As we all know, ebay is THE place to find almost everything you are looking for at a reasonable price.
I found my dream car on ebay. A beautiful shiny purple XR 8 falcon. And look at the starting bid price! WOW!! I can afford that! and look at the buy it now option. That can't be right?? these things are worth 5 times that!
O.K. I'm interested. No, more than interested. I WANT IT! YESTERDAY!!
Lets contact the seller (the seller wants you to contact them to be placed on the approved bidders list). Contact email was sent through ebay together with an O.K whats wrong with the car question.
Email promptly returned with the response that there is nothing wrong with the car, just can't be registered in the USA. Alright then, sounds reasonable. Me thinks that there is still something suspicious about the deal.
The next series of emails happen outside of ebay as the seller uses your personal email address for all further correspondence. O.K said I, I'll buy the car from you and have it shipped back to Australia. I Provided the requested details of who I was and where the car was to be shipped to the seller. Bingo the cars mine I thinks. I return to ebay to complete the buy it now option. Thats strange. The advert has dissapeared. Oh, well me thinks. The seller has removed the ad due to me offering to buy the car.
The next email requests that I send via Western union, a deposit to start the shipping ball rolling. Um, sorry mister seller, can't do that its outside the ebay rules and not safe to do so. No problem replies the seller, we'll use an escrow agent appointed by the shipping company to handle the transaction and that way your money will be safe and won't be released until the car arrives and you're satisfied with it. I have arranged buyers insurance to further protect your money for you. The car will arrive in 5 - 6 days. Alarm bells start to ring. A ship that can sail from America to Australia after waiting to be loaded that quick!WOW!! I think I want the ship intead (It's obviously faster than the car!!). Bugger it, I want the ship so I can enter the Americas cup and win it for Australia. We're going to be GUARANTEED to win it again!
I send the seller another request email to obtain all the essential information about the car. i.e. Registration number, VIN number Engine number etc. I think I'll play the game and see where it leads. Its highly unlikely that I'm really going to get the car that cheap but stranger things have been known to happen. You know the story, a friend of a friend of mine bought this car real cheap as the result of divorce proceedings etc. The ad is at least no longer on ebay. The seller sais no problem, here are the details of the car you require.
Shortly thereafter, an email arrives from a US shipping company. An independant escrow agent has been appointed and the Western Union transfer needs to be made to this 3rd party in order to commence the shipping process. OK, the email looks official, has a shipping tracking number that can be traced. Even has a fax number to send the payment details to.
I decide I best look a little deeper. A good search engine locates the shipping company for me no problem. I enter the tracking number and alas its no good. It's Sunday in the US the shipping company is closed until Monday. It's possible that the details haven't hit their system yet.
I decide that speaking to the seller is a good idea at this point and request a telephone number. It is provided no problem. Gee, the number is even in America (and the right part of it). So is the fax number. I check the World time and find the time that isn't the middle of the night over there. It is here though!
I place the call and the phone rings. An answering machine picks up so I leave a message. At least the number I have been given actually exists.
I get another email from the seller. Sorry I'm not home yet, give me your number and I'll call you when I get home. OK. Sounds fair I say and provide my number.
An hour or so later the phone rings. Alright the time difference is spot on! I'm on the phone to the seller at 3am our time.
Why are you selling so cheap I ask? The explanation that followed sounded reasonable enough. The car was won in a raffle while on holiday here and looked great, so I shipped it home with me. Found I couldn't register the car here and since it doesn't owe me anything..........
O.K. The story all fits together very nicely. The seller has made something that seemed highly unlikely seem very possible indeed. I may be getting the deal of my lifetime after all.
Next step. I'm armed with all the necessary numbers to start checking the cars history. Before I spend any money, lets find out if the car is stolen. (You would think so at the price!) No, not stolen and the numbers I have been given all check out. Hey wow! the car really does exist!! This is starting to look a little more promising!
I decide I'll have another late night and call the shipping company on the phone number I got from their legitimate web site just to be sure. I decide that following the email link probably wouldn't be wise. That bell is still making some noise!
Hey, the car exists and the numbers I have all match up with the right car and the reason for selling makes sense. The car hasn't been reported as stolen. I have an email from a shipping company that is legitimate and their website tells me about their escrow methods and that also rings true with what I've been told so far.
The little bell starts to fade further as my fears are slowly being eroded away by the legitimacy of what I'm discovering. I get a feeling come over me that I have seen this car somewhere before. Still have to run the securities check yet to make sure the car isn't subject to finance, but since I haven't spent any money yet I may as well speak to the shipping company just to be sure. Its only going to cost the price of a phone call and a little more lost sleep!
I'm sitting in front of the computer waiting for the shipping company to open. Got their US telephone number in front of me on their legitimate website. Toll free number too!
I'll just have a look around and see what these cars are currently worth in the dealers while I wait for the time difference. I have a look at the cars guide website and type into the search what I'm about to hopefully buy extremely cheap!
WOW!! Look at that!! Its the car that I'm getting shipped from the US!! How can that be possible? The rego number is in the picture! Sensational! I don't have to stay up and call the shipping company as the car is already here!! AND the showroom that its sitting in is only 10 minutes away from me!! I hurriedly fire off an email to the dealer. Do you still have the car? Can you call me when you open? Can I have it for $8500.00? Get a call from the dealer early the following morning. HA HA, sais the sales rep. VERY FUNNY! We can certainly accomodate you in the purchase of this vehicle sir, we can even offer immediate delivery. I' m looking at the car through the window at the moment. But terribly sorry on the price old chap!
I let them in on the story. Suffice to say they weren't overly happy as the dealer just happens to be a long established and very reputable dealer!
I suddenly realised at that moment, that yes I had indeed seen this car before. The pictures of it on the dealer site were the exact same ones from the ebay ad and I had actually looked at this car on the web a few months ago.
The article you have just read, is true in every detail.
All I can say is that if a deal appears to be too good to be true it probably is. I went into this sale with my eyes open and was prepared to check every detail of the sale before committing any of my hard earned. I even checked the sellers feedback score and comments. The seller hadn't actually sold anything recently but had a GREAT feedback score and comments.
PLEASE, if you happen on a deal like this one, tread carefully and be prepared to check everything before spending any of your money. Make sure you get all the right information and check it thoroughly. Don't follow email links. The emails that I received from the shipping company appeared authentic. And HEED THE WARNINGS ISSUED BY EBAY REGARDING MONEY TRANSFERS.
It is better to have a few late nights checking information before parting with your hard earned money than the hassles you would have trying to get it back!
I imagine I would have discovered the truth anyway when I spoke to the shipping company.
Fortunatley, this episode has only cost me 2 short phone calls to the US and a bit of lost sleep. It would have cost me a lot more had I not been prepared to check the authenticity of the deal.
Hope this helps you avoid the sharks in some small way and saves you a few dollars as well.
The incident has been officially reported to ebay.