By George Dyke….
Scams are everywhere on the internet and in the classic car market, no sooner than one site gets identified as such and goes off-line, another pops up in its place. Witness this recent account that one of our Citroënvie members experienced.
On April 27, 2023 I wrote an article about how I played a scammer who had listed a 1973 SM that I sold through Bring A Trailer a few years ago. While still with same owner, who has no intention of selling it, the photos and description used in the BaT ad appeared on another car site offering the car for less than half it’s market value.
The expose killed the scam site by June but then in October, when the Citroenvie member was searching online for a decent DS, he came across a website called Carlot Direct selling a 1973 DS23 Pallas 5-Speed:
The Scam continued:
Upon inquiring to Carlot Direct, he got the following email thread going, oddly showing an email address of firstname.lastname@example.org, playing off a legitimate business in Houston, TX — www.vistacars.com. With the “-” added in the email, the scammers were hoping to ride on the coat-tails of Vista Cars:
After the last email he contacted me to ask for my opinion of the car and if it looked like a legit offer.
I responded saying that www.carlotdirect.com is a scam site; the photo they showed of their operation with the guy on the phone is the same one from the scam site offering my SM. Their modus operandi is to bait the prospect with a low price on regurgitated pics from old ads elsewhere. I knew that at least 6 of the 9 Citroëns shown on the site were no longer for sale. And of course there were red flags:
• Their telephone # — 438-939-6164. 438 area code is for Montreal in QC, Canada, not Houston, TX.
• There was no address to be found anywhere on the site.
• And of course, nobody is going to guarantee that with a used car sale you have a 7 Days Money Back guarantee on all vehicles let alone a 30-day dealer warranty!
While he then disregarded Carlot Direct, still in pursuit of a DS the same member came across an ad in early December for another 1973 DS23 Pallas 5-Speed on a now familiar looking site but with a different name — Liquidators Auto Sales, and back to Houston for the contact number… Bastards!!
Their website www.liquidators-auto.com is even a bolder attempt to associate with a real company called Liquidators Auto Sales operating in Houston, TX with the website www.liquidatorsautosales.com/. (As of December 14, 2023 the scam www.liquidators-auto.com site is still active). Here are screenshots taken of the site and notice the virtually identical site design to the Carlot Direct site.
Again he played them as far as he could so we could share the email thread scam with you:
Here are the pics (screen captured from Google Photos):
I was curious as to where each one of these scam websites were registered. Using www.whois.com, I discovered that all 3 of them are registered in Reykjavik, Iceland!
I tried calling the phone number on the Registrant Contact. I got through to an internet provider in Iceland who suggested that I contact NameCheap for further information.
Of course, going further to source and end this scam, would be a pretty much a “Whack-A-Mole” undertaking. I’ll leave that to the the Feds and the IT pros!
Making a final point….
Unfortunately many classic car enthusiasts are trying to buy cars through sites like these. On November 16, 2023, there was report by CTV News in Toronto of a fellow who lost $23,000 US by a similar scam. In this case it was a 1966 Pontiac GTO.
So be forewarned that if a classic a car deal on the internet seems too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure you are browsing a legitimate site, and before you make any payment, physically inspect the car personally or have it done by a trusted source.
And beware of scams that can be on high profile auction sites. Here’s the story of an unfortunate experience from one: https://thecommongear.com/node/916 along with some astute commentary: https://thecommongear.com/index.php/node/903.