Russian Craigslist Scammers Posing as NADAGuides.com Ripping Off Buyers
Fraudsters trick victims into thinking they are dealing with a household name as a vehicle payment service
We have been warning our CarBuyingTips.com visitors about fraud for over a decade, exposing car buying fraud found on Craigslist, eBay Motors, Autotrader, and just about every other online classifieds site, big or small, no site is immune. Today we will show you a real life example, with real life screen shots of the fake site and email from the scammer trying to work his magic.
Remember these scams are pulled hundreds of times per day every single day, all across the country until their ads get shut down. The most obvious red flag which many victims ignore is the much lower than average vehicle selling price, usually too good to be true, to reel you in. Remember that one.
Numerous red flags should alert you to these frauds
Over the years we have investigated literally over 800 of these frauds, and they all have the same method of operation which goes something like this outline script:
- You see a used car advertised online and contact the "seller"
- The seller/scammer never addresses you by name, usually sir
- They give you a story of woe, they are in the military overseas, can't get to their car
- So they are selling you the car cheap, telling you they will pay shipping
- They send you links to more photos of the car, stolen from other ads
- They say they will escrow the car through "well known company name"
- They claim that the well-known escrow company will handle payment, shipping
- One you sign up to escrow web site and send your money, it's gone forever
Common elements of all these used car escrow payment scams
The common thread in all these scams is you can never see the car first; there will always be some hardship excuse, and there's no way to meet up with the seller, because there really is no car for sale, and the guy your are communicating with is most likely in Russia or Lagos, Nigeria. Sometimes they are in Romania, London or some other foreign city. Another red flag is their photos are stolen from previous ads or eBay auctions, and if you just took 5 seconds to Google the VIN# of the vehicle, you'll likely find the car was already listed and sold previously.
Another common thread is the atrocious grammar these guys talk with, a sure tip off that this is not an American military person you're dealing with, but rather someone from overseas. The fact that they offer to pay the shipping charges to send you the car should be the biggest red flag.
I have never seen any real seller willing to pay the $900 or so it costs to transport a car across the U.S. But of course there is a sucker born every minute as the saying goes, and too many victims became easy prey simply because they were all starry eyed and inebriated by that dangling carrot of buying a car at a huge discount to the market because of someone else's financial hard times.
Latest online used car scams involve posing as NADAGuides.com
Let's take a dive into the vortex of this fraud. See this screen shot below of an email we received, that was from a scammer posing as a seller. Note his terrible grammar obviously not American, and words that don't make sense. But more important, look at his statement where he claims he will pay for the shipping. He wants you to use this NADAGuides web site to handle the escrow of payment from buyer to seller and supposedly the transport of the vehicle from seller to buyer.
In the email above, I love how this moron says "our deal will be done under NADAguides surveillance." Really? Who the heck talks like this? That's a nonsensical statement, and should clue you in that you are really dealing with a doofus on the eother side of the pond.
The fraud site in his link in the email above may or may not be shut down any time soon. Sometimes with foreign web hosting companies especially in Estonia and Russia, they are very corrupt or don't answer your complaint that it is a fraud site, and don't respond to DMCA Copyright complaints either.
Also, NADAGuides is not in the business of escrowing vehicle transactions. They don't collect money from you for cars, nor do they handle the shipment of vehicles to you. These scammers are just trying to dazzle and dupe you with a well-known and respected automotive name who simply does not operate in that vertical segment of the automotive market.
Watch out for the web site URL sub domain trick that scammers pull
Also in the email above, and in our opening screen shot at the top of this blog, the scammer is pulling a little sleight of hand on you with the link to what they claim is the "NADA Guides" web site; notice how the scammer's URL, which is nadaguides.transaction-usa.com, starts off with "NADAGuides.com" and the casual observer might just stop there and be tricked into thinking they are really on the official site.
But a closer examination of the web site address the scammer wants you to use shows you that the address in fact continues with another dot, and finally finishes off with transaction-usa.com. Why is this important? This is very significant and is another major red flag because it really means that the NADA Guides part of the address is really just a subdomain residing on the server of this fraud site. This is not really a standalone top level domain name .com web site like apple.com or microsoft.com, although if you look at the name of his fraud site real fast you can be tricked.
If anyone with any type of web site knowledge like IT professionals sees this domain, they immediately know it is a spoofed web site. Think about it if someone sent you to "apple.com.microsoft.com", would you really believe that you were going to Apple? No my example is just a subdomain called apple.com hosted on microsoft.com. Know the difference, you always need to examine the full web site address and know where you really are.
Very convincing and polished looking fake NADA Guides site
I hope you don't fall victim to these scammers, just take a look at their site, it is easy to see how people get suckered in. First of all it's a beautiful modern official looking site; it has all sorts of trusted logos and information from NADAGuides. There's just one problem with that site, it is a fake. It's not real, it is a fraud, everything about it is a lie.
The entire fake site is shown below in our screen shot and it was made up by stealing NADA photos and logos, and creating this phony but impressive looking escrow site. The statements on the home page sure look reassuring. It claims in a big banner across the top "NADA Guides unique protection process prevents buyer and seller fraud with each step in every transaction." News flash, there really is no NADA process.
That too is a lie, because as we all know, NADA Guides is not in the business of handling payments between sellers and buyers, and they don't transport vehicles. The real NADA Guides simply give us car pricing info and other used car research tools. But they do not dabble at all in vehicle escrow.
The names change but the story remains the same
Over the years this scam has been used to trick people using different brand names like "Yahoo payment agents," which there are no such animals in existence, and eBay payment agents, PayPal payment agents, Square Deal, and recently even amazon.com has been used. None of these companies have payment agents for this sort of thing.
The red flag here for you is these scammers always throw around household names of big brands to lure you into a false sense of security. Many victims are just too dumb to perform the most basic check like here's an idea: call the companies directly to ask if they really escrow cars or perform shipping or guarantee safety for buyers or anything else. The answer is of course none of these companies perform this payment collection service.
How to avoid being scammed
Don't be fooled and fall for any of these scams. In fact if you manually type in and surf over to the real NADA Guides web site (not the link the scammer sends you), you'll see NADA has a Security Section that specifically warns you about the scams.
While you are on the real NADA Guides web site, why don't you hunt around there looking for info on how they act as a payment collector and shipper for used cars? Oh wait, you'll find nothing because they don't perform that service in real life. Try calling them; they will confirm for you it is a fraud.
Even Craigslist warns you about fraud but no one listens
Sites like Craigslist at the bottom of every single listing have their warning that says "Avoid scams, deal locally Beware wiring (e.g. Western Union), cashier checks, money orders, shipping.", and they even have their own section explaining all the scams, but do people read and heed the warnings? No way Jose!
The alleged fraud site in question was just created a few days ago
See our screenshot below after we ran the domain name lookup dossier on this alleged NADA Guides web site that this scammer sent us to, and behold folks, another red flag! We see this all the time, where the fake site was just created a few days before the scammers start sending victims to it to sign up, hardly the established years-old brand you were expecting.
If you stop and let any of the many red flags pointed out here prevent you from completing the transaction, you have saved yourself from certain financial ruin. Just like the sinking of the Titanic, if only one of the many links in the complex chain of events had been different, she never would have sunk.
I hope we have saved you from giving away your money to the scammers and just to recap, if it sounds to good to be true it is, if the selling price is way too low it is a fraud. If you ever see a dash in the domain name it is a fraud. If any seller directs you to any type of escrow site whatsoever, it is a fraud. If a seller claims they will pay for shipping it is a fraud, and if you cannot see the car first or meet with the seller it is a fraud. If you Google the VIN and see prior ads for the car, it is a fraud.
If you ever hear or see the words Western Union, Money Gram, Cashier's Check or Money Order, you better run as fast as you can from that deal. Let us know what you see out there and report back here in the comments below.
If you have any question at all or just want to get a second opinion, please speak up and let us know below. Don't be afraid to ask, there is too much on the line.
Remember no question is too foolish and it is better to be safe than sorry and lose thousands of dollars and now you can't afford to buy your car.
About The Author: Jeff Ostroff is a consumer advocate, Founding Editor and CEO of CarBuyingTips.com overseeing a team of expert authors. For over 15 years, he's been the recognized authority on car buying, leasing, used cars and financing. He developed sophisticated spreadsheet tools to help consumers negotiate on a level playing field. He is a widely sought out guru, cited by the press for his expertise in savvy car buying and preventing consumer scams. Jeff has been quoted in CNN, Bloomberg, MSNBC, Wall street Journal, Consumer Reports, NY Times, Reader's Digest, and many live call in radio shows. He has covered the automotive space since 1997. Jeff also has extensive experience and expertise in selling used cars for clients on eBay and Craigslist. He can be found on Facebook, Google+ and on Twitter as @jeffostroff.