Classiified Ads

More Spam than Scam, but still….

Dodge Dart on Craigslist

We’ve been selling cars and motorbikes recently on CraigsList and have noticed a pattern – someone replies to the ad expressing interest and asking all the right kind of questions, but always include ‘Do you have a VIN report on the {vehicle}?’. A fair enough question, but when you reply in the negative, they quickly reply back with a message something like this:

“If you don’t have one I would appreciate if you could obtain it from bike…..vin.com. They are much more reliable and cheaper than others, such as carfax and autocheck. I am very interested in your ride but I have to check it our first. All the data I need is on the report. If everything is good, I would like to meet you on Sunday if it’s good with you.”

The message is chatty and holds out the hope of a successful purchase, but after getting two or three of these I saw the red flags.

The domain names change but I suspect the underlying organization is the same. If you see this kind of solicitation [on Craigslist], hit the ‘Please flag unwanted messages (spam, scam, other):’ link and maybe these people will start going away.

As I said, not a scam as such, more of a spam solicitation, disguised as a potential buyer and as such, a time waster. If you are interested in getting this information, then the following might help you decide whether the cost is worth it:

The federal government offers VIN checks, free of charge, through the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which provides data on the vehicle’s current state of title and last title date, brand history, odometer reading, total loss history, and salvage history. The VINCheck tool permits five searches within a 24-hour period per IP address. Note that records can take up to six months to appear in the federal database and only show up if the event was recorded by an insurance company. Meanwhile, you can plug the VIN into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s database to find out if a vehicle has been recalled.
(excerpt from https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/how-can-i-get-a-free-vin-check)

So, before you respond to a request like this, strongly suspect that the person is more interested in getting you to sign up for their (possibly) bogus service than buying your ‘1974 Dodge Dart Swinger’!


Update 10 Dec 2017
So another one came just today. If I get this many within the space of two weeks then this must be a bot-operation. Craigslist should be made aware of these spam-soliciations. The text of this one reads:

"Thanks for contacting me back. That bike looks like you maintained it regularly. I would like to find out more about it, however. Do you have history report for it?
Respectfully yours, Amanda Heater"

‘Stop Art Scams’ blog

A California artist, Katie Moe, who describes herself as an ‘Artist and Anti-Scam Samurai’ has a blog devoted to informing fellow artists and other people about a common emailtype scam, the ‘Art Scam’.

A spam email will ask to buy something from your website or for you to source and provide products (usually high value items or a large number of items that add up to a high value. Payment is a (stolen) credit card or a (counterfeit) check and in most cases, there is a requirement to ‘forward’ an overpayment to a third party, usually a shipping or customs agent. The overpayment is always demanded by Western Union and is always overseas. Often this is the payload. Everything else is just window dressing. If you are stupid enough to send the products you will probably lose them.

The joy at getting a lucrative, large order can blind people to the sometimes obvious red flags. This is when the scammers win big!

Read her blog, she specializes in this type of scam and has seen them all!

http://stopartscams.blogspot.com/

Spoof websites bilk Caledonia man out of $30K

A man in Caledonia, Wisconsin thought he was buying a car from a reputable website (autotrader.com) and paying for it using a reputable financial site (amazonpayments.com). Turned out that both sites were so-called ‘spoof sites’ – Identical copies of valid website, used to capture personal information such as credit card numbers/passwords or, as in this case, to make it appear that a bona-fide tramsaction was taking place.2009 Porsche Cayman

The Porche Cayman he paid $30,000 for did not show up and by the time he realised, the cash had flown to Romania.

The lesson?

Never trust a link supplied to you from email or a website, especially if it is a financial transaction. Always go independantly to websites using your own bookmarks or typing the url in. it’s insanely easy to show the ‘correct’ link but to go to a different one when it is clicked. Financial Sites Always use ‘https’ instead of ‘httpd’. No Exceptions. Look at your online bank url when you are logged in some time.

Check the address bar of your browser. It’s trying to keep you safe.

Read More at the Caledonia Patch website (it’s the real one, trust me!)

WORK FROM HOME!!! (yep, it’s yet another scam)

Anyone online or offline has seen the ads by now –

Money Motivated Pros | Team Leaders Needed | Looking for Recruiters | Professionals Needed | Remote Agents Needed | Top Guns Only | Business Development | Marketing Reps | Senior Account Executives |
Promotional Managers | Looking for Talent | Junior Account Executive | Marketing and Sales | We Need Strong Phone Associates – Incoming Calls | Seasoned Reps /Team Leaders | Looking for Experienced Team Builders | Inbound Phone Associates |Sales Openers and Closers Needed Now – All Inbound | Confident Strong Reps for Easy Phone Work | Inbound Sales/Marketing Representatives | Phone Based Sales | Team Leaders Needed – All Calls Incoming

Whether it’s spam, popups, ads on your favorite website, flyers stuffed in your letterbox or even personal solicitation – it’s everywhere and there is a very good reason.

I’m talking about the ‘Free Cash Machine’ or ‘Daily Income Career Network’  (aka hundreds of other names which change daily).

It’s an operation which while technically isn’t a scam, it sails as close to the ‘S’ word as possible and uses every unethical and questionably moral trick in the very same book that scammers use.

How it works
Daily Income Network Video – How it all works (according to them)

This is a very sophisticated operation that strings together every tried and trusted technique (Ponzi, MLM, Affiliate Marketing, Spam, Deceptive Advertizing) into one large funnel, with your money at one end and their bank account at the other.

Their advertising is very keen to make out that it costs you nothing (to get started). This alone helps them get past one hurdle, the on-line job websites will not accept any vacancy that carried an up-front fee. So that means that CareerBuilder, Craigslist, Your-Local-Classifieds and more will be full of the same ad in a different cloak.

Scam Job Listing on CareerBuilder

Part 1 – Trainee
After looking through their training materials, it first appears that the ‘job’ is signing up for trial periods with web-based companies (such as Free Credit Reports, ID Protection, Satellite Dishes etc.). After doing this, the job is to get as many other people to do the same thing. This generates affiliate income which is where all the $20 bills start appearing. Spam more of the people you know into signing up for dodgy services and the more money you make. (more…)

Mystery Shopper Scam – How and Why it works

Here’s a little email I receive quite often – I assumed these were scams, but never got round to ionvestigating them until now.  from a Javier Hines [otakvenezi@webvis.net] email address, but wants replies to Michael Bernard [michael.bernard55@gmail.com].

Irvine, CA 92604-3703

Thank you for your interest in the Mystery Shopper position.

Our company conducts surveys and evaluates other companies in order to help them achieve their performance goals.
We offer an integrated suite of business solutions that enables corporations to achieve tangible results in the marketplace.
We get hired by other companies and act like customers to find out how they are handling their services in relation to their customers.

Mystery Shopping is the most accurate and reliable tool a business can use to gather information regarding their actual customer service performance at the moment of truth. This moment of truth is not when the staff is on their best behavior because the boss is around – it is when they interact with customers during their normal daily routines.
This is where you, the Mystery Shopper, come in. You pose as an ordinary customer and provide feedback of both factual observations (ex…the floor was free of debris) and your own opinions (ex…I felt that the temperature in the establishment was too cold).

Mystery Shoppers must remain anonymous. You must act as a regular customer and be careful not to do anything that would reveal you as a shopper. An inexperienced shopper could tip off the staff to his/her identity by asking for the manager’s name for no clear or appropriate reason. If you are going to be bringing someone with you on the shop, make sure you educate them about the process as well. Beware that even whispers can be overheard by employees. If anyone notices you are a shopper, you can bet that word will quickly spread around the establishment and you will get some of the best customer service in town.
No company can afford to have a gap between the promise of quality and its actual delivery, that’s why leading corporations look to us, the nation’s premiere mystery shopping and customer experience measurement company.

In order for a business to effectively compete in today’s economy, they must be prepared to meet the challenge of increasing sales by:
* Retaining existing customers
* Acquiring new customers
* Creating word-of-mouth advocacy
* Improving customer loyalty

Once we have a contract to do so, you would be directed to the company or outlet, and you would be given the funds you need to do the job(either purchase merchandise or require services), after which you would write a detailed report of your experience.

Examples of details you would forward to us are:
1) How long does it take to get served.
2) Politeness of the attendant.
3) Customer service professionalism.
4) Sometimes you might be required to upset the attendant, to see how they deal with difficult clients.

Then we turn the information over to the company executives and they will carry out their own duties in improving their services.
Most companies employ our assistance when people complain about their services, or when they feel there is a need for them to improve upon their customer service.
Our company partners with you to implement proven mystery shop auditing and surveying strategies that provide critical information about customer experiences.
You will be paid a commission of $100 for every duty you carry out, and bonus on your transportation allowance.
Your task will be to evaluate and comment on customer service in a wide variety of restaurants, retail stores, casinos, shopping malls, banks and hotels in your area.

Qualities of a good Mystery Shopper:
* Is 21 years of age or older
* Loves to go shopping
* Is fair and objective
* Is ON TIME
* Is very observant and able to focus on details
* Is fairly intelligent
* Has patience
* Is detail oriented
* Is practical
* Types well
* Is trustworthy
* Explains well in writing
* Is discreet
* Loves to learn
* Handles deadlines
* Has full internet access (at home or at work)

Mystery Shopping is fun and exciting but also must be approached very seriously and is definitely not for everyone.
If you are interested in applying for consideration as a Mystery Shopper do send in your information only at our e-mail:  michael.bernard55@gmail.com

Full Name:           Address:
City:                      State:
Zip Code:             Phone Number:
Age:                      Occupation:

As soon as we receive your information we will add you to our database and we will look for locations in your area that needs to be evaluated. If you have any questions please reply on our e-mail: michael.bernard55@gmail.com

Thank you,
Michael Bernard
Best Surveys, 505 Barranca Parkway, michael.bernard55@gmail.com

Now this sounds good – and fun too – we all want to reward good service and punish bad service – and who doesn’t want to go shopping?? 🙂

Well, this is just our old friend the counterfeit check scam in another guise. At some time you’ll probably end up having to cash a large check and ‘send the rest’ on to a wierd address by (guess who?) Western Union (‘The Scammers Best Friend’).

Also seen as postings on CraigsList or print classified ads or sent to people who are looking for employment on Dice/Monster etc. Job sites – The ‘job’ sounds very attractive and would obviously appeal to candidates such as home makers, Pensioners and other people with free time who want to make a little extra cash.

The Federal Trade Commission offers some advice about becoming a “mystery shopper”:

The truth is that it is unnecessary to pay money to anyone to get into the mystery shopper business. The shopping certification offered in advertising or unsolicited email is almost always worthless. A list of companies that hire mystery shoppers is available for free; and legitimate mystery shopper jobs are on the Internet for free. Consumers who try to get a refund from promoters of mystery shopping jobs usually are out of luck. Either the business doesn’t return the phone calls, or if it does, it’s to try another pitch.

Here’s What SNOPES has to say on the subject:

Remember always, if you are asked to pay for the privilege of working (eg by needing to purchase training materials or obtain certification or register with a database of available mystery shoppers), you are probably being conned, avoiding being victimized in this fashion would be a relatively simple matter: all one would need to remember is, “If they want me to pay them, it’s a scam.” And that would be that.

Someone who answers a mystery shopper ad is sent an employment packet typically containing a variety of items, including a training assignment and a cashier’s check made out for a largish amount, typically a few thousand dollars. The assignment explains that the “shopper” is to pose as an ordinary bank customer (either at a particular named bank or his own), cash the check there, then wire the funds he receives from the teller to an address that has been supplied in the information package. The “shopper” will also typically be told it is imperative he complete the task within two days, or else he will not be paid for his work or hired again.

How to Avoid Falling Victim to ‘Secret Shopper’ Scams:

  • Remember that anyone can place a newspaper or online ad. Do not confuse the appearance of such solicitations in reputable forums with proof of the offers having been vetted by those publications or job search services.
  • Do not be lulled into a false sense of security by official-sounding corporate names. Some scam artists operate under business names that can be confused with those of long-standing, reputable firms. Others choose impressive-sounding evocative names that roll satisfyingly off the tongue. In both instances, they count on their pigeons being mollified by the sound of the name rather than inspired to research the company on their own.
  • Don’t pay a company to hire you, not even if such payment is presented as your buying necessary training materials, obtaining required certification, or registering with databases of available mystery shoppers. Remember, if the process involves your sending your “employers” money, it’s probably a scam.
  • Be wary of companies that ask you to disburse money from your own pocket for the goods you buy as their secret shopper. While some legitimate mystery shopper companies do operate in this fashion (with their employees submitting receipts for what they bought along with their reports, then being reimbursed in full), the more prudent aspiring secret shoppers will tread carefully in this regard at least for the first few transactions, rather than plunge in wildly and make large purchases with their own cash.
  • Do not wire money to strangers or to firms that have supposedly hired you. Use entities such as Western Union and MoneyGram only when you know the person who will be receiving your cash very, very well. Remember, that while a charge made against a credit card can be disputed and a check can have a stop-payment order issued against it, once cash is out the door, it is gone forever. Since wiring money is sending cash, treat it that way.
  • If you have questions about the legitimacy of a job listing, contact your Better Business Bureau, your state or local consumer agency, or the Federal Trade Commission.

Been Scammed on CraigsList? – New Service from Scamdex

Back in 2008, Scamdex found a blog devoted to outing the huge population of scammers to whom Craigslist is a God-given opportunity to rip off people the world over. The Blog, Exposing scam artists who use Craigslist
is still here but hasn’t been updated for a while, which is a shame.

Scamdex’s Scam Tip Off Service

Scam Tip Off

I created a service to allow people to quickly log any instances they see of scams online. There are other services that allow this but I didn’t find on that I liked. These were the criteria I felt were important:

  • Completely Anonymous (if desired) logging in several different categories.
  • No username/signup process keeps it simple and quick.
  • Few mandatory fields. If you dont know the fax number, I won’t bust your balls!
  • High Search Engine visibility. Scamdex has always relied on Search Engines, especially Google, for indexing of it’s information. 85% our visitors come to Scamdex through a search engine query.

You can see what has already been logged Here and Add information Here. The app is under continuous development and I am working on tools to aggregate similar and identical reports. Any feedback is gratefully received (just make a comment here)