INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Two viewers contacted CBS4 Problem Solvers separately to report very similar experiences while trying to buy big-ticket items online.
In both cases, the seller claimed to be using eBay's buyer protection program to make the purchase safer, but the buyers became suspicious.
Michael McGaughey was trying to buy his daughter Addison, 13, a trailer for the horse she recently received for her birthday. The horse, which she will show at 4-H, was a gift after Addison's grandmother passed away on her birthday.
McGaughey found a used trailer in the Fort Wayne area at a decent price on Craigslist and contacted the seller.
"I told her we were very interested to see it. I wanted to purchase it," McGaughey said.
The seller gave him her own sad story, saying in an email "I'm a special needs nurse" and "I'm selling it because my mother's health hasn't been so good." She said that she wanted to use eBay's buyer protection program for the sale.
"(She said), 'I want to go through eBay because the last time I met someone, they never showed up. I don’t want to be stood up again,'" McGaughey said.
Soon after emailing with that seller, McGaughey received an invoice in his inbox, and soon a phone call from an unknown number. The caller said they worked for eBay and were ready to take McGaughey's money, but he had yet to set up a time to see the trailer in person.
"(They said), 'You ready to complete the purchase? I’m like, 'No.' So then I started to read the invoice and it said ... they only took eBay gift cards," McGaughey said.
That set off a red flag, which prompted McGaughey to call CBS4 Problem Solvers.
The same went for another viewer who tried to buy a Honda Accord through the website Offer Up. The seller in that case also told a heart wrenching story, saying in an email, "I'm selling this car because my child of only 25 years old died two months ago in a bike accident. ... It brings me bad memories and that's the reason I want to sell it."
That seller also said they wanted to go through eBay's buyer protection program, but an invoice said that they would need payment by Moneygram.
CBS4 Problem Solvers took both of the invoices directly to an eBay representative, who confirmed they are fake. The company does have a buyer protection program for vehicles, but it is only available if you make a purchase through eBay, and there are warnings right on the main page for scams like these. The representative sent the following statement:
Unfortunately, scam artists will list vehicles for sale on fake landing pages, Craigslist or other non-eBay trading sites, and promise eBay’s protection as a means of completing the scam. Criminals often exploit well-known, trusted brand names like eBay to attract consumers and then lure them onto fake websites and into fraudulent transactions. We always encourage all our shoppers to be cautious when they aren’t purchasing a vehicle directly through the eBay website. We provide tips for safe car shopping and warning signs to look out for scams on the eBay Motors Security Center page.
Fortunately, McGaughey and the other viewer did not fall for the scam and with our confirmation, they now know for sure this is not how a real deal goes down.
McGaughey did call the number back and we got to hear for ourselves how the scam sounds. You can hear a portion of it in the video which appears at the top of this article.
The Indiana Attorney General's Office suggests that you report a scam like this if you come across it, and keep in mind that big companies like eBay will never ask you to pay in gift cards or Moneygram.