Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Scamming the Scammers

Cobbled up licence
I had a recent encounter with a scammer, so am passing on my experience to you, dear reader.

It may be instructive.

There was never any risk that I’d part with any of my hard-earned, but he/she/it stuffed me around a little.

It was a fairly basic scam, and one that’s been around for a while, but it must work occasionally.

I advertised a car for sale. One of the responses to my ad was via a text message which asked me for my email address. I sent it, and received a series of emails from a “Toby Johnson”.

This “Toby Johnson” asked some reasonable questions about the vehicle, which I answered, apparently to his satisfaction, as he offered to buy it.

There was just one small problem. Poor “Toby” was out of mobile range (funny that, since he’d initially texted me) on a boat offshore from Darwin. On account of which the only way he could contact me was via email. Being stuck away from civilisation was preventing him from accessing a transit depot or any other conventional means of collecting the vehicle.

I was apparently supposed to be sympathetic. Poor “Toby” had a tough gig.

But “Toby” was resourceful.

He found a “courier” whom for a fee (a neat $2850) would do all the hard stuff.

This courier person would arrange for the vehicle to be shipped to Darwin, cleaned and detailed, and made available to old mate when he was finally free to escape his enforced maritime isolation, whereupon he would drive his newly acquired vehicle back to Victoria. (Williamstown to be precise).

“Toby” sent me a picture of his driver’s licence to establish his bona fides. If I hadn’t been suspicious before, one look at this “driver’s licence” confirmed my belief that this was a scammer.

The person depicted looked more than a little dodgy, and had aged remarkably well for his 47 years as indicated on the licence.

Anyhow, I started to prevaricate, offering to drive the car to Darwin, provided he sent me some dosh for fuel, accommodation, and a return air fare, although by this time, I was almost sure that all was not as it seemed.

I even made a counter proposal – trucking the car north for about half of what this “courier” was charging.

“Toby” was having none of it – accusing me at one point of “stuffing” him around. I resisted the temptation to point out that after two years in the army, I’d been stuffed around by experts, and based on this experience I knew my efforts weren’t in that league.

I sent him some fictitious bank details, so he could lodge the payment for the car in my “bank account”.

Next thing, an authentic looking email arrived from purporting to be from PayPal indicating that the funds for the car had been transferred into my “bank account”.  It had the PayPal logo and mimicked the PayPal format.

Then came the kicker. The funds couldn’t be released until I lodged $2850 with an address in the UK via Western Union.

As “Toby” very kindly pointed out, any Australian Post Office will do the transaction. He even offered to add an additional $100 to speed the business on. All I had to do was send the $2850 to the UK address, and all would be well.

The funds would be “released” into my bank account, the “courier” would magically appear, and the car would be whisked north.

By this time, I was beginning to enjoy the little game, so I sent him an email telling him that I’d be very happy to comply once the funds appeared in my “bank account”.

This was unlikely, given that it was fictitious, but hey, two could play at this game.

Toby’s grasp of the English language was, to say the least, a little eccentric. Some examples –

I want to know your reason for selling the Vehicle and also let me know if there's any finance plan on it, I'm willing to pay $14,800 and i will be glad if you sell it to me. I will be delighted if you remove the AD online and consider me as your favourite buyer by ignoring all other offers.
I promise to take care of the Vehicle even more than you have done in the past, let me know if my offer is good enough to be the next owner.


I won't be able to come over with cash or mail a cheque because presently, i'm working away in Darwin on a research project but i have equally arranged the courier agent that will come for the pick up, transfer of ownership but this will be after i have made payment to you.
Kindly send me your bank details as i'm ready to transfer the money into your bank account.
Kind Regards,


I will appreciate if you understand my situation here as i'm away out of town and that i'm serious in buying this car. I have attached a copy of my licence for you to see how serious i'm on this, please send me your details as i'm ready to buy off the vehicle from you.
Kind Regards,

And when he was stroppy –

I'm here on my boat and i need the car to be on ground once i'm back to town as i will be needing it to move around and transport myself back to Victoria. If you cannot self to me this way then good luck as i hate to be stuffed around and it's pretty looking like such.

He obviously was asleep in school when the lesson about the upper case personal pronoun was taught.

Anyhow, I kept stalling and offering excuses, all the time building a file of material which has been handed to the local plod. They seemed quite interested, although I was told that there are literally hundreds of these scams, and tracing them is difficult.

Why me?

Probably because in the ad I used a sales pitch that I was too old to get in and out of the vehicle. This is complete bunkum, but it may have created the impression of an easily scammed old dodderer.

The bottom line is – never part with any of your hard-earned on the strength of any email, no matter how authentic it looks.

This character’s effort was amateurish, but it must work occasionally, or it wouldn’t be worth his time.

By the way, if you want to have fun with a scammer, this site is helpful.

Update - They're still at it.

Since this was posted, I've received the following texts -
From - - Hello seller Do you still have the listed AD(car) on for sale? get back to me.
From - - Hello ,is your car advert still available for sale and what your firm selling price ? contact me
From - - I will like to know if your car is still available and to know the firm price, please get back to me
I replied to each saying I would only negotiate personally or by direct phone contact. There was no response of course.
Each of these is obviously a scam. Why would you text a seller when you have his phone number and could call? In addition, their use of English is clunky and characteristic of someone who is not fluent, meaning they're probably offshore.
I don't know who is thicker - these spivs who are dumb enough to think someone would actually fall for this, and those who actually do.
The sad story is, some must be taken in, otherwise the scammers wouldn't continue to try their ripoffs.


Sunday, 9 December 2012

Those Mad Russkies

Regulations about low flying appear to be fairly lax in the Russian Federation.

Hard to tell, but it looks like an SU 24.

I reckon you would have been able to smell the avtur.

He was certainly Russian somewhere.......

Thanks Brendan.

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...