipper, what is there name and phone number? I'll fly to their
location and see it there.
And here's the reply from our little scammer:
Being in a dgt training mission we are not allowed to use phones,or leave
the base until
25th of May . Thats why I insist to use ebay for this deal
and not send the money directly to me.The title it is on my name,and will be
shipped with the car,also it is already signed by me,i need to complete the
and address of the new owner.The car was passed the emission test .You will
have 5 days for inspection
in this time you can check everything about the car and papers,and if the
car have some problems or is not as i told you,you can ask for refund and
you will receive
your money back and me,i will need to pay for the shipping back,but don't
worry the car is in perfect condition.
Here is how it works if you have never used
eBay vehicle purchase protection program.
You send me your full name and your shipping address so I can
initiate the transaction on eBay.eBay contacts you with further details
regarding the payment
and shipping process.You submit the payment to
eBay confirms the payment and asks me to release the shipment.I ship
the car which should be at your
door within the next 5 business days(the shipping is free).You have a 5 days
inspection period before you confirm the deal and
eBay forwards the payment to me
or you cancel the deal and you get your money back and return the vehicle
free of charge.
Basicaly ebay holds your money safe until you confirm that the car is what
you have expected and you want to buy it. It is not a sight unseen deal.
On the other hand I can ship the car knowing ebay has your money and you
wont dissapear with my car.We are both covered.
Sorry for the long emails I have tried to touch all bases.
William R. Butler , TSgt,
373rd TRS/Det. 11
Undeterred, we responded with:
Hold on, William, I want to SEE the car BEFORE I put ANY money down on
it, in escrow or anywhere else.
I don't care where the car is, I am a dot-com millionaire; money and
distance are no object - I just haven't been able to find a white 2004
Nissan Murano SL in good condition. I want exactly that model, because that
is the car my wife died in (when she was driving it) and it will keep her
spirit alive with me.
So, I'll fly to wherever the car is, pay any fee to get the storage facility
to show it to me, and even pay you double your asking price.
But first, I want to go see the car.
So how can we make that happen?
Stay tuned for our next installment... when the scammer replies!