Scammers will try to scam you out of anything. Even, it appears, a car with vital parts missing.
I recently put my car up for sale on donedeal.ie. It’s the kind the website frequented by buyers, sellers and Nigerian Princes who have sadly lost their PIN numbers.
Within two days of posting my advert, I received a text message asking whether the car was still available and requesting information to be emailed.
Now, I’ve watched a lot of Columbo so I like to think that I can spot a crook. I’d probably even solve the odd murder, if it wasn’t for the court injunction.
Straight away it was obvious that this was a scam. The dodgy English didn’t put me off too much (I’m no rural Fianna Fail Councillor, you know), but the fact that the text message wasn’t sent from a mobile phone had me reaching for the weather-beaten raincoat and cigar.
Instead of displaying the phone number of the sender, the text message on my phone claimed to come from “Pacifimatt” (I’ve Googled the word and nothing comes up).
I also knew it was a scam because I had read donedeal.ie’s warning that a seller should never respond to a text message query as they are often scammers who have been banned from using the official channels.
There, this rambling and partially interesting story could have ended, but I’ve never listened to warnings on the internet and I’m not about to start now.
Donning my crime fighting cape (plastic bag tied around the neck with the handles), I delved into the world of organised crime like a TV3 journalist on crack.
Fingers trembling with anticipation and alcohol withdrawal, I emailed the scammer.
Minutes past, until the noise of the plastic bag against the sofa got irritating and forced me to take off my cape.
‘They were onto me’, I said as I stared out into the dark night downing multiple whiskeys as the moon illuminated my face.
But then came the noise. That unmistakable shrill email alert tone that I haven’t figured out how to get off my phone.
The crime lords had responded.
Giddy with excitement and whiskey, I read through the words of this mysterious criminal mastermind. I spotted several issues, mostly grammatical. Using my deep knowledge of Irish names gained over 32 years of living in Ireland, I realised that the name given was typically Irish but the person clearly has limited knowledge of the English language.
Given the declining educational standards, perhaps this was not significant.
I cast my net further and suggested a price. Then I got this reply:
The copied and pasted PayPal text revealed the scam: the ‘buyer’ claims to transfer money via PayPal but the funds can only be accessed once the goods are received, leading the hapless seller to send the car away (via a fraudulent ‘pick-up agency’) and never see a cent of the money.
I decided to see how long I could drag out his interest.
At this stage, a legitimate buyer had purchased the car so I told my scamming friend that the car was no longer for sale.
He was gracious in defeat.
Perhaps he recognised my superior criminal mind.
Or perhaps he was overcome with guilt thinking that maybe I was a little old lady.
Or perhaps he just didn’t want a car that lacks the basic ability to turn corners.
I just hope the man who actually did buy the car does.