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A few years ago I went against my gut and completed a transaction on line with an Arizona individual who was pretending to sell a car. I don’t know how wide the scam goes, but it started with a Sunday call from a fellow who restores cars of a certain marquee who I’d had a conversation with a week before. He directed me to a local Arizona Ebay ad for a car I would probably like. I called the seller, who picked it up from there.  I say, “picked it up” because when I later apprised the first caller what had happened, he never responded to any communication from that time forward. One has to wonder.

In the end, it could have been worse, but falling for something like that still smarts and infuriates. The thief knew the ropes and had no shame. I do trust that people get the rewards they earn, ultimately. I felt something was fishy, but overcame it and sent a trusted person to check the car out and he came back with a good report. After lying about having the title, the seller claimed to get his papers in order but then refused to show them to me, claiming that I could use them to scam him out of his vehicle. After reminding him that he had possession of both the car and the paperwork, all in his name, he promised to send a photo of them if I made a down payment on paypal. One of my conditions was that he sell the vehicle on ebay motors so that their transaction protection was in place. He found a way to advertise on ebay without being subject to that requirement and I foolishly let it slide. As soon as he had his “good faith” payment from me he switched into beligerant mode and the whole thing wound down the way I’m certain he is well familiar with, ending with paypal siding with him. Later I found the same car for sale at obscure websites all over the country. Same pictures, different story each time and all in different states under different seller names.

Fast forward to early this year and all the analysis of that heist bore fruit. I found another such car and this time it was an even better deal. The seller was responsive and had prepared a slick documentary of his rejuvination of the vehicle.

Still smarting from the Arizona experience, I stayed within the lines all the way. I asked questions that were very specific, none of which were directly addressed, which raised flags. I got a generic couple of sunshiny replies that said nothing about my concerns but instead brushed them off with a description of how the owner used the car. Finally, he wrote that the others who were interested in his car were offering more money but I was the one he wanted to sell the car too because I seemed like I’d make a good home for it. He asked how we were going to consumate the sale. Another red flag.

I was ready to pay full asking price, but I told him that I would be sending an expert in exotic cars who was well familiar with that model who would represent me in checking it out (at significant cost) and verifying that the vehicle was as represented.  I asked for the address and other specific information.

Our communications ended there. The car still showed up in posts to the user group, with the seller exclaiming that several deals had fallen through and offering it at a reduced price of several thousand dollars more.

I’ll probably never know the rest of the story but I do know that similar vibes and similar patterns between the two experiences suggest that I dodged a bullet, saved by experience.

For all I know, neither car was real.

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