A woman from Branson was scammed out of $1,000 after trying to purchase a golf cart from someone claiming to be with eBay.
On May 26, Vicki Harrold filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau in Springfield after being victimized by individuals claiming to be selling through eBay Motors. Harrold said she and her husband were in the market for a golf cart when a family friend made them aware of a 2004 Yamaha gas golf cart being sold for $1,000 in Joplin, Missouri on Facebook’s marketplace.
Harrold said they made contact with a man who claimed to be the nephew of the woman selling the golf cart, who then passed along his aunt’s contact information.
“So I initiated an email to the person. She said, first of all, she was in Joplin and that her husband had died. It was a showcase golf cart and he died a few months ago,” said Harrold. “So I said, ‘OK, we’d like to come look at it.’ Then the next email said, ‘Well I moved to Lawrence, Kansas and you need to go through eBay, because they have it in storage with the key and the paperwork and everything.’”
Harrold said they then provided the woman, who called herself Barbara, with their name, phone number and address. Harrold shared that it wasn’t long before they heard from “eBay.”
“EBay contacted us and said we needed to go to one of these four places and get eBay cards, take pictures of them and the receipt, and scratch off the number on the back and take pictures of them.”
Believing they were still a part of a legit transaction, Harrold went out and purchased five $200 eBay gift cards. She then sent photos of the cards and the receipts to “eBay.”
“They said, ‘OK, you’ll get an email that the money would be put in a trust until everything was delivered. We had five days to decline and then the money would be sent to the seller.’ So then the next morning, I got an email saying, ‘However, you need to pay $2,000. The seller pays $1,000 and the buyer pays $1,000 for the shipping insurance and we said, ‘Whoa.’ So I called the phone number that they had sent me,” said Harrold. “The guy picked up immediately, and I said, ‘This is a scam and we’re not going to do this,’ and he said, ‘click’ and that was it.”
Harrold said after the man hung up on her, she attempted to call them back several times, but kept getting a busy signal. Assuming they had blocked her number, Harrold immediately contacted the BBB in Springfield, who informed Harrold that this is the first time they come across this particular scam.
“What’s different about it is the focus of the scam,” said BBB Regional Director Stephanie Garland. “Scammers are taking methods that are successful and other online purchase scams and adapting it to this one. But this is the first time that we’re seeing this golf cart scam in the Branson area.”
According to a post on the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website, the scam is often used for phony online car sales.
“Recently, sellers have been sending fake invoices that appear to come from eBay Motors and demanding payment in eBay gift cards,” the June 2019 post states. “If you call the number on the invoice, the scammer pretends to work for eBay Motors. Trusting buyers have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past year alone.”
Garland said that this new scam may be a product of people receiving their recent stimulus check.
“We want for people to be safe, we want people to be secure and we want them to make sure that they’re spending their hard-earned money and getting what they paid for. So it’s very concerning to us when people do fall for something like this. Some of the red flags would be whenever somebodies asking you to purchase a Walmart gift card or eBay gift cards, take a picture of the numbers and send it back to them. That is very concerning to us.”
Garland shared that additional red flags for a scam would be people asking for even more money after you’ve already paid them the original amount or websites that don’t feature the ‘https’ at the top right-hand side of the webpage.
Branson Assistant Police Chief Eric Schmitt said that, while this scam is new to the area, people are falling for similar scams all across the country.
“We try to tell everybody this: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” said Schmitt. “Anytime they are trying to do business with somebody and that somebody is saying they’re going to send them extra money or send them a check for extra money that they need to cash and wire money back or buy gift cards with or anything like that, that is a sure sign it’s a scam.
Schmitt added that the first thing anyone should do if they’ve been victimized by a scam is file a complaint at ic3.gov, which is the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
“So what happens is the FBI and Homeland Security, they work with our partners in other countries to try to whittle down and find out who these (people) are doing it. The reason they take it so seriously is because that’s the way terrorist organizations help fund their activities. So it’s very important for us to get it to the Feds, because they have the best idea of what’s going on out there nationwide, as well as worldwide, as far as the current scams,” said Schmitt. “I guarantee this lady here in Indian Point, that was a scam that is currently going, and probably people all over the country are falling for it.”
Once a person has filed a complaint via ic3.gov, Schmitt said he would encourage them to contact their local law enforcement agency.
“What the local agency can do is it has to where the call occurred or where the computer was located, because they have to have jurisdiction. But then they can reach out to their federal partners as well,” said Schmitt. “In this case, if it had happened in Branson (city limits) for instance, we would have reached out to the Secret Service and made them aware of it, but we still would have encouraged that person to report the crime on the IC3 website.”
Schmitt said that, since Harrold technically lives in Indian Point, the scam case would be investigated by the Stone County Sheriff’s Office. When Harrold spoke to the Branson Tri-Lakes News, she had only spoken with the BBB and not yet contacted any law enforcement.
Garland said that if someone is worried about the legitimacy of a business, she encourages them to visit bbb.org to view any complaints or customer reviews that business has, or give her office a call at 417-380-5074.