Sunday, October 15, 2006
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
Some day, I think Robb and I should give up our art careers, and become internet scam detectives.
Since my hit-and-run accident, we have been quietly shopping around for a new car. We would like a used station wagon, preferably one that doesn't suck down a huge amount of gasoline. Really, I would just like my old car back (only with slightly better gas mileage). One car that caught our eye is the VW Jetta diesel turbo wagon, which we could run on biodiesel. Unfortunately, these are a relatively new model, and are not in our price range. I want to buy the car outright, and not have to worry about financing and car payments.
So, Robb was amused when he saw listing on eBay for the 2004 version of this car, with the "buy it now" price of $6,200, and an offer of free shipping to anywhere in the United States.
Robb often describes himself as an internet scam magnet. When we were shopping for our current computer, many nice people in Bulgaria made all sorts of astonishing offers. And then there was the Yahoo auction site, where an identify thief made off with $800 of Robb's and thousands more from about a dozen other people. (Yahoo auctions is the internet equivalent of the Wild West as far as we are concerned. We re-couped $250 from this transaction.)
We also get our fair share of letters from hitherto unknown African friends who hope that we will babysit a few million dollars for them in our savings accounts.
The most recent missive of this sort was from a childless widowed South African woman, who is now recovering from a stroke, but dying of cancer, in Nigeria. She has fifteen and a half million dollars which she either wants to donate to an orphanage, or a nice Christian person. Leaving her husband's fortune to his non-believer relatives is apparently prohibited by her religious beliefs, and so she apparently wishes our assistance in this matter. She kindly discourages us from telephoning her regarding her health because her heathen in-laws are taking adequate, if not Christian, care of her. Poor dear!
Robb is not one to merely roll his eyes at scammers. He likes to toy with them. He decided to write the Jetta seller and ask for a little more information, before reporting him to eBay.
This is the reply he got:
Hello, I am glad to hear that you are interested about my car. The car is in perfect conditions without any scratches, damages or other mechanical problems. About the shipping taxes you don't have to worry because I will pay for it. You will receive the TITLE, keys and owner's manual. I live in Germany and I bought this car from United States so it has US emissions and is still registered there. I can't find a buyer in my country so I want to sell it in US. I took care of it like it was my own baby and now is in the same condition as it was when I bought it - even better! I want to take this opportunity to assure you that this deal is 100% legitimate. This deal will happen through EBAY. So if you really want it please give me an email as soon as possible. Thank you for your interest, Gerhard
Notice that while this seller assures us of the 100% legitimacy of the offer, he never actually promises to send along the automobile!
eBay has already removed this auction.