The Sneaky eBay Gift Card Car Purchase Scam, a Psychological Profile of the Victim

What a car, but the 1965 Chevelle Malibu could only be purchased by using eBay gift cards, my sneaky scammer friend “Lisa Murray” advised…and my (almost) Perfect Victim psychological profile stuttered but kept going when I was informed those cards would have to be purchased with cash.

Okay, so there were more red flags than you could find at a bullfighting convention, all of which I cheerfully ignored and even rationalized until the Moment of Truth arrived. After I finally got the picture and told my wife we wouldn’t be buying the car after all, she exclaimed, “I knew it was a scam but I didn’t dare say anything to you–it would not have ended well!”

Over the years, she’s come to realize it’s best to let me learn my own lessons, a precise mirror image of the way I let her find her own way instead of running my mouth. Which is one of the many explanations of our twenty-one years together (and counting) after my six previous divorces. That said, she lit up in delight when she understood what I intended to buy, so did she really see the problem coming from afar or not? Not that it matters; being a husband who knows better than to argue the point, I’m not going to challenge her statement.

THE SCAM

There is a simple reversal of tactics that provides the eBay Gift Card scammer with a form of complex artistry. Rather than calling or emailing to contact whale-sized sucker fish like yours truly (again, “almost”), he gets you to come to him. The way that worked to get me on his 300 lb. test line complete with snelled hook was this:

1. Pam and I’ve long wanted to own an older car, meaning a car with a carburetor instead of fuel injection, guaranteeing no computer issues because there’s no computer in the machine. An older car sets one up to deal with the aftermath of a possible EMP (electromagnetic pulse), one high-altitude EMP strike being capable of wiping out the vast majority of the USA’s digital goodies in one swell foop. This is a real potential threat, one which former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has been concerned about for decades.

2. Additionally, newer cars can be hacked by tech-savvy assassins. While this may sound more than a bit paranoid, we’re all too aware that the former Sheriff of Cochise County, Larry Deaver, was murdered in just such a fashion. Since I knew Larry personally, I took that personally. All of our current vehicles are of the modern era, but that doesn’t mean I have to trust them electronlically.

3. Unfortunately, older cars are now almost universally considered to be “classics” with elevated price tags, at least if you want one you can actually drive.

4. Therefore, I browse. After this eBay gift card scam experience, I do believe I’ll stick with local cars, vehicles that I can go look at within a few hours of home. But last night I was browsing much more widely and came across a brand new listing for a 1965 Chevelle Malibu priced at $6,000 on carsforsale.com.

Since other vehicles similar to this one are going for closer to $30,000, that caught my attention as you might imagine.

Here’s a copy of that listing.

Scam car listing on a legitimate site, carsforsale.com, showing a 1965 Chevelle Malibu at a price that was literally too good to be true.

This ad drew me not only because of the ad itself but because I’d just recently become interested specifically in the Chevelle Malibu. Thus I had set myself up psychologically to play the game with the scammer, hook, line, and (almost) sinker. In fact, this post could well be considered a psychological profile of a typical scam victim: Desirous of acquisition, willing to ignore many red flags that should have gotten his attention and capable of inventing fairy tale backstories to explain away many other warnings that do not fit his preconceived expectations.

Red Flag #1: Parts of the listing for the car made no sense, stating that the Chevelle sported a V6 engine, 3.0 liters, and that it had FWD (front wheel drive).

Victim Psychology #1: Front wheel drive cars were unheard of in this country in the sixties, 3.0 liters would only be around 184 cubic inches–far too anemic for reality even for an inline six cylinder of that era–and the V6 didn’t make its debut here until much later. Plus, the engine size would have been listed in cubic inches only. So to explain that in my twisted mind, I decided that this must not be a true Chevelle but only the body, lifted and dropped onto a chassis from the eighties, which also explained the low price–it wasn’t a true classic but only a part of one.

Neat, huh? The scammer’s best friend is the victim’s own dysfunctional mind.

Before going to bed at 3:00 a.m., I emailed the seller, expressing GREAT interest in the car and promising to “call before noon.” During my sleep period, however, I had a lengthy dream with the scammer wherein he explained (via dream state telephone call) that no, the engine was not fuel injected, it was carbureted. (Had a carburetor.) That woke me up, so I got up for the day and called the seller’s telephone number. No answer; it went to voice mail. So I left a message. Minutes later, he texted me back: “If you emailed me I already answered you.”

Okay, time to check the email. Yep, there it was, a very nice email from “Sgt. Lisa Murray.”

The first email received from the scammer, “Lisa Murray.”

The text is too tiny in the image to read without a microscope, so here it is:

Hi,

Please see more pics attached

I am serving in Offutt A.F.B. in NE and now have been transferred to Elmendorf A.F.B. in Anchorage, Alaska, so I do not need it at this time.

The sale price is $7000 and does include the shipping fees to your home.

I have a clear title free of any liens or loans on it under my name.

If you are interested just reply me.

Thanks

Sgt Lisa M

Red Flag #2: Lisa Murray is a woman but the seller in my dream definitely was not.

Victim Psychology #2: Hey, it was a dream, right? Maybe she’s just a strong female with more than a dash of testosterone mixed in with her estrogen, right?

Red Flag #3: Nobody owning a classic car would be concerned about selling it just because she was going to be unable to drive it for six months…and by the way, how would any military person know a tour at a particular post would be finished in precisely that amount of time?

Victim Psychology #3: Duh, makes sense to me now; maybe she just needs the cash and never bothered to check how much it was worth, hyuk! Hyuk!

Red Flag #4: Poor English, clearly not written by a native speaker of the language, the most egregious sentence being the one that includes the phrase, “…please reply me.”

Victim Psychology #4: First of all, I didn’t notice that “…please reply me” at all! Secondly, hey, she must be at work and can’t take too much time writing. Obvious.

Note for readers who don’t know me: Overlooking these blazingly bright red flags is not something I normally do, yet somehow (at this point) I was buying the whole story, hook, line, and (almost) sinker. Why? I truly believe that part of this blind behavior on my part did stem from a desire to belive “Sgt. Lisa Murray” was on the up-and-up, but there’s a possible underlying factor that may be a little “too far out” for many of you: As Soul, I’ve occasionally been more than willing to set my human self up for one specific reason or another, totally unconcerned if the consequences might or might not include embarrassment, humiliation, or even close brushes with death. At no point, even after all was said and done and I’d “escaped the noose,” did I have the slightest feeling of having been close to making a big mistake. So was this all something that was “meant to happen,” perhaps partly as learning for me but also so that I would have solid material for this post?

Only Soul knows.

Back to the mundane.

The photos of the car, when downloaded so that they could be seen in all their pristine glory, were gorgeous indeed. The exterior and interior were both straight and clean, not even a rip, tear, or stain in the upholstery. The powerful 396 V8 engine under the hood coupled with an automatic transmission. In retrospect, this is clearly a show quality car and my estimate of its worth at $30,000 is probably on the low side, possibly by a significant margin. Were the pictures stolen from elsewhere on the Internet or has the scammer made so much money at his nefarious trade that these truly are images of a car he owns? These were questions for later; they did not occur to me at the time.

Red Flag #5: This car at the price of $7000 (figure $6000 plus shipping) was way too good to be true.

Victim Psychology #5: Greed entering the game? I’d prefer to think not; I’ve no desire to own a muscle car and wouldn’t even want to endure Pam’s insistence that such a machine be garaged and driven both gently and rarely. More likely, it was my ever dangerous desire to please my woman, seeing the light in her face when she contemplated owning a big block Chevy. Either way, yeah, it sucked me in.

Under the hood.

I replied enthusiastically to Lisa’s email: “SOLD!” All we needed to do was work out how “she” would get paid, since the car would be shipped to me.

Then things really went south. “She” (a transgender scammer, perhaps?) emailed me the following:

Hello Fred,

I recently got promoted and transferred to Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage Alaska for 6 months. I will do my best to walk you through the process.

The car will come with all the necessary papers for registration on your name (right now is located in Omaha, Nebraska, but I advertised it on other states also to get more exposure and sell it faster)

If you want to buy it, we will close the transaction through eBay (you
will have to send money to them, they delivers the car to you and after that they will send me the money)…so I don’t have much to do about it. With eBay, you get free delivery, at your place in 4 to 5 days.

For more info on how it works, I can ask eBay to send you an email with more details on how to buy it. They will contact you shortly, as soon as i have your personal details. This way you also get proof that I am covered by them and a legitimate seller.

If you would like to receive the email from eBay with all the transaction information and to buy the car, please reply with your full name, shipping address and a phone# and i will forward your info to them and they will contact you right away.

Have a nice day

Sgt Lisa M

Hmmm…. Okay, there could be more red flags listed there, for sure, but everything slid right by me. Even the slightly weird bit about “sending” money to eBay didn’t trigger any warnings; I was pretty well hooked and figured maybe “she” simply put it that way to dumb it down for some who–as far as “she” knew at that point–had never dealt with paying for eBay purchases via PayPal or credit card.

However, I did run a search on eBay for “1965 Chevelle Malibu” and got more than 51,000 results–mostly for parts, but a few complete cars showed up at the top of the page.

Red Flag #6: The scammer stated “she” was selling through eBay yet the car could not be found on eBay.

Victim Psychology #6:The lengthy list of results was used by my twisted psyche as an excuse for not finding the car. (Which of course was never listed on eBay in the first place.)

However, the real stink bomb was about to land. Here came the “invoice” from “eBay.” Hang on; it took four screen shots to capture the full page.

Screen shot 1 of 4.


Screen shot 2 of 4.


Screen shot 3 of 4.


Screen shot 4 of 4.

There are so many red flags in this “invoice” that I can barely count them now despite not having noticed much more than the fact I was being required (if I wanted the car) to (a) run to the bank to get a chunk of cash, $4,000 “deposit” to be precise, then (b) visit several stores to buy $500 eBay gift cards as “some stores have a limit of two cards per day,” followed by (c) scratching off the cards to expose the 13 digit PINS and (d) emailing the PIN information to “eBay” PLUS (e) taking photographs of the cards and attaching those to the here’s-my-money message.

I never even noticed that the invoice was not from eBay at all but from “e.bay@representative.com.” Had my eye not slid right over that, I’d have gotten the picture instantly.

Nor did I stop myself despite “Lisa” telling me at one point that eBay would have the car to me “in three days.” From Omaha, Nebraska, to Deer Lodge, Montana. When I knew from experience that eBay doesn’t handle shipping ever; that’s between buyer and seller. I’m beginning to understand lemmings and the Jonestown folks who drank the Kool Aid.

Yeah, love is blind, and I loved the look of that Chevelle Malibu. Believe it or not, I actually went so far as to drive to Anaconda (25 miles away) to get cash from our bank. As I was leaving, I chatted a bit with a personal banker I’ll call “Sherry” to protect her privacy, telling her some of what I was up to with this fantastic, wonderful, out of this world car purchase.

Sherry saw right through it and tried to warn me, finally saying in so many words, “Fred, I really just don’t have a good feeling about this.”

Having heard enough from this well meaning lady, I informed her, “I didn’t ask for your input.” Then I abruptly got up from the chair in front of her desk and strode out the door, got into my existing car, and drove away, slightly incensed by her mothering.

But that didn’t mean I hadn’t been listening. By the time I’d pulled away from the curb, my gears were clicking on every cog. All the puzzle pieces fell neatly into place. By the time I’d covered a couple of blocks on the way out of town it was crystal clear to me that Sherry had nailed it. I drove straight home, no card-shopping at any stores, and told Pam, “We’re not going to be getting that car.”

“It’s a scam, isn’t it? I knew it but I couldn’t tell you. When you left, I went straight to bed, thinking what is it with these guys in their mid-seventies?”

She was referring to her late stepfather, Jim, who’d fallen hard for one of those classic “Nigerian prince” scams at the age of 76. Since I’ll be 74 next month, I fit right into that “magic idiot” age category.

“I’m no Jim,” I retorted, not huffy but assertive. “We didn’t lose a penny. Didn’t even lose any time, since I had to make a run to the bank before we left on our next Arizona run anyway.”

She agreed and was also mightily relieved, saying “You tell Sherry I love her!”

I promised I would, and I will. Come to think of it, if she reads this, I just did!

SUMMARY

To avoid scams, knowing the logical “red flag” triggers in communications wherever finances are involved…yes, that’s essential. But it’s also helpful to understand the psychology of the victim, especially if you might become one.


BONUS

Once I was (finally) awake after (almost) getting scammed, I got around to doing the due diligence that should have been undertaken much earlier.

Due Diligence #1: A Google search for “eBay gift card scam” turned up the following page. You might consider running that search on your own; some of the links are well worth checking out.

Google search for “eBay gift card scam.”


Due Diligence #2:
A 411.com search for “Lisa Murray’s” phone number yielded results as well. Note: That number, (707) 401-9538, belongs to a cell phone, most likely a burner phone but who knows, in Cazadero, California. Background check websites stated they had the name of the phone’s owner available. (For money, of course.)

The scammer’s cell phone number, (707) 401-9538, shows a location in Cazadero, California.

FINAL KICKER

Once my due diligence was done, simply confirming what we already knew, I sent the following email to “Lisa Murray.” We’re both betting “she” (who may be a 300 pound man with a beer gut or an aspiring 20 year old with his eye on a life behind bars for all we know)…well, we’re betting “Lisa” has never gotten a message like this from any other mark in her entire criminal career.

 Reply |

Today, 2:54 PM

Lisa Murray (kepoljamy6277@gmail.com)

Beautiful work you’ve done. The fraud attempt, that is. Of course, you probably didn’t know that what you’ve really accomplished is to provide me with plenty of fodder for the next post to be published on my website. Posts exposing and discussing scams, especially in such detail as this one will have, tend to draw more views over time than all but a handful of my other articles.

Thanks–oh, and do feel free to continue sending me communications if you like; the more I have available to include in my post, the better.

Much appreciated,

Fred Baker

Strangely, “Lisa” has not yet responded to my invitation.

10 thoughts on “The Sneaky eBay Gift Card Car Purchase Scam, a Psychological Profile of the Victim

  1. Snows classic cars owatonna mn
    Has a malibu for 10k its a real car and a real car dealer. Low miles too.

  2. Thanks, Mary. Think we’ll hold off for a while now, though. Pam was stressed enough for one month (heh) and we don’t really need to have an additional car in place quite yet. We will in a few years (long story), but in the meantime Owatonna is still a fair distance from here. Might start looking again after tax season. 😀

  3. Oh my Fred, you really fell for that one. I have seen some on Craig’s list that I would have been interested in, but they were just too inexpensive and that made me leery. I got fooled once in TN, and even after I had it checked by a friend that worked on his own vehicles, we missed the clue. They had put tar in the motor to make the knocking go away. We just thought the oil was dirty. First week, I had the oil changed and found the knock. The mechanic that changed the oil told me he thought I had been screwed, but I did not have a regular mechanic near the town that we bought the Blazer from. I never bought another vehicle without taking it to a mechanic for a checkup first. It is worth the extra money.

  4. I found a real car in 10 minutes. I used a website called car gurus.
    I’m constantly checking out ford trucks because I want another 5th wheel to live in. So I keep up on whats out there and how much it costs. They will look up anything on that sight you just fill in the blank for what you want.

  5. I’m glad you dodged the bullet, Fred. And I’m really glad Pam respected your lesson plan and let you figure it out on your own. 🙂
    I hope you burned off whatever karma was present in the exchange. The dream itself is worth contemplating on, too, since it seems like a simple conversation on the inner planes… interesting.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Manny

  6. Becky: I hadn’t heard of using tar to disguise a knock, but Pam also got fooled once–at the worst possible time, as she was homeless and put her back pay from SSD (when she finally got it) into that vehicle…which oddly enough was also a Blazer. That seller had pulled the old sawdust-in-the-transmission trick. Taking a vehicle to a mechanic first is a very good practice, though not one I’ve followed except for one time, basically because I’m pretty much a mechanic myself (my first 2 years out of high school were in a junior college Auto Mechanics program). I don’t have all the gauges one might wish but do have a decent sense of what I’m inspecting when the vehicle is in front of me–AS LONG AS IT’S FOR MYSELF and not for someone else. Interesting karma there, for whatever reason.
    ———————————————–
    Mary: You bet, Mary; finding a real car is not difficult. It borders on astounding that my awareness slid right past all the red flags on this one until the very end (which is what makes me wonder what was really going on with me). But the experience did encourage me to decide to stick to the basics: Look up vehicles within a 200 mile radius that I can personally inspect when the time is right. Although not now intending to buy for a while yet (Pam would have a fit, she doesn’t need that, and the purchase is not at this point a necessity), I did spend some time cruising southwestern cars for sale by owners (I’ll buy from dealer or owner, either one, depending on the situation). Interestingly, there were numerous possibilities in the area as long as I wasn’t fixated on a particular brand or model, quite a few of them at roughly half price what they would be if listed on one of these national auto buying sites or in trader papers. I searched in the price range under $10,000 for vehicles produced from 1940 to 1973 and found two really well kept VW bugs, one Plymouth Valiant slant six, a decent Oldsmobile, a downright stunning 1952 Buick, two Plymouths (1948 and 1950), one Mustang worth serious consideration (among several for sale), Ford Galaxies, and the pick of them all in my book, a 1970 Chevy Impala. Some of the sellers even went into detail about the cons as well as the pros of their vehicles, and all were close enough I could go inspect and be back home in one day, no problem.
    ————————————-
    Manny: I’m glad I dodged the bullet, too (of course), and appreciate the way Pam and I work these issues. I also felt that every step of yesterday’s experience went exactly as it was supposed to go. But like you say, the MOST intriguing item is the dream; I do believe it was just that, a simple conversation on the inner planes. He had a somewhat growly voice, not harsh exactly, and I’d have pegged him for an older man–but just as I was wrapping up this post, my clairaudience kicked in and I heard, “He’s 20 years old.” VERY interesting.

  7. We found a car on Craig’s list & contacted the seller via text message. I was told to email for info, as the person had listed the car for her mother. The Mother has just lost her husband and was due to be deployed for a year and had to sell the car ASAP, bc she could not afford to store it. We told her we would take it and that I could use PayPal or meet her with cash, as the car was listed @1hour from our house on LI NY. She says she’s on a military base & the car is in FL. Red flag, but we continue. Same details as yours with using eBay and they will contact me. Now I see the invoice and I think this is strange. I have to drive to CVS to buy gift cards and it’s spelled out for me like I’m really dumb (lol) I ask my boss have you ever purchased a car on EBay and tell him about the gift cards. He says big red flag. Call eBay. I did (not the # on the invoice) they confirm the scam and ask me to send them all the emails. At least we didn’t loose anything, but my time.

  8. Thank goodness that you didn’t lose anything but time. And thanks a LOT for commenting; reader contributions really add value to a page like this.

    I did buy a car shortly after the scam experience–the 1970 Chevy Impala mentioned in my previous comment. Found that on Craigslist. It was in the Kalispell area, about 150 miles from where I live. The seller turned out to be a mechanic going through a terrible divorce, and he had been hammered by so many “buyers” trying to scam him that the toughest part of the transaction was getting him to relax enough (through a very careful series of emails) to actually let me know where he lived!

    But once I met him face to face, it was obvious he was a salt of the earth kind of guy. He’d only had the car for a year or so, having bought it because his father had one just like it. I’ve been driving it regularly lately, though it’s currently at a local repair shop for a bit of TLC. Price was roughly half of what similar cars were going for on the big classic car sites. So there are decent deals online, without a doubt…as long as one can wade through the sharks without getting bit.

  9. I had to look twice at the comment made by Colleen. I found a pickup at the beginning of last month on our Craigslist site. It had just been posted 2 hours before. I texted, since that was the preferred form of contact. Must have been the same person, but they said it was their sister and asked me to contact her at her email. Her husband had died and she was being deployed at the end of the month. 2-3 emails later, and I wanted to look at it, still thinking it was on the base here. I asked about going to look at it with my mechanic. That is when I got the “STUPID” email with the detailed instructions about paying through ebay. I sent them one back asking what kind of idiot they thought I was.

  10. It’s pretty clear they think we’re all the “same sort” of idiot, whatever sort that may be. Becky, since these ads have managed to hit you and me both (as well as Colleen, of course), it seems likely this particular scam is really ubiquitous. Reminds me of the Roger Miller song, You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd. Cow flops everywhere!

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