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24 January 2010

Scam Alert! Scepticism in Real Life

The missus and I are in the market for a vehicle, and we were perusing the classifieds when we happened upon a car that looked just perfect. It was located in Brandon, MB, but we figured that we could make the drive out there to see it on the weekend. So the missus contacted the seller. Unfortunately, a few things came up.

I have posted the full exchange below, highlighting the "red flags" in red, and removing any of my wife's identifying information (this is my blog, not hers). Be careful out there, folks! If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Check out for more things to watch out for.

Date: Sat, Jan 23, 2010 at 12:38 PM
Subject: Important Sales Lead from AutoTrader
From: Carol S <>

Hi there,

I am contacting you about the 2003 Toyota Camry I advertised for sale on autotrader. I just passed trough a divorce, and I am very glad that I took the car, because it was my husband's most precious thing, his pride.

Here are a few details about the car:

The car is safety inspected , certified and it has only 147,000 KM. 4 Door, 2 Wheel Drive, Automatic Transmission, Front Wheel Drive, Alloy Wheels, New Tires, Premium Wheels, Spoiler, Air Conditioning, Bucket Seats, Center Console, Cruise Control, Leather Seats, Power Door Locks, Power Mirrors, Power Steering, Power Windows, Rear Defrost, Tilt Steering, Tinted Windows, Alarm, CD Player, Information Center, Keyless Entry, Stereo/Tape, Trip/Mileage Computer, Antilock Brakes, Driver Air Bag, Passenger Air Bag, the Air Conditioning (A/C) is in good working order and blows cold. The brakes are in good working order, it drives straight on the highway with no tire vibration. The exterior is in excellent condition with no dings or chips (only a few very small chips on the front bumper, you will see them in the pictures I attached), it is way much cleaner than you would expect for a car of its age & mileage.The paint is in excellent overall condition and shows deep shine. The interior is in excellent condition. No liens, no accidents, I have the title in hand.

The lowest I am willing to take for it is $4,350. It may sound amazing, but it truly is an outstanding deal. I don't ask to much for the car because I just want to get rid of it ASAP, since the bastard used it to take his girlfriend out on dates. It is bad memory and I should get rid of it. I would probably donate the money from the car to the red cross, as it seems the best solution since I don't need the bastard's money.

A totally rust, corrosion and flood free car. Never been in any accidents.Where are you located?

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to ask!

Best Regards,
Carol Simmons

PS: Please scroll down to see a few more pictures with the car!

No real red flags there. I was honestly really excited at this point: that's a fantastic price for exactly the car we're looking for, and it's always nice to help someone move on after an unpleasant experience, isn't it?

This is why scepticism is important. Think. Don't just trust your instincts.

Date: Sat, 23 Jan 2010 12:46:14 -0600
Subject: Re: Important Sales Lead from AutoTrader

Hi Carol,

The car looks fantastic. It really is what my husband and I are looking for. We are in Winnipeg. Do you come out here at all? We would really like to see it as soon as possible. Alernatively, we could come out to Brandon to see it. Let me know what works for you. You can also call me at [REDACTED].

Thanks, we look forward to hearing from you,

Date: Sat, Jan 23, 2010 at 12:54 PM
Subject: Re: Important Sales Lead from AutoTrader
From: Carol S  <>

Hi again,

I am located in Yukon and eBay offered me a great opportunity to use their Protection Services which I think is the safest under the current circumstances. I am very busy with my job and the best solution for me would be to make things trough eBay and for that I will need the following information from you:

- Full Name
- Full Shipping Address
- Phone #

After I will receive these details from you, I will forward them to eBay; they will process all the information (your info, my info, vehicle info) and the will contact us both with additional information.

After the transaction will start we will both receive further instructions about it including payment invoice and bill of sale, you will need to pay to eBay, eBay will give me the shipping instructions to send the car over, I will ship the car to your address, you will receive it and then you will have 5 days in which to inspect it, drive it and check its documents before actually deciding to keep it. During all this time eBay will hold the money in their trust account. If you will be satisfied with the car and will decide to keep it then you will inform eBay about this so they will release the money to me. If the car is not as I described it and you will decide not to keep it then eBay will refund your payment in full, no questions asked and shipping back the car will be my concern. Please take into consideration that I will get paid only after you receive the car and make sure everything is as agreed. I think this is fair for the both of us.

Let me know if you wish to go ahead and buy my car!

Thanks a bunch,

She's located in Yukon? That's not Brandon... Also, since when does eBay offer people the opportunity to use their services. What does that even mean? I assumed that all of this about eBay holding the money in trust, etc., referred to PayPal, but in hindsight that was a little suspicious, too, as eBay is not an escrow company. Finally, and this may seem like a bit of pop-psych fluff, but if she were selling the pride and joy of her ex-husband, for whom she apparently has nothing but venom and vitriol, would she really refer to it as her car?

Date: Sat, 23 Jan 2010 13:17:30 -0600
Subject: Re: Important Sales Lead from AutoTrader

Hi Carol,

I just wanted to clarify a few things about this type of transaction. Who is responsible for paying the shipping costs to get the car to Winnipeg? How much would this be? Also, how will the car be shipped (will it be driven down, put on a trailer, put on a train?). When would we be able to start the process and approximately how soon could we expect the car to arrive? My husband has an eBay account and he is wondering if this would help the process at all?

Thanks Carol,

From: Carol S 
Date: Sun, Jan 24, 2010 at 2:44 PM
Subject: RE: Important Sales Lead from AutoTrader

[REDACTED], the car has been inspected and tested. I sent the car, the keys and all additional documents to the shipping company. they have already packed it and the documents in a container and are waiting for the okay from the e-bay.

They verified the car's documents and my documents to make sure I am the car's legal owner and that the car can be registered to anyone over here in Canada, after verifying the documents an eBay representative checked out the car's condition to make sure it is as I've described it.All the documents will arrive to your address with the car and you will have 5 days to check and test the car.

Please let me know after you will hear from eBay because I need to know for sure if this is a done deal!

  Waiting news from you! Best Regards,

P.S. I don't think you need to worry about the shipping because eBay quoted me with a great price offer trough one of their trusted companies and I decided to include the shipping in the car's price.

"Over here in Canada"? We're both in Canada, aren't we? And how did we get from working out the details to having the car packed for shipping?

From: "eBay VPP" <>
Date: Mon, 25 Jan 2010 00:55:00 +0400
Subject: eBay Motors Request - 2003 TOYOTA CAMRY
eBay Motors
eBay sent this message to " [REDACTED]"
Your name is included to show this message originated from eBay.

  Dear [REDACTED],

     This message comes in return of your request regarding the 2003 TOYOTA CAMRY belonging to Mrs Carol Simmons.  

  Before the current vehicle is approved for selling using our services the seller needed to take it to a shipping company working in partnership with eBay Motors® and Carfax® in order for an engineer to verify the actual condition. Our department has received copies of the seller's ID, copies of the vehicle documents because we needed to make sure the person selling this vehicle is it's  legal owner, there are no outstanding debts against this vehicle. After the documents verification ended our department instructed a representative of the shipping company to personally inspect the vehicle in order for us to make sure that it's condition matches the seller's description. 

  Since the number of online transactions is growing each year we need to take more precautions in order to offer highest quality services to our customers because eBay VPP wishes to become the number one escrow/transaction mediation company therefore  we need to make sure that any transaction guaranteed by our department will be completed without any complications.

   In order to become the registered buyer of this vehicle please provide our department with the following information:

         - Full name
         - Delivery address (required for vehicle shipping)
         - Telephone number

 Please confirm the receival of this e-mail and advise!

Thank you for using eBay!

Customer Support (Trust and Safety Department).
2010 eBay Inc.

The formatting of the "eBay" email is a huge giveaway. Also, the eBay email address doesn't even come from eBay! What kind of pathetic spoofing attempt is this? And "Your name is included to show this message originated from eBay"? In what way does that show that the email originated from eBay? What? And to top it all off, they used the word "receival". Which isn't a word. Sigh.

And there you have it. I reported the email to Caveat emptor.

Edit: I temporarily took this post down after I received a response from the message I sent to eBay regarding this exchange. I've posted this exchange below for your amusement (be ready to plant your palm firmly in your face).

From: eBay Customer Support - spoof <>
Date: 2010/1/24
Subject: RE: Fwd: Fw: eBay Motors Request - 2003 TOYOTA CAMRY (KMM17313721I15977L0KM)
To: Gem Newman <[REDACTED]>


The email you received is genuine and came from us.

The reason you're receiving emails like this one is because of the notification preferences you selected. To change your account preferences, please follow these steps:

1. Click "My eBay" located at the top of most eBay pages. You may need to sign in.
2. Hold your cursor over the "My Account" tab so that the drop-down menu appears, and select "Preferences."
4. Scroll down to "Newsletters, Promotions and Event Notifications." Click the "Show" link on the right, and then click the "Edit" link. You may be asked to sign in again.

To receive a notification, select the check box next to it. If you don't want the notification, clear the check box by clicking it again. Repeat for every type of notification you want to change.

5. Click the "Save" button.

eBay will never ask for your personal information in an email or include a link that takes you directly to a page where you are asked to sign in.

Remember that you can always check the My Messages section of My eBay to see if a message from us is legitimate. Copies of any emails we send you about the status of your account or a change in your account information will be displayed in My Messages. This is especially helpful since many spoof emails try to convince you that your account is in jeopardy.

If you'd like to take a brief tutorial on how to spot a spoof email, go to:

Keep those reports of suspicious emails coming -- you're helping protect the global Internet community! Our Trust & Safety team works closely with Internet Service Providers to shut down fraudulent sites. We also send your reports to Web browser companies so that they can develop
tools to identify phishing sites."

eBay Trust & Safety Team

Well, that certainly came from eBay. Am I perhaps guilty of being too sceptical? My incredulous response:

From: Gem Newman
Date: 2010/1/24
Subject: Re: Fwd: Fw: eBay Motors Request - 2003 TOYOTA CAMRY (KMM17313721I15977L0KM)
To: eBay

So you're saying that "" is an eBay email address?

Gem Newman
Lead Developer

So perhaps I ought to proceed with the transaction. After all, eBay gave it the okay! And then today, I receive this:

From: eBay Customer Support - rswebhelp <>
Date: 2010/1/26
Subject: RE: SP91022 your recent report to eBay's Trust and Safety Department (KMM15387111I15977L0KM)
To: Gem Newman <[REDACTED]>

Dear Gem,

Thank you for writing eBay in regard to your concern with the authenticity of the message you received from "" about a vehicle.

Gem, I apologize for the confusion brought by the automated response, the email address "" does not belong to eBay Motors. I can confirm that the email that you received is a spoof, also known as a "phishing," email. I suggest not to follow through with the transaction. Our Trust & Safety team is working to disable any websites it links to.

eBay does not act as an escrow service and is not responsible in handling transactions between the seller and the winning bidder. eBay will never hold money or item on behalf of an auction nor ship or store vehicle in an "eBay warehouse. So there is no eBay agent/representative that holds payment on behalf of seller nor buyers. eBay does not work that way. You must bid and win the item listed on eBay Motors to be eligible for Vehicle Purchase Protection Program.

Please be aware that eBay discourages all transactions, which are initiated by parties other than the seller and the winning buyer in a completed eBay listing. Sales that take place outside of eBay carry a potential fraud risk and are not eligible for eBay services, including feedback, contact information requests, and the eBay Standard Purchase Protection Program. You can review the services provided through the eBay Standard Purchase Protection Program at:

In addition, we do not recommend the use of instant cash wire transfer services such as Western Union and MoneyGram, and we ask that users decline sending payment in cases where these are the only methods of payment offered by the seller. Generally, if payment is sent using an instant cash wire transfer service and the item is not delivered as promised, no recourse is available for recovering funds. In most cases, an escrow service should be used when purchasing high dollar value items. More information on the benefits and risks of individual payment methods can be found at:

eBay urges caution when purchasing high-priced items, especially if the price seems too good to be true.

Remember that you can always check the My Messages section of My eBay to see if a message from us is legitimate. Copies of any emails we send you about the status of your account or a change in your account information will be displayed in My Messages. This is especially helpful since many spoof emails try to convince you that your account is in jeopardy.

*Never* respond to a suspicious email or click any links in the email message. If you think you may have given out personal information in a spoof email or website, you need to take steps to protect your identity right away. For more information about what to do, go to:

If you'd like to learn more about how to spot a spoof email and stay safe online, go to:

Keep those reports coming -- you're helping protect the global Internet community! Our Trust & Safety team works closely with Internet Service Providers to shut down fraudulent sites. We also send your reports to Web browser companies so that they can develop tools to identify spoof sites.

We are committed in making your eBay experience pleasant and fulfilling.


eBay Customer Support

I quite frankly don't know what to say about that. Except for, of course, question everything.


  1. Congratulations, Gem! If you were an American, I'd say you have grounds for a frivolous lawsuit!

    - Cheers, Alex.

    PS Your 'Post a Comment' input box doesn't appear to take Home, End, Ctrl+V, Ctrl+C, cursor highlight or arrow commands from the keyboard; it also refuses to take a double space. The amateur typographer in me is frustrated beyond all measure.

  2. Alex again. Scratch the above postscript, I am an idiot 'beyond all measure'.

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  4. just got the same email from someone on selling a lexus - can't find a good buy out there without running into this kinda crap - it's rediculous

  5. Knowing the signs are an excellent skill to have. Several years ago I bid on a video camera that was supposed to be located in Canada, after wining the item and making arrangements they said that the item was in Spain and that they would accept payment by Western Union.

    No thanks.

    Though last year I bid on and won a guitar that was supposed to be in Quebec but then was told it was coming from China. I was pissed. I actually ended up getting the guitar after checking some credentials.

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