Getting one over on the internet scammers

| 19 Apr 2013

I am sure I am not the only person who gets driven to distraction by some of the obvious classic car scams on the internet.

To be honest, I fail to see how my most hated one makes any money. It's always precisely the same technique and pretty transparent to anyone with a half a brain, so I simply can't imagine anyone falling for it.

Yet they are presumably paying roughly £10 per listing on a well-known auction site, so some people must be taking the bait, or they wouldn't persist.

In case you haven't seen it, this is what happens.

They advertise a nice classic, using pictures of one that either isn't for sale or is from someone else's advert, with a classified price that is far too good to be true.

To be honest, it is so far under market value, that it doesn't set alarm bells ringing, then you need new batteries.

The seller always has a different name, but always has zero feedback.

The main text of the advert is always the same weird style like in the main image of this blog. Even though the content changes slightly, it is the same fonts and layout and looks almost like an embedded photo or cloned page rather than that anyone has typed anything in.

The e-mail to respond to is always the same, and always different to the seller name, and so are the caveats over why and how you must contact them.

If you do, they will make sure that they find out where you are geographically before announcing that they are at the other end of the country, but promising to deliver the car to your door on receipt of the cash, often an even more reduced amount than in the advert.

They then send you a fake page from an e-mail address in Anguilla (that's in the Caribbean, which is odd because at least once they claimed to be from Gateshead) or somewhere purporting to be from ebay, I mean "an on-line auction company",  reassuring you that your money is protected.

If you are very dim, you then send them the cash and are instantly and significantly poorer.

One weekend evening, I more or less went to war with this crew. They were uploading tons of ads and as quick as they did so I was reporting them. But the speed (or lack of it) with which they were removed was pretty frustrating, as was the fact that some of them weren't removed at all.

So, when the auction sites aren't on top of the situation, despite being told, what can you do?

Personally I like the approach recently taken by some members of the Jensen Owners' Club.

Tired of seeing the same Interceptor cropping up for the umpteenth time under the same scam, rather than report it, they started bidding on it.

It was all very exciting (my life is quite dull!) flicking between the JOC forums and the on-line auction house, watching the price skyrocket and seeing the Jensen owners discussing who was bidding what.

It wasn't just a bit of fun though, it turned out to be highly effective. Within minutes they had bit it up to £200,000 and, hey presto, it disappeared.

The whole process in getting it removed was a lot quicker and less painful than going through the official channels. And more fun, too.

So, that's what I suggest everyone does. But make damned sure they are a scammer before you bid some Ford Pop up to a million quid!

In the meantime, despite the levity of this, scamming is very serious and potentially ruinous threat. Please be on your guard.

Plus, I make this pledge – let me (or anyone else at C&SC) know about any proven scams you spot and we promise to spread the word through the classic community.

Note 1: if the specific example I have quoted above is not a scam, please get in touch... and I'll give you some tips on putting together a more trustworthy Ad.

Note 2: on second thoughts, maybe bidding everything up to £200,000 isn't such a good idea. Do it at your own peril!