One of the photos of a Nissan Armada that the scammer sent the St. Louis mother.
St. Louis, Mo., May 23, 2014 – A single mother from St. Louis lost $4,700 in an Internet vehicle-selling scheme similar to scams that have cropped up recently nationwide, Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
“I don’t know what to do,” said the mother of 9-week-old twins, who said she made two $2,350 MoneyGram payments to a thief advertising a 2005 Nissan Armada LE on Craigslist.
She never received the vehicle, and the man has stopped answering her phone calls. “I really don’t have $5,000 to just be giving to someone,” the woman said.
The case may be the most recent example of scams involving vehicles advertised on Craigslist. The same phone number has been used in recent ads for a Nissan Pathfinder SUV, an Army Jeep and a Chevrolet Silverado truck. In each case, the scammer claims that he was recently divorced. He said the vehicle would be shipped from Lincoln, Neb. The seller has identified himself as Brian Farmer, Howard William (or William Howard) or Antonio Baker.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said shoppers should never trust sales ads for vehicles or other expensive items on Craigslist without thoroughly checking out the seller and the vehicle. If the seller’s identity cannot be verified, she said, don’t send money.
“Paying someone you do not know – especially using difficult-to-trace payments like wire services or loadable cards – can be a huge mistake,” Corey said. “If the seller’s story seems suspect, or the price tag seems unusually low, you could be asking for trouble.”
The woman said she was searching Craigslist for a larger vehicle for her expanded family when she found the ad for the SUV. The seller identified himself in emails as Antonio Baker and emailed several photographs of the vehicle. He told her that all details would be handled through eBay Motors, which would provide free shipping and a five-day money-back guarantee.
An apparently bogus email from eBay Buyer Protection told her it would hold the funds until receiving a confirmation that she was satisfied with the vehicle. “Only then we will release the funds to the seller,” said the email, which requested payment by MoneyGram or Western Union.
The woman made payments via MoneyGram. The woman said she has contacted MoneyGram, but was told they could release information only to the police department. She said she is awaiting a return phone call from St. Louis Police.
“This is very, very frustrating,” the woman said. “This was my savings. I want my money back.”
BBB attempted to contact the thief who posted the ad, but he did not return phone calls.
BBB also called a second number, identified as the phone number for eBay’s support department. A recording responded with the greeting, “thank you for calling eBay; please wait for the next available representative.” A man with a heavy accent who answered the phone disconnected two calls from an investigator who identified himself as a BBB representative. Additional calls to the number were not answered.
BBB offers the following advice for persons shopping for vehicles online:
Contacts (News Media Only): Michelle L. Corey, President and CEO, (314) 645-0606, firstname.lastname@example.org; Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, (314) 584-6743 or (314) 681-4719 (cell), email@example.com; or Bill Smith, Investigator, (314) 584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. All BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses, 11,000 Charity Reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information.