WeGoLook.com was recently approached by a couple who were about to wire $20,000 through Western Union for a truck they found on Autotrader. The truck’s seller claimed he was going to work on a rig off Houston, and was hence needing to sell the vehicle. The seller suggested that the couple make the payment through “eBay Motors Vehicle Protection Program” in order to ensure the safety of both parties. Irony being, there was no truck, no seller, and no such thing as “buyer protection” for vehicles on eBay that covers more than accessories and parts.
Determined to find out more about the fraudsters, WeGoLook contacted this seller – alias “Jonathan Steffen”, and expressed interest in buying the exact same vehicle. Here are some excerpts of the conversations.
In case you were wondering, the VIN# does pull up a 2007’ Dodge Ram 2500. This is likely obtained from “Jonathan” posing as a buyer for a legitimate listing and phishing for information.
Since WGL knew “Jonathan” would propose using eBay as our third party for the transaction, we proposed to pay the full amount in cash. Needless to say he was not open to the idea and we received this email.
In addition to the fact that the email looks surprisingly authentic with eBay logos, trademarks and invoice numbers, note the following:
- We were later asked for the transaction # during a chat conversation with an “eBay” representative. Despite giving them the wrong number, they had no problem locating our transaction.
- The Live Chat feature works like a charm and is hosted by a third party where an operator poses as an “eBay” representative.
- Apparently most banks are “unaware of eBay privacy and policy”, so buyers are suggested to make the transfer as “personal” – in other words try not to raise suspicions at the Bank.
- The 1-800-Number is fully functional, with an accomplice standing by to field calls and enquiries. In fact, during our conversation with this accomplice, he was brazen enough to direct us to the actual eBay buyer protection webpage to “see for ourselves” the legitimacy of this transaction. (Please note that there is no eBay VEHICLE protection program, buyer protection only covers parts and accessories)
Another curious email we received from “Jonathan”. Notice how he insists not to “proceed with the transfer before you tell me when you are going to make it” – essentially ensuring he can go to his bank and pick up the money as soon as possible after the transfer goes through, lest buyers change their mind or realize their folly.
Below is a transcript of the chat between one of our staff and the “eBay representative”, who seems to be sticking to his script. It is plausible that the chats and toll free numbers are centralized operations, while independent fraudsters provide current status of their marks, what price was negotiated, so on. Considering the possibility of these scam groups running streamlined CRM software is alarming to say the least.
Thank you for contacting eBay Motors Live Help! This is Ben. May I have your name please?
Hi! How may I help you today?
[Visitor] this is John Doe
[Visitor] i need your help with a few questions
[Operator] How may I help you with?
[Visitor] i am interested in your truck
[Operator] do you have an transaction number I can assist you with?
[Visitor] dodge ram 2500
[Operator] Ok Mr.John Doe , I’ve got it, you are in the process of making a purchase of a 2007 Dodge Ram 2500 for $18,500.
As I have checked the vehicle it is protected by our Vehicle Protection Program or VPP so no need to worry if you want to purchase this vehicle
Situations for which protection is offered.
[Visitor] yes but i have a problem
[Visitor] i want to talk to the man who owns the truck but he is not picking up
[Operator] We are here just to assist you in this purchase through eBay , we are not responsible for your direct transaction with the seller.
[Visitor] I want to get this done asap, what do you need?
[Operator] It is very simple.
[Operator] If you wish to make this purchase all you have to do is to go to your local bank and secure the funds through eBay as we have instructed you.
[Operator] We’ve sent you an invoice with our banking details and you will have to secure the funds $18,500 in order to start the shipping process. Once we receive a confirmation of your payment we will be in touch with the seller to start the shipping process.
[Visitor] So here is the issue, I don’t want to do a wire transfer, just tell me how I can pay by cash, no official record of transfer is necessary
[Operator] I am afraid we will not be able to help you with that, we need to have this transaction registered, you can have someone else transfer the funds if you want .
[Visitor] There has got to be another way, I’d be happy to send the money just about anywhere in the country – but cash only
[Operator] You can either send cash to someone or deposit into his banking account and then you have to do the wire transfer if you avoid making from your banking account.
[Visitor] Honestly, why can’t I just give your agent the cash in person!
[Operator] We are not selling personal trucks here, we are just act as an independent third party between buyer and seller
[Visitor] And what does that mean?
[Operator] You have to do the bank transfer if you wish to proceed in this transaction , we do not have independent agents who can receive the cash from you.
[Visitor] I am willing to even pay extra if you will take cash, I really like this truck!
[Operator] You have to make the wire transfer in this case.
[Visitor] C’mon help me out here
[Operator] Find a good friend or a relative to do the transfer into your name. If you can’t make the wire transfer to our banking account you will not be eligible to purchase the truck.
[Visitor] What? Send the cash to my aunt and have HER do a wire transfer?
[Operator] You can send cash to your aunt and she can do the wire transfer, its ok, will work.
[Operator] Aside from this is there anything else that I can help you with?
[Visitor] No, not really
[Operator] Thank you very much for choosing eBay Motors, have a great day!