Bargain Hunters, Craigslist and Google Wallet
Today’s scammer adds a little bit of a twist in step four of the Bargain Hunter scam, it’s not a game changer but it’s simple and interesting enough that I thought it deserves a post of its own. If you’re not familiar with the scam, do some quick reading and then let’s get down to brass tacks with the four steps of the scam:
1. Scammer Sets the Trap
The car is very well taken care of. Almost all miles on the car are highway miles, and I have routine maintenance done efficiently. I have had absolutely NO body, engine, or any work of any kind since I have owned it. I am the first owner, and have had schedule maintenance done at a Toyota dealer. Never had a single problem and runs like I had originally bought it. Kept extremely clean, with yearly scheduled detail appointments. The price is FIRM, and well below book value so low-ball offers ar not appreciated, nor will they be considered, so please save your time and keep them
At this price, the Camry is a good deal which gets better upon contacting the scammer.
2. Victim Takes the Bait
I sent an email to the address highlighted in the ad (email@example.com) asking if the Camry was still available. The scammer responded from a different Gmail account:
From: Victor Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org) Hey, This is Victor. I just got your email about my 2002 Toyota Camry LE. It's in perfect condition, no engine problems. It's exactly like it's shown in the pictures. I have all manuals, receipts, documents. It has no damage, no scratches or dents, no hidden defects. It was always garaged and never been smoked in. It has been extremely well maintained with a full service history. Clean title in hand, with no loans or liens on it. It has 120,600 miles, automatic transmission, 3.0L V6 engine, power moonroof, ice cold a/c, alloy wheels, power seat, power windows and locks, factory am/fm stereo cd and more. This is a worry free car and gas saver. It does not need anything additional to function. The price for the car is $3,900. To support my argument regarding the condition of the car, I've added a brief photo-presentation. Please visit the following link for more details: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/113831052753381702224/albums/5864391620687550417 Email me ASAP if you are interested in buying it. Thanks
3. Scammer Gains Victim’s Trust
I thanked Victor for the pictures. Such a grand car for such a sweet price. Victor replies with an explanation of why the car is not in the location where it was advertised to be (he is in the military) and that this will be a sale without an in-person inspection. I am told not to worry because the transaction will be proxied through someone that I already trust: Google.
From: Victor Morgan (email@example.com) Hey, I am currently stationed at Fort Irwin (U.S. Military training base in CA) making final preparations before deploying to Afghanistan. The car is here with me at the base and if we reach an agreement the shipping won't be a problem because military has a considerable discount, so I can handle it by myself with no charges whatsoever on your account. Shipping may take anywhere between 2 to 3 business days depending on the destination. All documents you need for ownership, manuals and bill of sale will be provided along with the car. I am currently signed up with Google Wallet and I would like to close the deal through them. If you are not aware of Google Wallet you should know that it will allow you to test drive and inspect the car before paying me. In this way you're not buying something sight unseen. You will have a 5-day inspection period to decide whether you want to keep the car or not before they release the funds to me. If you decide not to keep it Google Wallet will refund you the money, no questions asked, and shipping back will be my concern. I think this is more than fair for both of us. If you want to buy it please email me back with: - your full name and address - required by Google Wallet (you'll receive important guidelines + instructions from them.). I want to point out that because I am going to Afghanistan this sale is my top priority and I am looking after a fast transaction, with no delays. That is why I decided to lower the price, to avoid wasting time with negotiations and find a buyer as soon as possible. Thanks, Sgt. Victor Morgan
When I let Sgt Victor know that this all sounds great, he then asked for my personal details so that he could arrange for Google Wallet to contact me.
I supplied these details and was quickly disappointed when he did not take the time to verify who I was. As I have mentioned before, verifying who I am does add a cost to carrying out a scam but it also adds a stumbling block to investigators (reducing the chance that he is busted).
4. Victim Sends Money
A day or so later I received an email from Google Wallet (firstname.lastname@example.org):
They asked me to go to MoneyGram and send a payment to the following Google Account Manager (the money mule in this transaction, probably another victim): Ashley Holman from 5541 Walnut St, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15232
Instead of asking for a smaller deposit, this scammer is asking for the full amount in two separate payments. I would think that this would set off some alarm bells here for potential victims. I’d wager this scammer would increase his profits by not being so greedy. Surely a potential victim would be more inclined to quickly send a deposit of $950 than two separate payments for larger amounts?
Regardless, what’s interesting about this scammer is what he did with the googlewallet-transactions.com domain; it 302 redirects to Google Wallet!
It’s so simple, but I’m guessing very effective! Instead of setting up a domain that looks similar to Google Wallet, he is sending people straight to Google Wallet.
“So if the domain emailing me says it’s from Google Wallet and visiting this domain in my Browser takes me to Google Wallet, then this must be Google Wallet, right?”
Not surprisingly, upon agreeing to pay this bozo, he asks us to tell MoneyGram that he is a relative (saving him unneccessary fees):
From: Victor Morgan (email@example.com) Please do me a big favor, when you will send the money to Google Wallet, if the MoneyGram clerk asks you what is the transfer for, if you can, please just tell them that you are sending the funds to a friend or relative, otherwise, I will be charged with some extra fees. This way I am trying to avoid some unwanted taxes, and I hope you understand me because I already pay shipping, handling and insurance. It will help me a lot. I understand if you can't do it. Thanks, Victor
What to score this fraudster?
At the end of the day this is an ordinary scam executed by an ordinary scammer. I liked the 302 redirect to Google Wallet but did not like the fact that he didn’t take two minutes to verify my details.
We’ve seen smarter scammers who put a little more effort into their scam by sampling their replies, not being too greedy on the money wired through and even setting up a little ticketing system behind the site that hijacked a popular brand.
In my opinion, this scammer has a long way to go. He scores a deplorable 3/10:
- 1 point for a classic Bargain Hunter scam
- 1 point for hijacking the Google brand
- 1 point for the nifty 302 redirect straight to the official Google Wallet site