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News: Motorcycle Scams Abound

As the weather warms up and riding season approaches, the scam artists start coming out of the woodwork. It appears they've dusted off an old classic for this Spring: the Steal.

Classifieds across the `Net are being clogged with "giveaway" deals on desirable motorcycles. I spotted one on Craig's List just this week:

2001 BMW R1150 GS
low miles, system cases, only $2950

Huh? Must be a typo. Did he leave a 1 off the front? The photos showed a nifty yellow GS parked on a subsurban lawn. Could have been Anytown, USA. It sounded fishy but I contacted the "seller" just to see what the story was. The odor immediately got worse:

There are 12450 miles on it, the bike is in great condition, it has been properly maintained, never been dropped or abused in any way. It has clear title and the price I'm selling it for is $2950, which is including all the shipping charges.

I live in Tulsa but currently I am with work in UK, London for the next approximately 7 months. Anyway, there shouldn't be any problem, because I am using SafePay services so I can sell the bike without difficulty.
I left the bike at their warehouse before leaving to UK. They will take care of the delivery. There's a 10 days return policy so you will have the chance to test, inspect and ride it before final decision.

So if you want to purchase it, let me know and I will explain you how SafePay works and how we can move forward.
I am waiting your email.

Thanks

Beyond some obvious fishiness in the message text, I did a little investigating and found

  • Safe Pay is a legitimate payment service. For software. They primarily work with programmers who sell downloadable software online. They do not have warehouses and they are not an escrow service.
  • Message headers in the e-mail revealed it originated from an AOL account. But the "seller" gave me a Yahoo address. While there may be legitimate reasons for such details (like you don't want to admit you use AOL?) it's a little suspicious that he decided to use an address from a free service where anonymous identities are easy to create.
  • The name the scammer used isn't listed in any local directory. In fact there is only one listing with that last name in the entire phone book.

I played along to learn the scam– although I had a pretty good idea. I gave him a bogus name and shipping address as his next message requested. A little later I received a very official looking e-mail claiming to be from Safe Pay Solutions. It looked entirely legit. But near the bottom was the red flag to end all red flags: Western Union!

Of couse, I thought, the same old ploy to get your cash.

When you send money via Western Union you have no recourse whatsoever. That's why it's the method of choice for scammers from Niagra Falls to Nigeria.

If it sounds too good to be true... but this one's for real!
Don't be too sure. And don't fall for giveaway deals on bikes, cars, airplanes or tractors. Do not click any links in messages from scammers. Here's what you should do:

  • Forward the scammer's message to [email protected]
  • Try to include the "headers" in the e-mail which will help identify them
  • Report the scammer to their e-mail service, Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, etc.
  • Report the classified ad (on Craig's List they have a "spam" button that will report the listing)

Happy bargain hunting!

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