Barbara McLean-Pellitier needed a car and set out to buy a 2006 White Toyota Camry on Craigslist in September.
“It was for sale for $1,000 which I thought was an incredible price,” said McLean-Pellitier.
The Windsor resident now regrets her decision after finding out that the supposed seller took her for a ride.
“I feel like a fool because I didn’t know what was going on,” said McLean-Pellitier.
McLean-Pellitier said she contacted the seller, who listed Manchester as their address, via email. She says she only communicated with the supposed seller via email.
“One thing that the seller told me was that the car belonged to her son who was 26 years old who recently died,” said McLean-Pellitier.
McLean-Pellitier asked to see the vehicle and to take it for a drive. But said the seller told her that the car would only be available for purchase on eBay and directed McLean-Pellitier to a site that appeared to be eBay.
Turns out, it was actually a fake website designed to look like the popular shopping site, according to eBay.
“She told me that it would be safer that way,” said McLean-Pellitier. “She also told me that the car was stored in Kentucky.”
McLean-Pellitier told NBC Connecticut Responds that the seller sent her an email which instructed her to buy $1,500 worth of eBay gift cards. The seller told her to email them the numbers on the back of the cards along with a photo of each one.
She said she received a payment confirmation via email from what she thought was the eBay website. But it wasn’t. It was a fake site. Barbara says the seller stopped responding her emails after confirming the payment had been received.
“It just goes to show you, you have to be more than careful,” said McLean-Pellitier.
She said she filed police reports in both Connecticut and Kentucky. Authorities told her that the person listing the car didn’t exist in either state.
“There wasn’t much that they could do for me because everything was done through cash,” said McLean-Pellitier.
An eBay spokesperson told Responds:
“This transaction appears to be a scam as it did not take place on eBay. Unfortunately, scam artists will list items 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 directly through the eBay website. We provide tips for safe shopping and warning signs to look out for scams on the eBay Security Center page.”
McLean-Pellitier said she didn’t file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau of Connecticut. But we asked the agency’s spokesman, Luke Frey, about the dangers of buying high-end items through email and online websites.
“All of these transactions are sort of at your own risk,” said Frey.
Frey pointed out that it’s best to do business face-to-face because those online pictures may not be legitimate.
“That’s usually a red flag that those images have been re-created or used to fraudulently sell that same item,” said Frey.
And Frey advises that customers look for company reviews and recommendations before surfing the web for purchases.
“A lot of scammers want you to purchase something quickly or create a story about how they have to sell a car quickly and they just need that money,” said Frey.
As for Barbara McLean-Pellitier, she just needed a car, and hopes her story will help others.
“I thought, maybe, I could save someone else, even if it’s only one person,” added McLean-Pellitier.
Our multiple attempts to reach Craigslist for comment about this situation went unanswered.