This is a new one to me and I think it’s worth a separate post just because of how elaborate it is.
There is a post here on Fightthescams about a vehicle on Craigslist Montreal. The message from the “seller” included a link to a site that was supposedly for Amazon Payments. I just checked out that link and was amazed at what was included there – amazed and disgusted actually (living up to my name here) at the trouble these scammers went to. The page at that URL is full of logos for legitimate services like Craigslist, eBay, AutoTrader, Cars.com – and of course it has the Amazon Payments logo right at the top. Also near the top are links to other supposed pages on this “site” – pages explaining how it works, how to pay, etc. It all looks very legitimate. But it isn’t.
The first thing I noticed about the URL included in the original scam message is that it isn’t related to Amazon.com at all – instead, it begins with sites.google.com, which I understand is a free site Google offers to its account holders (which I found out by going to the main page). The links at the top, which say things like “How It Works,” “Payments,” and “General Terms,” are other sites.google pages, probably from other Google accounts.
A lot of people don’t even notice the URL, though. That’s fine, but – the text on that “home page” talks about buying and selling domain names. What does that have to do with a vehicle sale?
I opened each link in a separate tab and checked out those pages. Here’s what’s on the “How It Works” page (italics are mine):
- Both parties agree to terms, which includes a description of the vehicle, sale price and number of days for the Buyers inspection.
- Amazon Payments verifies that the Buyer receives the shipment.
- The inspection period will begins when the vehicle is delivered.
- Amazon Payments pays the Seller after all conditions of the transaction are met
- When payment is received, it will be verified and secured into a non-interest bearing trust account until the Buyer inspects the vehicle.
- The Buyer has a 5 days for an inspection and the option to accept or reject the merchandise. For more information, read our General Terms and Conditions Page.
This was a straight copy-and-paste: I didn’t change anything. Notice how the steps are out of order? Would a huge company like Amazon put up a page like that? It sure doesn’t look professional to me.
Even if you read them in order, anyone who’s received a scam email claiming to use eBay, Google Checkout, or AutoTrader will recognize this process. It’s the same nonsense used for those scams.
But I was especially interested in the “Payments” page. Here’s another copy-and-paste (italics and color highlighting are mine):
We currently accept American Express, Master Card, Amazon Payments. Credit card payments are protected via SSL to encrypt your information when you send it to us.
Please note that for transactions higher than $5,000, credit card is not acceptable, you must transfer the money by bank wire from your account to Amazon Payments account.
Check or Money Order
Money orders and check payments are only accepted when drawn on a US bank, have a limit of $2,000, and are subject to a 10 days bank hold.
We do not accept checks drawn on a credit card.
So – if you’re paying more than $2,000 you can’t use a check or money order and if you’re paying more than $5,000 you have to pay by wire transfer. I noticed that the car in the original Craigslist ad (which is still up) is selling for $13,000. Which means the only way to pay for it is with a wire transfer.
But what if you’re buying a vehicle that’s only $1,800? According to these rules you could send a check or money order for that. But – money orders and checks have to be from a bank in the US. And this ad is on Craigslist Montreal – in Canada. Another reason to use wire transfer.
None of which goes with the way I would think Amazon operates. It’s a big online company which sells around the world. Surely it accepts credit card payments – for any amount.
On the “Contact Us” page there are two email addresses. I tried pulling up the main site associated with those addresses. My browser couldn’t find that URL, either with or without “www” at the beginning. But according to whois.com it is registered to someone with an ordinary street address and apartment # in a US city.
Bottom line – these pages are all forgeries. At first glance they look really good. But when you look a little closer the discrepancies become obvious. The weird URLs, the limited payment options, the editing issues (steps 1-3-5-2-4?) – they’re all red flags.
It didn’t seem like a good idea to include the actual URLs being used in this scam; besides, I’ve reported them to Google’s abuse department so they may not still be up when you read this. But I’ve included a screenshot of the Payments page just to give you an idea of what I’ve been describing here. Scammers do move around a lot on the ‘net; it’s possible you may see this somewhere else.