Friday, January 26, 2007

International Internet SCAMBUSTERS!! (Attempted)

We've been advertising Wallace for sale on some antique car sites, as well as Craigslist. I got an email from a Don Mcwen asking the lowest price I'd take. I told him $25K and he was agreeable. "Give me your account number and I'll wire the money too you." Uh, no. But he was welcome to mail me a cashiers check. He could purchase Wallace outright, or $2000 would hold him for 10 days.

A few days later I received a UPS envelope with a check from a hotel in Maryland, for $4500. I called the number on the check and confirmed my suspicions. The owner of the inn said I was the second call that day. She had been on the phone to the bank already. The other recipient had been selling a $3000 car but was sent a faux check for $5K. I assume part two was to ask her to send the difference.

A Mercer Island cop came over to collect the evidence. He connected me with a detective in the fraud division, and we tried to set up a sting. I invited "Don" (English was obviously his second language) to come see the car. If he liked it, great, and if not, I would refund his $4500. I hoped a free car and a handful of cash would be enough inducement for him to show up.

He agreed to send his "shipper and lawyer" with another check for the remainder. Detective Wheeler started putting a team together. I was aquiver with excitement - how fun it would be to catch a rat in a trap of his own making!

He wasn't quite as dumb or greedy as I'd hoped, unfortunately. He asked me to wire the $2000 to the shipper "for travel expenses" so she could come collect the car, and she would deliver a check for the rest.

The police agreed with me that drawing him out wasn't going to happen. One time a scammer had sent a cabbie to get a check, but they'd never been able to grab anyone who was involved.

I got a second email urging me to Western Union the money to the shipper. I wrote back "Nice try. I'm not that stupid."

Keep on your toes, guys, and let's be careful out there.

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