Amazon Payments Scam via Cars.com et al
We look at another Bargain Hunter scammer today. I rate this chap higher than last week’s Bargain Hunter scammer because, as you’re about to see, today’s scammer puts a lot more effort into what he does.
So here we go, the Bargain Hunter scam is a four pronged attack which starts at cars.com
1. Scammer Sets the Trap
This ad on cars.com is for a 1998 BMW 323.
* 3/12/2013 update – this scammer has multiple postings on cars.com, here is another *
* 3/20/2013 update – listing from 3/12/2013 update is still active (1993 Mazda Miata MX-5), but seller is now using Devin Briese (email@example.com) *
At $5,100 it’s a pretty sweet deal, but it just gets better the more you chat to the gent behind the sale.
2. Victim Takes the Bait
+1 to this scammer from the get go because from what I can tell he is sampling his replies, i.e., he only replies to 1/ N requests for more information. Through sampling, he is significantly increasing the cost of an investigation and so mitigating the chance of getting caught.
After numerous attempts to make contact, I finally got a hit:
From: Adam Wigner (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: Cars.com used car lead for - 1998 BMW 323 Hi , My name is Adam, and I am emailing you about the 1998 BMW 323i Convertible that I have for sale. Here you have more information about my car (119,650 mileage , clean title , 6 Cyl. RWD , 4-wheel ABS , automatic transmission ) Black exterior with an excellent condition tan leather interior that is fully loaded with options. Flawless interior/exterior condition. I am selling it at this final price of $5,100 because my wife died in a bike accident few months ago and brings me bad memories and that's the reason I want to sell it asap. I along with my daughter decided to sell the house and we moved to my sister in Oklahoma City , OK trying to start a new life. Thank you
The highlighted line about moving is important. It sets the tone for what is about to come, i.e., the car is no longer in the location it was originally claimed to be (so I can’t see it in person)
3. Scammer Gains Victim’s Trust
I asked the scammer for more pics:
From: Subject: Cars.com used car lead for - 1998 BMW 323 Forgive my impatience, I did not know the car had such unfortunate memories for you. Regardless, when you can could you please send me more pictures? It's hard to know how good the condition is based upon a single pic. You surely have a much better life waiting for you in sunny oklahama. Once again, my deepest condolences for your loss, ultimately it's still a great car so I hope we can make this a good deal on both sides.
The scammer replies with more pics and tells me again that the car is no longer with him, but that’s okay because it is now with Amazon!
From: Adam Wigner (email@example.com) Subject: Cars.com used car lead for - 1998 BMW 323 Hi , Please find the pics attached ! As I told you in my first e-mail we decided to move to my sister, trying to start a new life here. I am located in Oklahoma City (the car is in Oklahoma City too). Before leaving I had prearranged the deal with Amazon Payments. The car is now located at Amazon's shipping company sealed with all papers, ready to be delivered. The deal includes free delivery and it will arrive at your address in 3 days along title and bill of sale. You will have 5 days to test it and inspect the car and if by any reason you find something you don't like about it you can send it back at my expense. If you are interested in knowing more info about how it works please click here on Amazon Payments and register, once you do that, Amazon Payments will send you the invoice with all the payment and shipping details you will also have proof that I am covered by them and a legitimate seller. Thank you
Free delivery of a car at that price, now that’s a deal for sure!
The Amazon Payments URL points to http://www.billing-support.com/, which is the real prize in this investigation. It allows us to get an idea of what else this fraudster is up to. From the Services tab:
* 3/20/2013 update – scammer is now using amazon-payments-secure-business.com *
I loved this from the Top Questions section:
Just to be clear: billing-support.com is a scam! Amazon does not provide escrow services of this nature and is in no way affiliated with billing-support.com.
4. Victim Sends Money
I followed the scammer’s instructions and registered with billing-support.com. Shortly thereafter I received the following email claiming to be from Amazon Payments:
From: Amazon Payments (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: Amazon FPS Invoice Thanks for using Amazon FPS for this order, ! The next step is to pay for your item. Check out and pay to get your item as soon as possible. Purchasing Information For Your Secure Amazon FPS Invoice Seller: Adam Wigner Buyer: Order Summary Item: 1998 BMW 323 Item(s) Subtotal: $5,100.00 Deposit: $2,100.00 Remaining Balance: $3,000.00 Shipping & Handling: $0.00 Inspection Period: 5 calendar days Amazon Fee paid by: Seller Quantity: 1 ------ Total for this Order: $5,100.00 Payment Instructions: How to make the payment? The first deposit of $2,100.00 must be submitted via MoneyGram service to the Amazon FPS Verified Agent in charge of your transaction. The Amazon FPS Verified Agent will secure the payment until you receive, inspect and accept the vehicle. You have to pay at any MoneyGram office with CASH using MONEY TRANSFER service, from your name and address as a Sender to our Amazon FPS Verified Agent name and address as a Receiver . Find the nearest MoneyGram office in your area. MoneyGram agents are post offices, exchange offices or retail locations - grocery stores, mail box centers, drug stores, travel agencies, depots, other retail locations . Give the form, the money(cash), and a proof of identity to the clerk. Pay with MoneyGram. It's the easy and fast way to pay online, and it lets you shop without sharing your financial details with sellers. Please note: This is done automatically by our system, choosing from the list of available agents, in order to ensure the impartiality of this deal. Amazon FPS Verified Agent First Name : Jonathan E. Last Name : Griffin Address : 4827 Noble Dr E City : Mobile State: AL Zip Code : 36619-1907 Country: United States Confirm the MoneyGram payment receipt at the following fax number: +1 ( 719 ) 362-3997. *** Please do not make any marks on the transfer copy. The following information must be readable *** - E-mail us the following details from the payment receipt: - Reference Number - 8 digits number from the receipt ; - Sender's Name and Address ; - Receiver's Name and Address ; - Exact Amount Sent . Please note: This invoice was sent to the following e-mail address: Have questions about this order? Contact Amazon FPS . Thank you for using Amazon Payments. Amazon Flexible Payments Service (Amazon FPS). Earth's Biggest Selection.
If you’re new to the Bargain Haunter scam, the fraud here is that our seller does not actually own the car, or at least has no intention of selling it. He wants me to wire money to Jonathan E Griffin in Mobile, AL. The chances are that Jonathan is but a money mule who has been conned into some other scam and is now expecting money to be sent to him. Once I send the money off, I won’t be receiving anything from Amazon Payments, for this is all just an illusion.
When Jonathan E Griffin gets my money, he may keep a small percentage for himself (perhaps as payment for being a Mystery Shopper) and then sends the balance off to another victim (or quite possibly the scammer).
The scammer launders the money through multiple victims so as to introduce complexity, cost and ultimately throw the law enforcement/investigators off of his tail. Sooner or later the money will exit the money mule ring and make its way to the scammer, if you follow the trail for long enough it always does.
Note that the email from Amazon Payments came from marketplace-safety-transactions.com and not the domain that I originally registered with. As a result, marketplace-safety-transactions.com is also in on the scam. If you’re considering any kind of transaction with anyone from this domain, caveat emptor, for you have been warned!
What to score this scammer?
I think it’s only fair to recognize the effort this scammer put into his scam. Note the Vehicle Report I received from Amazon Payments along with the invoice:
Sure it’s all just text and it’s cheap and it does not mean anything, but it does show that he put effort into being the best scammer he could be (which is not that much, but still a noteworthy effort). Most of the bozos I deal with try to quickly pull this off all via one or two emails sent from their gmail accounts. Furthermore, he sent me a unique tracking id when I registered (referred to as a Case Id #), which means he is persisting state on his servers. So he has a little DB running behind this which means he had to develop it himself or invest time and money paying someone who could put this together for him.
At the end of the day, I rate this scammer 5/10
- 1 point for a classic Bargain Hunter scam
- 1 point for sampling the emails he responded to
- 1 point for involving Amazon Payments and leveraging off of a great brand
- 1 point for registering a sharp looking domain that looks pretty similar to Amazon Payments
- 1 point for the tracking code