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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Southfield, Serving Eastern Michigan & the U.P.
BBB Consumer Alert: CRAIGSLIST CAR SCAMS
June 26, 2008

Better Business Bureau (BBB) is issuing an alert today to warn online car shoppers that scammers are posing as phony escrow services in order to defraud consumers out of thousands of dollars.  


One example is Super Transports Company, which the BBB Serving Eastern Michigan has received numerous inquiries on.  Fake advertisements are placed on Craigs List advertising great deals for used cars and promote security by using this fictional escrow and delivery company.  Consumers are encouraged to wire money as part of this transaction and this should be a red flag to a scam.  Super Transports Company has a very detailed web site that has a phony BBB seal and counterfiet BBB reliability report on the website.  Super Transports Company is NOT a BBB Accredited Business and is linked to another recent Craigs List scam that utilized the name Door to Door Movers Company.  Click here for more information.

In the current scam, consumers receive the following soliciation e-mails when they respond to the Craigs List advertisement:

E-MAIL 1:

How old are you?
$2,800 ( twenty eight hundred ) , this is all you have to pay , sales tax , shipping costs and title registration fees have ALREADY PAID BY ME

The car is in Detroit - Michigan located in Super Transports (
www.SuperTransports.net ) company warehouse , crated and ready to be shipped.

tracking # : ER33NF3RCRWL6S8FK


E-MAIL 2

for our security i`ll use payment and title transfer service provided by Super Transports company , you will have to pay directly to Super Transports company ( www.supertransports.net )
if something wrong and you don`t like the car , they will give you a full refund ( Super Transports holds the money until you`ll have the car in front of your door ) ,

i don`t want to offend you but this is a very good protection for me if you`ll try to pay with some fraudulent checks , credit cards or fraudulent bank transfer


please let me know your full name , street, city . state, zip , phone # and delivery address ( if is different ) payment and shipping process must be started by me ( Super Transports will give you all the payment instructions )

Internet thieves are now using escrow service fronts with some new twists to steal money and personal identities. The scope and cost of Internet fraud is stunning. For 2007, the Internet Crime Complaint Center processed 219,553 complaints and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that nearly $526 million was lost via Internet fraud. FTC also reports that 28 percent of online fraud victims sent funds to scammers via hard to track wire transfer services – a favorite tactic of fake escrow services.

 

“The purpose of an escrow service is to create a safe environment where both the buyer and seller feel comfortable exchanging money and goods knowing they can’t be taken advantage of,” said Tim Burns, BBB spokesperson. “Unfortunately, scammers have realized they can cash in on this type of transaction by creating a facade of trustworthiness as an escrow company.”

 

Escrow fraud is typically perpetrated through online auctions or classified Web sites.  Both eBay and Craigslist have posted warnings to consumers about escrow fraud on their Web sites, but BBB notes, shoppers continue to fall for the scam as the cons become more sophisticated.

 

Victims of escrow fraud are often shopping online for big-ticket items such as a used car when they come across a deal that is often too-good-to-be-true – perhaps several thousand dollars below the Blue Book cost. When the buyer and seller make contact, the seller recommends using a specific third-party escrow company in order to protect both of their interests. The escrow company contacts the consumers and requires that they wire the payment for the item through Western Union or MoneyGram and then the car will be delivered. After wiring the money, buyers don’t receive the car and usually never hear from the seller or the phony escrow service again.

 

Recent complaints to BBB show that escrow fraud scammers are taking increasingly sophisticated steps to instill a sense trust in their victims. Scammers, using the name “Best Auto Trades,” created a complete Web site that explained the escrow process in detail, required the buyer to register through the Web site, and even provided a transaction number and the supposed escrow officer’s contact info. 

 

Escrow fraudsters are even resorting to stealing the identity of legitimate companies in order to rip off consumers. Global Payments, Inc. an Atlanta-based business that provides electronic transaction processing, but does not provide escrow services for person-to-person transactions, recently discovered that their identity – including their logo - was being used to perpetuate escrow fraud through Craigslist. The real Global Payments, Inc., has received more than fifty e-mail inquiries from consumers who responded to the Craigslist ad wanting to know why they hadn’t received the car they paid for or wanting to make sure the company did provide escrow service.

 

“Perpetrators of escrow fraud have learned that every detail they provide and every step they require the buyer to take creates a greater sense of trust in the company,” added Burns. “These scammers know that the more intricate and complicated the process, the more legitimate it will seem.”

 

BBB Advice on Avoiding Escrow Fraud

  • Buyers should be leery if the seller pressures them into using a particular escrow service and should always check the company out first at www.bbb.org.  
  • While escrow scammers might devise a company name and set up their own Web site to back up their fraudulent activities, many are resorting to simply stealing the identity of a legitimate company. After checking with BBB, buyers should contact the supposed escrow company directly to ensure it has not been a victim of corporate identity theft.
  • A legitimate escrow site will not ask to do a person-to-person money transfer using Western Union. Legitimate escrow companies ask that buyers wire money from their bank account to the company’s bank, and will provide a routing number and account number for their financial institution.
  • A buyer should confirm that the escrow service is licensed and bonded with the appropriate state agency (usually the state in which the escrow service is located) and avoid using an offshore escrow company.