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I found a Craigslist posting selling what looks to be a wonderfully maintained vehicle for low miles and a very low price.

I contacted the seller and she responded with this. I've omitted personally identifying details.

First of all I want to thank you for your interest in my 2009 Honda Civic. The car has been extremely well maintained with a full service history, it only has 50,000 miles! Transmission is automatic. The vehicle has all of its original floor mats, all books, complete set of tools and keys. Everything works in the car lights, gauges, radio, windows, locks, a/c blows ice cold, etc. It has no leaks or drips and does not smoke at all, slightly used in 100% working and looking conditions with a clear title free of liens. It has new Goodyear tires.

I bought it when I was serving in U.S. Marine Corps (at a place) and now I am deployed in (a different place). The car will be delivered from here, it is stored in a military compound.

I have dropped my price to $1,800 (purchase price) including delivery and handling to your address, since this is an urgent sale, it will be delivered free of charge through a military transportation service to a designated location of your choice, average delivery time is 2-3 business days, depending on destination. It has been reduced because I need to find a buyer before my upcoming deployment take place and I don't want to waste more time negotiating.

If you're interested to conclude this purchase in a timely manner please email me your: full name, shipping address and phone number, to open a case with eBay Motors. They will contact you to explain the entire procedure. The financial part will be managed by them, which means that you will have a 5 days inspection period before committing to buy the car. Using eBay Motors service we are both 100% covered during the steps of this transaction.

To support my argument regarding the condition of the car please visit the following photo album (links were shown here, and the pictures looked great)

Rank. LastName

I'm nervous because even though it seems as though the financial handling and delivery is being handled through an official institution which protects against fraud and ensures delivery, it still sounds weird. Like, what's a "military transportation service"?

How could this be a scam?

Edit: "a place" and "a different place" are two locations in the US that are far away from each other and are not local to the Craigslist listing.

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    "what's a "military transportation service" and "are far away from each other and are not local to the Craigslist listing" are excellent points. – RonJohn Jul 3 at 16:46
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    I suspect if you send that email you'll receive something back that looks like it's from ebay motors but isn't actually. Ebay isn't setting up new accounts via email containing some information. – quid Jul 3 at 16:56
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    I called Ebay about this and they said the same thing you did. I'm sad; this would have been nice. – DeepDeadpool Jul 3 at 21:10
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    Maybe this is just me, but I would never buy a car without test driving it first. If I weren't buying through a dealership I'd also want to run the numbers and check on its history personally. Even if there were really a car for sale, there's just so many things that could be "forgotten" about the car's history - accidents it's been in, for example - that the third party might not check themselves and take the seller's word on. That said, I agree this one is clearly a scam anyway. – Steve-O Jul 4 at 12:46
108

It's 100% a scam. I help with unresolved cases on PeopleClaim a lot and saw several that are very similar to this. Here's how it works: you send your money by wire or gift card or similar to the "neutral third party" that supposedly holds the car. They may even have a nice website with legitimate DOT numbers (that just happen to belong to a different company). You wait happily for your car. If you're really unlucky, they will demand plausible extra fees periodically, until the penny drops.

The whole military thing is just a ruse to make you more trusting and explain why you're getting such a good deal.

And think about it - Ebay Motors doesn't use Craigslist. Why would it? If someone is selling via Ebay Motors, they'll have it on that site and you'll pay through Ebay...with a whole lot more protection. Run, run, run.

50

This is clearly a scam - and it's a fairly common one. The answer posted by George explains the mechanism: they will ask you to submit payment to a "safe" third party agent (really just the scammer pretending to be such an agent) via a non-refundable method like gift cards or Western Union, and then they'll either vanish, or they'll string you along for more money (if they think you're especially gullible).

One important factor that's sometimes mentioned in scam questions on money.SE but often glossed over is that while scammers will take steps to appear legitimate (i.e. mentioning the use of eBay motors, and possibly sending you a link to a fake eBay motors website), they will also usually test your gullibility along the way as well. This helps them focus on people who are gullible enough to not fact-check things the scammer says. So, while they want to appear legitimate enough to fool you, they don't want to appear too legitimate, because they actually want to cause people diligent enough to fact-check to disengage.

In the case of your particular scam, the tests jump right out:

  • There is no such thing as a "military transportation service" that can be used by service members to ship sold vehicles to new owners. While the general public may not realize that, you can do some quick googling and find details of the one valid case when the military will ship a vehicle - essentially, if a service member is stationed overseas, the military will ship one personal vehicle to their new duty station. The military is not interested in helping people sell their vehicles, or being involved in shipping vehicles to arbitrary new locations.
  • The promised shipping speed of 2 - 3 days is unreasonably (almost hilariously) short. Vehicle shipping just doesn't happen that quickly unless you're a car dealer and/or you own your own shipping fleet. Typical commercial shippers dealing with a single vehicle for an individual will usually be quoting pickup times several days or weeks out from the date on which you inquire, and the actual time in transit will often be additional days or weeks, even for short jumps. I've shipped vehicles from Texas to New York and the quickest turnaround time I was able to achieve after cross shopping dozens of transporters on wholesale shipping websites was three weeks. Even shipping vehicles just from Maryland to New York it has been typical to have the vehicle arrive in ten or twelve days.
  • eBay motors doesn't provide the types of services they're describing in terms of facilitating sales that didn't originate on eBay, or offering protection or inspection periods for such vehicles. Effectively, if the sale didn't originate on eBay, they don't want any part of it - they even explicitly describe the scam you're being subject to on their security center website. In fact, eBay motors doesn't even "handle the financials" for legitimate sales that do originate on eBay motors. If you want a third party to act as an escrow agent, eBay will point you to actual escrow agents, they won't facilitate the transaction themselves.
  • Craigslist is (supposedly) a local sales tool based on connecting you to people in your community - not people on the other side of the country. It's built around the idea that you're going to meet the other party in person and see the goods before you complete the transaction. They state this as their number one rule on their "about scams" page - and they describe scams similar to yours on that same page.

So, what can you do?

  • Disengage from the scammer. If you've given them any private information, make sure it's protected (i.e. pull your credit report).
  • Report the scam on Craigslist. At the least, they will remove the posting.
  • Continue your search for a new vehicle, and remember - any time something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
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    Don't worry; I didn't contact them after their initial email. – DeepDeadpool Jul 3 at 21:11
  • The English is also a giveaway. – jcm Jul 6 at 5:29
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Anything involving Craigslist except meeting the seller in person in a well-lit public area to exchange cash for the item is at best a scam and at worst a threat to your life.

I don't say this to discredit Craigslist; I'm a regular Craigslist user and love it. But the whole model of Craigslist only works for local, in-person sales with payment methods not subject to fraud and chargebacks. Craigslist explicitly tells you what amounts to this. If the seller is ignoring that and trying to get you to pay with other methods or trying to sell on a Craigslist site they're not physically local to, they're abusing the site and you already know they're a bad actor.

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The scammer seems using standard template to conduct the scam (71% match with transcript posted by OP). As you can see from the article date: Jul 30, 2017, it is nothing new. With some research, the whole scamming scheme run for decades.

Simple copy a small transcript and put in inside any search engine, you will see variants of the scam template and warning all over the internet.

This is one type of Advance fee scam, which after the victim gives them the details, the scammer will send a phishing website that resembles ebay-motor. Then all the pre-payment con-job will continue from there.

Yes, the whole scheme is exactly like 419 scams. Except now you are not dealing with a "Nigerian prince". But all scams are similar: "too good to be true". As tons of Nigerian princes are roaming free as thousands of similar cars in "compound" inside that non-existent military base.

  • "Negerian price"? – DaveInCaz Jul 5 at 15:14
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    @DaveInCaz : Nigeria prince. – mootmoot Jul 5 at 15:15
2

Tell them you have the money in cash and will pay upon picking it up but need your mechanic to take a look over the vehicle first.

Ask them for the address and tell them you'll send a mechanic around to check it out.

When they come up with an excuse why you can't get someone to look at it, you know it's a scam.

If you find a way around the first excuse, they'll make up a new excuse.

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    The excuse is already built into the offer: "it is stored in a military compound." – Dubu Jul 4 at 8:53
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    No one in the military would say "a military compound." They'd use some unintelligible acronym, possibly meaningful only to their service branch. – RonJohn Jul 4 at 23:58
  • I expect telling them you'll bring cash would be a bad idea. They'll come up with a location and plan to rob you. – J. Chris Compton Jul 5 at 18:27
  • @RonJohn Like an IT person trying to describe a computer issue. But, sometimes folks do actually attempt to use generic, approachable language. – jpaugh Jul 5 at 19:05
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    You ask which base it is and tell say you have a friend in the services who can check it for you. Then comes the next excuse why you can't see it. – Thorne Jul 5 at 22:14

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