A co-worker of mine found a smoking hot deal on a 2013 Honda Civic. The only suspicious part of the online ad was the amazing price. He made contact with the seller. The seller responded with a story about divorce and imminent deployment with the Air Force, and attached photos of a car different from the original ad. Then the ad vanished.

From: Claire
Date: Wed, May 22, 2019
To: {removed}

Hello,

Well, let me just jump right into it. I just got divorced and the vehicle was awarded to me in our divorce. I have a low price ($3,800) because I want to sell it before May 26th ideally I have a deployment coming up and would prefer to have my mother who is taking care of my children have the cash instead.

Now, a few words about this 2013 Honda Civic EX is in perfect working condition, with nothing mechanically wrong - like new! This vehicle has154,000KM used just to cruise. No accident history, clear title, no dents or dings, and no scratches. Transmission type: Automatic. If you decide to buy it, you’ll receive all the papers, owner manual, keys, a buy-sell contract already signed by me and the clear title.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Royal Canadian Air Force Claire {Surname removed}

This must be a scam. But how does it work? And how much cheery ignorance is the scammer willing to put up with? For how long? I replied to the scammer, and 6 days later she responded. She took no notice of the change in sender and gave me the full pitch.

From: David
Date: Thu, May 23, 2019
To: Claire

Hi Claire,

I am interested. Where are you located?

-David


From: Claire
Date: Wed, May 29, 2019
To: David

Hi again, as I’ve told you in my first e-mail, I’m in the Air Force with my medical team and right now I am on a military base. We are training, getting ready for leaving the country. Before leaving I had prearranged the deal with eBay I chose to hire them to take care of the whole selling process as I cannot leave the military base. The delivery process will be managed by me. I think I can have it there at your home address within 1-2 working days. It will come certified and E-tested. You will have 5 days to test and inspect the vehicle prior to making any purchase. During that 5 days testing period I will not be getting any money. Only when you give the confirmation to eBay that you are satisfied by the vehicle and wanna keep it, they will release the funds to me, otherwise, they will refund you the full amount of money without any question, and you can ship the vehicle back on my expense. I need to know if you are interested so I can ask eBay to send you the details on this deal. If interested please include in your next email your contact info for eBay (full name, shipping address and phone number) so we can get the ball rolling.

I played along.

From: David
Date: Wed, May 29, 2019
To: Claire

Hi Claire,

Wow, I did not know Ebay shipped cars. That is very useful information. Please send the car to {address removed}, Medicine Hat AB. I am very busy traveling right now but will be back in town soon to look at the car. Does the car have winter tires? I like to have winter tires on the car all year, just in case. This is very important to me. Please let me know.

-David


From: Claire
Date: Wed, May 29, 2019
To: David

The car will come with winter tires also. I want to tell you from the beginning that eBay will ask for a 500 refundable deposit before they will ship you the car at your home address. So if interested let me know and I will forward your info to eBay. I also need your current location.


From: David
Date: Wed, May 29, 2019
To: Claire

Hi again Claire,

Hopefully they are good winter tires. My last car had Bridgestone winter tires which was OK, but I much prefer Nokian winter tires, they are very grippy. You can even get winter tires with little pieces of metal sticking out. Someday I will own a set of those. I am in Norway right now. I don’t know if they have Ebay here, I will have to ask someone. Talk to you soon.

-David


From: Claire
Date: Wed, May 29, 2019
To: David

Or if you have a relative who can pay the deposit for you that will be great because eBay will sent him all the details about payment.


From: David
Date: Thu, May 30, 2019
To: Claire

Hi Claire,

How do I send the money to Ebay? They said they have Ebay here. Do you know what kind of winter tires are on the car? There are some very low quality winter tires that you can buy, but I like to be safe, so I only buy good winter tires. Some people just put all-season tires on their car; I would never do that.

-David


From: Claire
Date: Thu, May 30, 2019
To: David

I’ve checked the tires and they are very good quality Nokian Tires they said is a good tire. I need your current address so eBay can send you payment details.


From: David
Date: Thu, May 30, 2019


Hi Claire,

I use my business address for Ebay: {address removed}, Medicine Hat AB. But I am still traveling, will Ebay still work if I am not there? I am very happy that the car has Nokian winter tires, those will be good winter tires. Please check the spare tire too. Some people don’t carry a spare winter tire. With my last car I had to put the spare winter tire in the trunk because there was no other way to carry it.

-David

By this point I am enjoying myself, but Claire goes silent for a day. For the record: I do not live in Medicine Hat, and am not obsessive about tires.

From: David
Date: Fri, May 31, 2019
To: Claire

Hi Claire,

I haven’t heard from you. What is going on with the car?

-David


From: Claire
Date: Fri, May 31, 2019
To: David

Ok but I need your current location so you can pay the deposit


From: David
Date: Fri, May 31, 2019
To: Claire

Hi Claire,

Good to hear from you. I am at a hotel in Oslo right now. I am flying back to Medicine Hat tomorrow. Can you please check the spare tire on the car. If it does not have a winter tire, I will buy one. I will need to buy other winter things for the car. Canadian Tire has a sale on ice scrapers right now. Do you need a good ice scraper? I am very good at picking high quality ice scrapers. My last ice scraper lasted almost 5 years.

-David


From: Claire
Date: Fri, May 31, 2019
To: David

It is an all season spare tire I’m sorry


From: David
Date: Fri, May 31, 2019
To: Claire

Hi Claire,

How firm are you on the price? Winter tires are very important to me. It will cost at least $200 to get a proper spare winter tire. An all-season tire is not safe!

-David


From: Claire
Date: Fri, May 31, 2019
To: David

The price is firm!


From: David
Date: Fri, May 31, 2019
To: Claire

Hi Claire,

I understand why you are firm on the price, the price is very fair. But I feel you should not be driving that car without proper winter tires. My neighbor took his winter tires off in April once, he had a heart attack later that year. He is OK now, but he waits until June to take off his winter tires.

-David


From: Claire
Date: Fri, May 31, 2019
To: David

So do you want to buy a car or winter tires?


From: David
Date: Fri, May 31, 2019
To: Claire

Hello Claire,

Of course I would like to buy your car. It is just that I need winter tires to be safe.

-David

Claire does not respond immediately. Did I come on too strong about the tires?

From: David
Date: Sat, June 1, 2019
To: Claire

Good morning Claire,

I worry we are running out of time here. How do I pay the deposit?

-David


From: Claire
Date: Sat, June 1, 2019
To: David

Hi, eBay said the transaction is now active and the invoice has already been sent to you. Please let me know if you have the invoice. Thank you.

Indeed, there was an official-looking message from a different sender with an attached “invoice” purporting to be from eBay Motors. The invoice instructed me to go to a nearby Bitcoin ATM, helpfully chosen based on the address given earlier. The ATM would transfer the deposit irrevocably to the scammer. Take a look at the PDF here.

From: David
Date: Sat, June 1, 2019
To: Claire

Hi Claire,

I got the invoice. What it a bitcoin? Are you sending the car from Cold Lake? Now I understand why it has nice winter tires. I bet it is snowy sometimes in Cold Lake. The car looks very nice. But the rims are too nice for winter tires. I will have to change them. When can I expect the car?

-David


From: Claire
Date: Sat, June 1, 2019
To: David

After you pay the deposit as eBay instructed I will start the shipping process.


From: David
Date: Sat, June 1, 2019
To: Claire

Hi Claire,

OK. But what is a bitcoin? Last time I bought a car I paid Larry 200,000 rubles in cash, which was hard to get. Is it smoky up in Cold Lake? Very smoky here. Will have to get better windshield wipers.

-David


From: Claire
Date: Sat, June 1, 2019
To: David

This is the rules if you like it that’s fine if not thanks for the conversation.


From: David
Date: Sat, June 1, 2019
To: Claire

Hi Claire,

I like rules. They are what separate us from the other beasts of the Earth. More importantly, what is a Bitcoin?

-David


From: Claire
Date: Sat, June 1, 2019
To: David

Bitcoin is a form of payment used just for the deposits so in case that you don’t want the car eBay will refund you by a certified check in the same day.


From: David
Date: Sat, June 1, 2019
To: Claire

Hi Claire,

OK. I think I understand. Can you get me a taxi to the bitcoin place? I don’t feel safe driving in the smoke. Poor visibility. And my car needs new tires.

-David


From: Claire
Date: Sat, June 1, 2019
To: David

Yes, I will.

Time to end this. No need to have a real taxi called for a fake pickup. I gave Claire the phone number for the local automated weather service. She got the hint.


From: David
Date: Sat, June 1, 2019
To: Claire

Hi Claire,

Great. Call me at 403-{removed}.

-David


From: Claire
Date: Sat, June 1, 2019
To: David

suck it.


From: David
Date: Sat, June 1, 2019
To: Claire

Hi Claire,

No u.

-David

That was the last I heard from Claire. I hope her deployment goes well.