East County man warns of online car scam

La Mesa man tried to buy car through eBay

Mike Struzik had his eye on a 2002 Audi TT. He saw it advertised on cars.com and wanted more information.

“A couple days later, I’d gotten this email from this seller by the name of Linda,” Struzik said.

Linda wrote in an email to Struzik that the Audi was “in very good condition with 91,500 miles.”

“She had it in the eBay warehouse. It was all ready to be shipped,” Struzik said.

The requested deposit was $2,500 in eBay gift cards.

Team 10 asked if that seemed odd to Struzik.

“Not really, because I figured it’s an internet transaction. Unless they were going to let me put it on a credit card, how else would I pay for it? To me, it was just another way to pay for the car,” Struzik said.

It was his first time trying to purchase a car online.

The email he received confirming payment looked real to him, complete with the eBay logo. Then Linda asked for more money to pay for insurance. That raised the red flag with Struzik.

He then called what he thought was eBay’s finance department.

“When I told him that I wanted to cancel the transaction, the call immediately got disconnected,” Struzik said.

He called several times, but nobody ever picked up the phone. Struzik then realized he had been duped.

Cybersecurity expert Ted Harrington with Independent Security Evaluators said when it comes to the internet, be skeptical.

“You want to assume hostility, as it’s known in the security world, where we look at things and assume a transaction we’re about to engage in is probably a malicious one,” Harrington said.

In an email, a spokesperson for cars.com wrote:

Combating internet fraud is a top priority for Cars.com, we take it very seriously. We know millions of car shoppers rely on Cars.com for its trusted content, transparent reviews, helpful shopping tools and new and used car listings. The vast majority of vehicle listings and consumer inquiries on our site are legitimate, and we work hard to combat those who use our platform for illegitimate purposes. We provide a host of resources to educate consumers on the potential dangers of shopping online and provide tools to promote safe shopping practices.

The spokesperson also referred Team 10 to information on its website regarding fraud in car sales.

Team 10 also contacted eBay. A spokesperson wrote:

This incident was a scam as it did not take place on eBay Motors. Unfortunately, scam artists will list vehicles 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 a vehicle directly through the eBay website. We provide tips for safe car shopping and warning signs to look out for scams on the eBay Motors Security Center page."

It was an expensive lesson for Struzik, but one he wanted to share to warn others.

"I run two businesses. I am not a dumb guy, yet I still got taken," Struzik said.

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