Car parts buyers hoodwinked in "old-for-new" scam: Internet Scambusters #632
One of the problems with buying replacement items like car parts online is you have to trust that the seller will actually send what you paid for.
But that doesn't always happen, as we explain in this week's Snippets issue.
We also have details about a new variation in the bogus tech support scam and a simple phishing trick aimed at people who own their own Internet domain names.
Let's get started...
Latest Car Parts, Tech Support
and Domain Name Scams
There's a flourishing trade in used car parts, which is great if it saves the buyer money.
But what about when you buy a part believing that it's going to be new -- and paying the full price -- only to discover, or suspect, that it's actually used? That's a scam!
The trouble is that, as with so many other things, buying car parts is shifting to an online business model, which means that you don't get to inspect the part before you buy and you may know nothing about the seller unless you take the trouble to check.
Unscrupulous sellers also disguise their activities by claiming they're selling "after-market" parts -- that is, parts that don't come from the original manufacturer -- which, they explain, is why they don't look quite right.
In other cases, the parts may actually be advertised as used but the seller sends an item totally wrong for the make and model required, or an item that is not considered to be in safe or usable condition.
And, as some buyers are finding out, when they complain, the seller says they have a no-returns policy and that the best they can offer is a voucher or other discount on a subsequent purchase.
Or, if they accept returns, they charge a restocking fee -- even if the mistake is theirs.
As we've previously reported in 20 Smart Steps to Stop Repair Scam Artists from “Fixing” Your Wallet, used or inferior replacement parts are being used by some rogue repair shops without telling the customer.
But the fraudulent sale of used car parts online is where the growth seems to be now.
Action: If you're buying parts online make sure you check out the reputation of the seller and preferably use a known and trusted name. Look for illustrations of the part and check part numbers against the manufacturer's catalog.
If you do a Google search on the term "used car parts scam" you'll also turn up the names of several firms alleged to be trying to pass off used as new, as well as those that just don't deliver on customer service.
If you're buying on eBay, you might be able to get your money back through the site's disputes process. Meantime, check out these guidelines at eBay's Buying Guide to Used Car Parts, Feedback & the 1P Scam.
New Tech Support Scam
Another twist on a con trick we've previously reported comes in the form of a sophisticated version of the tech support scam.
As we said in our earlier issues, this trick involves crooks pretending to be from Microsoft or another computer specialist and claiming in an email of phone call that the victim has a problem with their computer.
The "tech" then offers to fix it if the victim will give him remote access to the PC via the Internet, which is easy to do.
The crook can then steal information from the victim's PC or upload malware.
In the new variation, the goal is to be more convincing by tricking the victim into believing they discovered the fault themselves.
The scammer phones on the pretext of wanting to check security on the victim's computer and asks them to key in certain text into a window on the PC, using Windows' "Run" command.
Hitting the "Enter" key then returns coded information that the scammer says is confirmation of a major problem with the machine or a virus infection.
Then, he'll either use this as a request for remote access or try to sell a fake security fix.
Action: Incoming "tech support" calls or emails (that are unsolicited) are always scams and firms like Microsoft simply don't carry out security checks this way. Hang up!
Even if you initiated an inquiry, never allow remote access to your computer before confirming the authenticity of the caller.
Cut-Price Domain Renewal
Another Internet scam that's seen a surge of activity recently is an identity theft attempt disguised as a cut-price deal for domain name renewal.
Crooks are using automated software to comb lists of registered owners of Internet domain names (for example, www.scambusters.org).
They email the owners using an official-sounding name but it is actually from a sham operation in China.
The message says your annual domain registration fee is due now, at the remarkably low fee of $3. Usually fees run at around $8 to $15 a year or more, so the offer seems quite appealing.
As with so many other scams, these tricksters add a note of urgency, warning that this is your final notice, after which your ownership of the domain may be cancelled.
But this is merely a simple ruse to get hold of victims' credit card numbers for identity theft.
Action: If you own any Internet domain names, only pay your annual fee with the company you're already registered with. You can log into your domain name provider and look when your domain name registration expires.
If you want to transfer the registration to another company, do your own research and only switch to those with an established reputation.
Alert of the Week
A couple of the Scambusters team members have received fake emails purporting to come from discount warehouse club Costco.
They look like the real thing and start with something like:
"Our online store Costco.com received an order and the personal data of the recipient coincide with yours."
The messages we received linked to a bogus Costco website that has now been taken down (though a new one could be operating by now) but the incident serves as a timely warning not to click on links that seem to be from firms you do business with.
Contact them independently instead.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.