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Bike Seller Warning - Scam Alert


The Sendback/Advance Fee Scam
Anatomy of the Scam Now Making the Rounds of BMW Car & Motorcycle Circles

The Sendback Scam is a variant of an old Nigerian fraud where a hapless victim is cajoled into giving out his personal and financial information as well as a "good faith payment" in order to receive a huge amount of money purportedly stolen or misappropriated by a Nigerian banker, government official, etc.

The way it works is simple - a Seller is contacted by a buyer or buyer's agent and an offer is made on the bike. The Seller accepts and the buyer sends along a (counterfeit/forged) payment, usually a money order or cashier's check. The fraud is that the check is for more than the asking price, and the difference is to be somehow sent, usually wired, along to the buyer or third party - the usual excuse is a payment to a shipper, a refund, a payment to a customs handler, etc. Of course the original check or money order is counterfeit, but oftentimes the bank will not catch it for a week or more, and by then the Hapless Seller has already wired off the "extra" amount. And to make matters worse, the bank will not honor the check/money order even though they may have already accepted the deposit and credited the funds to your account (they will take the funds back.) The Hapless Seller is then out the fees the bank may charge, any resulting headaches from writing checks or making withdrawals on a deposit that is later recaptured by the bank, and of course the funds sent off to the Buyer or Buyer's agents.

What follows is a great exchange between a scam artist and an informed seller that is "playing along." Note that the Sellers name and identifying features have been removed, replaced with bracketed descriptives, such as [Seller] and the like. Also notice that the e-mails from the scam artist often look like scripts with spaces and even parentheses for the perpetrator to simply insert the needed information for that particular scam.

The E-mail Exchange

Here we see the typical openings of a scam - a Yahoo! or other anonymous e-mail account, a foreign buyer's agent whose "real" buyer must remain anonymous, and obviously written from a script (notice the reference to a "Car"?)

From: "joseph keita" <joe_automotors@yahoo.com>
To: [Seller's E-mail]
Subject: ORDER--[Bike, a BMW Airhead]

Dear Sir/Madam.

I am Joseph Keita,sales manager for Joe motors autos,Plot 209/210 Osborne Road,South west Victoria Garden,Acrra,Ghana .We specialise in purchase of auto machines for customers here in Africa,and Europe,and we get paid in commission,after payment has been confirmed by the seller to the buyer.As present we have a customer interested in purchasing your car mentioned above for the sum of $4,000 and we will arrange for the pick up of the car once payment is confirmed cleared by the you.

Please acknowledge the offer and we will inform the buyer of your confirmation of acceptance to sell and have the funds remitted to you as soon as possible. NOTE: My customer is a diplomat here in africa and due to his job and duties he would want this to be kept in your utmost conifidentiality and trust,till the end of this transaction.I hope you can understand.

Thanks,

Joseph....

Our Seller knows this scam and decides to play along...

Joseph,

I would be interested in your offer. You would have to pay your own shipping. please let me know.

And the hook. The buyer just happens to have an $8,000 cashier's check laying around and would love to trust the Seller with $4,000 of his "extra" dollars. What's more, the Buyer is such a swell guy he is trusting the Seller to simply wire the money back to him after the Buyer has received a cashier's check. Notice the parenthesis around the Seller's bike, and the word BIKE in caps - it screams "Insert Here."

From: "joseph keita" <joe_automotors@yahoo.com>
To: [Seller's E-mail]
Subject: Re: PAYMENT METHOD--[Bike, a BMW Airhead]

[Seller's E-mail],

Thanks for your mail, my client has instructed me to inform you that payment will get to you in a cashier check of $8,000.00 which is a refund payment of a cancelled order earlier made by my client. Due to company policy this check has to be made out in this amount to you ,because company policy only allows a refund payment on one cashier check,so you are required to deduct cost of ( [Bike, a BMW Airhead] ) $4,000 when payment gets to you and refund balance $4,000.00 to my customer via western union money transfer for him to be able to offset shipping charges. After payment has reached you and balance sent back to him,our agent will come and pick up BIKE and drive to a prepaid shipper to be shipped to my customer,while necessary papers and other documets will be sent by you via fedex courier to my customer. Confirm this and provide name,address and phone number for check payment to be delivered to you via fedex courier.

Thanks and God Bless.

JOSEPH .....

Again, just playing along...

Joseph,

Thank you for your help, I really need the money, christmas and all. Please send the check to [Seller & Seller's Address]. I will do as you requested and send you the the remaining balance. Thanks again for everything.

Joseph, our kind-hearted Buyer, is ready to send the check. I am sure a color laser printer in Nigeria is busy printing off counterfeit cashier's checks (some unfortunately are very well done) and it should arrive at our Buyer's home any day now.

From: "joseph keita" <joe_automotors@yahoo.com>
To: <[Seller's E-mail]>
Subject: Re: PAYMENT METHOD--[Bike, a BMW Airhead]

[Seller],

Thanks for the reply and the info for the payment please send your phone number for fed ex to contract you.I wait for your response.

joseph......

The check did arrive, and looked quite genuine.

Unfortunately, the rest of the tale too often goes like this-

  • Seller receives counterfeit check from Buyer and notifies Buyer Check has been received.
  • Buyer instructs Seller to deposit check and withdrawal sufficient funds to wire back to Buyer, providing wiring information of course.
  • Seller deposits check, withdrawals sufficient funds and then stops by the Western Union office and sends them out.
  • Seller for some reason hasn't heard from Buyer on shipping and pickup date despite repeated e-mails.  A week later he is really starting to wonder when his bank calls and informs him that the $8,000 check was counterfeit, that they have recaptured the funds, and that seller seems to be overdrawn by $3,500 dollars (the $4,000 he took out comes out of his own pocket, wiping out his $500 original balance and leaving $3,500 owed to the bank) and needs to come in and make a sufficient deposit TODAY.

If you do choose to go ahead with a cashier's check or certified check transaction, notify your bank manager that you suspect it may be fraudulent and ask him how you can best protect yourself.

Fortunately the rest of this story went like this ... Buyer received counterfeit check and wiring information and immediately passed it, the wiring info and all complete e-mails (with headers) along to the FTC and the United States Secret Service for investigation and prosecution. Buyer then notified Yahoo! of the Yahoo! E-mail account used for the scam and requested the account be terminated.

Our cooperative seller notified our "buyer" that the check was fraudulent and has been turned over to the authorities, and has never heard from him again.


THIS WORK IS Copyright©1996-2003, TED VERRILL
All Rights Reserved.

This material is for personal use only. Republication and redissemination, including posting to news groups, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Ted Verrill.

© 1995-2016, Ted Verrill

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"Red Light Insight" is copyright Ted Verrill, 1999