TUCSON – Daniela Montoya was a perfect target for online scammers.
“Honestly, I was desperate for a car so I didn’t look much into it, she told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. “I saw a car, I saw it had a cheap price. I thought there was a good story behind it, and I went for it.”
Daniela saw a 2010 Nissan Maxima for sale on Craigslist. The ad said the car had 65,000 miles on it, was in good condition, and the price was only $1500. Similar cars sell for around $9000 and up. Daniela thought she was getting a great deal and was excited.
“I was a click away” from buying the car, she said.
The seller told Daniella in an email her name was Marsha Schuman, that she was a sergeant stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. She said she’d have the car shipped to Daniella in Tucson.
“She had basically told me that her husband had passed away four years ago and she was about be deployed on a mission, and that she needed to get that car sold immediately,” Daniela said.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators called Malmstrom Air Force Base. A spokesperson told us there’s no Sgt. Marsha Schuman there. We then emailed the person using that name, asking if the car was still available. She, or he, replied in minutes, saying it was. She sent us the exact same email she sent Daniela. The News 4 Tucson Investigators wrote back saying we’d like to talk about it on the phone. We have not received a reply.
Denisse Alvarez of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona says, “It’s actually one of the oldest scams that we’ve seen. It’s been around for quite some time. However, it has a different twist.”
Alvarez says the twist is scammers are claiming the deal is covered by E-bay’s Buyer Protection Plan. But that plan covers only items sold on eBay, not Craigslist.
“Definitely look up what the car actually retails for, the year, the mileage,” Alvarez said. “Make sure that you do your research. Find out a little bit about the seller, you know you can definitely Google them.
Another red flag is if the seller claims to be in the military, is out of state and wants to do everything over the phone. That’s the old scam. Also, Do not buy a car without meeting the seller. Test-drive the car and get a vehicle history report.
As for Daniela, at the last-minute a colleague told her about the scam, and she did not lose $1500.
We asked Daniela if she’s still car-shopping. She said, “No, no. I went to a dealership. So, more legit.
There are legitimate car ads online but remember, you have to do a lot of research, and, be very cautious. The Federal Trade Commission has more tips on its website.
If you have a story you’d like us to investigate, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.