In August 2009, Adrian A. wanted to buy a C Class Mercedes Benz second-hand. The 43-year-old Leipzig teacher had found and bought cars over car sales portals before and was well aware of the required formalities and the risks involved.
On a minor Internet car portal, he spotted his dream car in metallic silver paint. The vehicle was on offer for €5,200 – which is about €3,000 less than the average price for this model. “It did look a bit suspicious, but I didn’t want to miss the bargain and contacted the seller”, Adrian A. recalls his rationale at the time.
Having contacted the seller, he found out that the vehicle was located in the UK and delivery should take place in the UK. However, with the seller visiting in Greece at the time, contact over the phone was not possible.
The detailed and precise description of the sales transaction in very good English reassured Adrian A. that he was dealing with a trustworthy seller.
Right now I am in Athens, Greece [...] My car in this moment is in my garage in Billingham. Once again you should know that my car is in a perfect condition[...]. In this moment the car has German registration papers and German license plates numbers. As I told you in my first e-mail, I would like to make this deal face to face, in this way I will give you the opportunity to actually see the car before you buy it. You will be able to makea test drive, run a mechanical check and also check the car papers at a police station.
The best way to make this deal is you to come to England and take the car yourself. [...] Anyway, I’ll have to be sure that you’ll come to England and I’ll have to be sure that you have the money prepared for this purchase so I suggest that you go to a Post Office in your city with a friend of yours ( relative ) and use the Western Union Money Transfer Service. [...]. Your friend will be the sender of the money and you will be the receiver of the money. [...]To send the money through Western Union Service some fees have to be paid. You will withdraw these fees from the price of the car. [...]
As soon as the transfer is done show me a copy of the transfer receipt. After I will see that paper, I will be sure that you will travel to England. [...] I will wait for you at the Airport with the car and all the registration papers. You will make a test drive, [...] and if you will be satisfied, [...] we will make the deal. The sales contract will be signed into a Police Office. If you will not be satisfied with the car and you don’t want to buy it then I will give you the money for the plane ticket and also for the Western Union fees[...]. I am more then sure that you will be 100% satisfied with the car. After we will sign the contract, we will go together to a Western Union office for you to pick up the money [...].
Complete the Western Union SEND MONEY FORM in this way:
sender name : your friend’s or your relative’s name
sender address : address of your friend or relative
receiver name : here will be your name
receiver address : Manchester, England
[...] I hope you are satisfied with my way of doing business. If you are going to do it, please let me know when you will do it, so that I can make all the arrangements.
Thank you for your time and have a nice day.
P.S. On the link below you have some pictures of me and my family and also a copy of my passport, driving license, insurance card and my Police Id card.
To his email, the seller who claimed to be a police officer attached scanned copies of his credentials, police ID and pictures of his family. “Now I know that the police officer’s ID documents were stolen, but at the time I was convinced the seller was reliable”, says Adrian A. He was even promised to get the flight ticket refunded, if he did not like the car after careful testing.
The request to make a partial advance payment by money order to a branch at the location of delivery is indicative of a scam. In the specific case, the buyer was asked to send the whole amount of €5,200 to Manchester. In addition, Adrian A. was asked to copy the payment slip and flight ticket to the seller as evidence that he in fact intended to collect the car in Manchester.
Putting aside his suspicions about the remarkably low price, the odd delivery arrangements and the exceptional generosity of the seller, Adrian A. held on to the deal. After all, the seller did supply unique identification documents and, being a police officer, should certainly have no interest in running a fraud.
In further emails Adrian A. finalised the transaction, then sent the money order and bought the flight tickets.
Thanks for your detailed email. I think, it is good to handle the purchase as you suggested. I’ll come to Manchester on Monday 10 August. I don’t know whether to fly with Lufthansa (arrival time 14:55) or Air France (13:55) as I haven’t booked any flight yet. Anyway, I’ll tell you. Tomorrow my wife will transfer the money to me to Manchester. I’ll scan the copy of the receipt and send it to you as soon as possible – I hope it works. Is it okay if I bring a contract form of the ADAC (German car club) with me? Have a nice evening
We will sign 2 contracts , one in English and one in German language (you can bring a German contract from ADAC). I’ll be waiting today an e-mail from you with the confirmation that you have booked the flight and also a copy of the Western Union transfer.
Thank you for your time and have a nice day.
at first, thanks a lot for the nice pictures of you and your family. I booked my flight with Lufthansa and my wife transfered the money today. So everything is arranged and I hope that the adventure of buying your car turns out to be fine.
I look forward to meeting you.
I’ve seen the ticket and the receipt from Western Union. Everything it’s ok. I will buy my flight ticket tomorrow and will send you a copy of it. Can you please confirm your mobile phone number that you will use in United Kingdom?
P.S. I’m looking forward into meeting you too.
“I really thought that only I personally would be able to collect the money at a bank after showing my identification papers in line with the usual safety standards”, explains Adrian A.
As he arrived at the place of collection – Manchester airport – he found neither the seller nor the vehicle and the money was not in the money service branch. Even the police were unable to help in this clever scam, since the fraudsters were already miles away. “I would never have dreamt that third parties could have collected the money with my forged ID and flight ticket. I did not realise that every other ‘newsstand or veggie shop’ could operate a money transfer and virtually anybody could pay out the cash after a brief glance on the monitor. It simply did not occur to me.” complains Adian A. He lost €6,000 and so far has been unable to recover a single cent.
In the meantime the car enthusiast did buy his dream car, plus he found it on the Internet, however treading cautiously paying heed to the Initiative’s tips. Whenever he now rummages around online car portals and discovers a suspicious ad, he reports back to the customer service. In addition, Adrian A. tells the story to all his friends to make them aware of fraud schemes. He also tells them that the Initiative can help if they are not sure what to do.