Internet Scam

      It all started when I decided to sell my prized 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser. The old horse had served me well for three years as a driver to school, but after Shirley and I retired, our need for an extra mode of transportation diminished somewhat. Actually, that’s only partially true; the main reason I decided to sell it was so I could buy another car and sell it…and then buy another car and…well, you get the picture. It’s just hard to get all the gasoline out your blood when you’ve made a living for a few years selling cars, even if it’s been a few years ago.
     Since we are living in a (for us) new area, I wasn’t aware of any local newspapers to advertise in, so I decided to place an ad with I took the usual pictures, wrote a glowing description of the vehicle, emailed the ad in, and sat back to await the phone to ring or my Yahoo email box to fill up.
     A week went by. No phone calls. No emails. Nada. I reduced the price a bit, but still not a single contact…until yesterday. Now, here is my routine every morning since I have retired: I awake at By I am bicycling briskly around the neighborhood in a rectangular route for exactly 3.2 miles. I then park my bike, and begin running a circuit which covers about 1.5 miles. I then come back into the house, cool down a bit, and have a light breakfast of dry wheat toast, fat free jelly, and black coffee. Afterward, I kick on the Wii Fit hardware and shadow box and jog in place for 30 minutes. A quick shower follows these exercises, after which I settle down with the Houston Chronicle to keep track of all the local murders, robberies, and political scandals. I finish my morning with some time on the computer as I check my friends on FaceBook and monitor my blog.
     If you have just read the previous paragraph and believed what you read, boy, do I have a car deal for you! The truth is, I get up, read the paper, eat two Pop Tarts with a big glass of milk, and that’s my morning. The previous paragraph sounds good, however, and sometimes we writers describe things with a little…um…flourish. We call it artistic license.
     Anyway, on this particular morning when I opened my Yahoo email, there was a message about my car. It was very brief and said he/she was very excited about the car, and would I please send them some photos and the price. Well, that seemed a little strange, since the only place my car is advertised is with Autotrader, and the ad has photos, description, and price. But, thinking happy thoughts, I sent all the car info to the email address. Within ten minutes I had a response. To wit:
     “Thanks for your email. The car is good. I’m ready to buy it immediately. I will be paying through PayPal. All I need is your email address, name and address, so I can arrange payment and pickup.” He went on to say that he could not talk to me directly because he was a sailor, and he would have an agent pick up the car. Well, I have used PayPal often to pay for items through eBay, but never in an independent sale, so I emailed him back saying I would check with PayPal to confirm the procedures. He said no problem and would await my instructions. I emailed a question to PayPal about the transaction, and, sure enough, a person can use PayPal for practically anything now days, including independent car deals. All I needed to give the buyer was my email address, and he could deposit payment directly into my PayPal account. PayPal said I didn’t even need to give him my name and address until the funds were deposited in my account and we were ready to arrange pickup of the car. PayPal gave me one bit of advice: if I received a PayPal email confirming that funds had been deposited in my account, do not believe it…confirm it. There had been incidences of fake but official-looking PayPal notices of fund deposits being sent to unsuspecting sellers.
     I emailed my buyer the PayPal procedures, and he responded, “I’ll make the deposit as soon as possible.” And sure enough, about an hour later, I received an email from confirming deposit of all funds….even the funds for the shipping charges. The shipping charges amounted to $735.00, which in my vast experience with automobiles tells me the car was going to be shipped about 1300 miles away from Houston. That seemed a little strange, also, since although I love my little PT Cruiser, if I wanted to buy one, I would not need to have one shipped to me. I’d just go down to the nearest car lot. PT Cruisers are not exactly a rare breed.
     So, I did what PayPal (God bless ‘em) suggested I do. I went on line to confirm the money, and, sure enough, no money. So then I stopped to read all the fine print in this two page “official” PayPal email. Here’s what it told me I had to do “prior to confirmation of full funding.” Since the funds allegedly coming to me included the shipping charges, I had to send a Western Union money order to the shipper for payment of shipping charges. When the shipper received the money order, the funds for the car would be released into my PayPal account. The person to whom I was to send the money was an individual who lived on a highway on the outskirts of Flowery Branch, Georgia (no doubt a major trucking terminal.)
     So the scam is the poor victim, namely me, is supposed to send $735.00 in certified, non-recoverable funds to this address in Georgia and then wait for the deposit into his PayPal account, which of course never happens. Instead, I emailed my “buyer” and told him that if you can PayPal payment to one person, you can do it to two, namely me and the shipper. Send me my money and send the shipper his, and we’ll all be happy. That was the last I heard of my hot-to-buy sailor. I didn't sell my car, but I didn't lose $735.00, either. I contacted PayPal and sent them all the information and copies of the emails. I do have a name and address in Georgia, but it’s probably an empty mobile home. I wonder how often people like this are successful in scamming a victim. At $735.00 a scam, it wouldn’t take long to make some real good money. I know that on eBay thousands of cars are sold every year to buyers who do not see their vehicles before they are delivered to their doorsteps, but when someone tells me he’ll buy my car sight unseen with no price negotiation, my old used car salesman instincts rise up. Car salesmen (and there are many honest ones) will tell you that there is only one group of people who can lie even more boldly than car salesmen…and that’s car buyers.
     One more thing. If you need a good, economical, sporty, stylish car that’s priced right and dependable as a mother’s love….I have a car for you! There I go again.