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30th November 2016

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Buyer Beware: Fraud Attempts via Classified Ads

Fraudsters are becoming ever more inventive with their attempts to part unwary classic bike enthusiasts from their cash. Here are two recent examples of suspected criminal activity...

Here at RealClassic magazine we recently received a classified ad for a superbly unrestored Indian Four, at a seriously tempting £10,000. Even TP had an attack of the vapours, the bike was so great. However … being a suspicious soul, Frank traced the image online and found that the bike was sold at auction in the US four times that amount. So he mailed the ‘vendor’ and asked for more details. More photos arrived – all taken from the auction catalogue – along with the news that it was located in Palembang, Indonesia.

Genuine Ads on eBay

Needless to say, we did not run this particular advert in the magazine or on the website. But it only attracted our attention because the bike was so unusual and the price seemed impossibly low for a machine that rare. If it had been a more commonplace classic motorcycle, with a reasonable asking price, we probably would have run the advert without being any the wiser.

Then RealClassic regular Stuart Urquhart rang alarm bells about a similarly suspicious machine advertised for sale. Here’s his story:

This locally based (Aberdeen) Triton caught my eye on eBay and I immediately pinged a note of interest to the seller. However the next day my bookmark was history as the advert had vanished! I was gutted, because the Triton oozed potential. Two days later, I received an unexpected email from the seller, Chloe, who explained that she was hoping for a quick sale of her father’s Triton following his untimely death, and was I still interested in his bike?

Genuine Ads on eBay

On following up Chloe’s contact email I soon became frustrated when my attempts to set up a viewing in Aberdeen, or to prise a crucial telephone contact failed. Requests for more pictures did however result in a flurry of tempting digital images.

Several days later I was informed that the bike had been moved to Inverness and that Chloe was ‘now working in Ireland and would unfortunately be unable to come over to Scotland just for a viewing’. Instead, cyber Chloe suggested ‘that for my peace of mind we should conclude the sale through PayPal’s ‘Pay After Delivery Service (PADS)’. This fabulous service was only a click away via a live link conveniently provided at the foot of Chloe’s email.

In short: agreement to buy meant uploading my bank details onto PADS. Then, following delivery of the vehicle, the agreed payment would be moved into a holding account for 14 days maximum or until I was satisfied with the vehicle’s condition. If I rejected the vehicle my payment would simply be returned to my account and ‘all delivery costs would be met by the seller’. I of course was reading ‘scammer’ at this point!

I fired another email back to Chloe insisting that only a viewing and the traditional handover of cash to her in person (or her appointed representative) would satisfy me. All communications died at this point.

I’m fortunate to have a close friend who has professional expertise with internet fraud. The following was his stark warning: ‘The emails and PADS live link were traced to Nigeria. It would be difficult to prove who was using a particular computer or IP address at a particular time, as identity fraud is rife with professional hackers. International hackers are also well versed in deception and it is virtually impossible to find and prosecute them. The PayPal link was sophisticated and extremely convincing. Never give out your bank details or personal passwords. Always be alert to fraud and buy with caution on eBay.’


As ever: if in doubt, don’t. Check any bike you’re thinking of buying in person – a chat on the phone or via email is no substitute for kicking the tyres in person. If it’s geographically distant then try asking for help through the owners’ club or the RC facebook group.

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