Now that we are back in the United States, my wife has become the #1 user of our 2008 Nissan Murano. I am really happy for her, but quite often, I want to run a little errand and I have no car. So I decided to buy a small affordable car as a second car here in Myrtle Beach.
Just like all of America, I go on line and start searching. I focused on two sites, autotrader.com and Craig’s List. I had no idea what car to buy, what model, or even my price range. So I just browsed these sites for hours on end. After considerable time, there was one car that stood out. In fact, I had decided that I wouldn’t even negotiate the price because it was so attractive. It was a 2006 Grand Cherokee with low miles for only $4000. On top of that, the photos looked like it was in very good condition. Here is one of the photos.
I guess at $4000 this Grand Cherokee was too good to be true.
There was one peculiarity, which was that her gmail address was watermarked on the photo. I did not think much about it and I wrote her a note asking to see the car. Shortly after that, I received a note from Jennifer. She is with the US military and she is anxious to sell her car immediately because she has been assigned to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, I could not see the car because it has been boxed up and put in storage by the military. Of course, by this time, alarm bells are going off, and I told her so.
She assured me that this was legitimate and that she was using eBay Motors. The reason the price was so low was because she had to sell the car urgently. She also sent me 16 more beautiful photos for the car. She said she understood that I was skeptical, but eBay Motors was handling the transaction and all she needed was my name and address to provide to eBay. I thought that there was a 99% chance this is a scam, but it did not hurt to give them my name and address. That is public information and can be found in the phone book. So I sent it to her.
Next I get a professional looking email from eBay Motors. Here is a copy of the header. The problem is that the email was not from eBay but from BPPGlobal.com. I could not figure out who they are. But here’s the kicker. They did not want me send payment to eBay, but they wanted me to send the money via Western Union to a randomly assigned person in West Palm Beach, Florida named Henry Costa.
The email from eBay looked professional enough except that it wasn’t.
UNBELIEVABLE! eBay purchased PayPal but somehow the money needs to be sent via Western Union to a total stranger!
Obviously, this is the end of my tale. Jennifer wrote me several more emails wondering how it all had gone wrong and I ignored them. Poor thing. I guess she is off looking for her next sucker.
But this is the underlying problem. I checked on Craig’s List and autotrader.com and if you look carefully they both have warnings of scams of this nature. I don’t think it is reasonable for them to vet every seller on their web site. They would quickly become mired in bureaucracy.
The problem is that 99.99% of the people do not fall for the scam. People like Jennifer Wayne and Henry Costa (if that’s their real names), are counting on the 99.99% to do absolutely nothing. I have talked to quite a few people about my experience and the reality is that the internet is chock full of scammer and rip off artists. The world is changing. Before if you wanted to rob somebody, you needed a weapon and a dark alley. Even in a dark alley, the felon was still running the risk that someone would notice and intervene.
The problem on the internet is that we have no way to intervene. In my case, I have a name and an address for Henry Costa. He lives at 905 Cotton Bay Dr W, Apt 110, West Palm Beach, Florida. I assume if I had sent the money, that he would show up there and take the money. He probably would even have to show identification.
I believe that people like this should go to jail. The problem is that there is no institution or agency to contact about this stuff, so Jennifer Wayne and Henry Costa continue to operate in the shadows of the internet. Some day, there will be justice on the internet just like in the rest of the world. I don’t think that it will take a lot, but people like Jennifer Wayne and Henry Costa need to know that there are consequences to their scams.