Today there was a missed phone call on my cellphone marked as ‘Unknown’. Usually that’s as far as it goes but this Unknown actually left a message.
The fellow’s name was Matt and he had an opportunity for me.
I had recently posted my SUV for sale on Craigslist in the hopes of getting more money than the dealership would give me as a trade in. There had been no interest in it so far except for Matt.
His offer was simple. He had a list of people that were looking for a vehicle just like the one I was selling. All he needed was some more information. Then he could guarantee a sale, for a small fee.
After listening to the message, all my warning bells were going off. This smelled dirty. In fact, it gave me a vague sense I had run into this kind of thing before.
This is the nice thing about voicemail, it gives you time to assess and react, the last thing any conman wants. To the Googles I went, and oh the things I found.
Matt identified himself as being with Longwood Inc. A little sleuthing points to Longwood Industries which describes itself as:
“Longwood Industries Incorporated is a non-profit company established in 1972. We are an employer of disabled and non-disabled workers that provides rehabilitative services and offers products and services in numerous lines of business.”
Is it really? Anyone can post anything on the Internet. It certainly hits a number of hot buttons; charity, disabled persons, and helping people. Why it has to be good, right?
A link on the page takes you to their auto marketing systems. it says:
“Are you selling a used vehicle? Auto Marketing Systems (AMS) is a division of Longwood Industries developed to help unite buyers and sellers of used vehicles.
Auto Marketing Systems receives hundreds of requests daily from buyers in the used car market. Our goal is to help satisfy the requests of these buyers through locating vehicles for them.”
So the scene is set. Now let’s see how people feel about them. A quick search of the Better Business Bureau site shows over 400 complaints. The BBB says the following about Longwood Industries:
“Longwood Industries is a 501(c)3 charity that does not solicit for donations; therefore, they have not been evaluated in relation to the BBB charity standards.
Through an agreement with Adventis, Inc., a commercial call center, Longwood Industries offers automobile Internet-Web Advertising under the name Auto Marketing Systems. Consumers report that after placing an ad in a newspaper or on the internet to sell an automobile, they are contacted by Longwood Industries to place a similar ad on the internet. The firm offers a non-refundable ad for $149 or, a refundable ad for $249 of which $29 is non-refundable.
Customers must follow their cancellation policy exactly. The firm’s cancellation policy states that a vehicle photo must have been provided within 14 days of enrollment; the required cancellation form must be postmarked within two weeks after day 90 of enrollment and the cancellation form MUST be notarized. Fax, email and phone requests for cancellation will not be accepted. Consumers may wish to return the form certified for proof of receipt.”
Like Hotel California, you can check in, but you can’t leave (not without amazing acrobatic compliance).
People are being scammed.
In my case, Longwood Industries is blatantly violating Craigslist rules by soliciting posts on Craigslist without permission. They are actively hunting down people to try and con them out of money.
Again, this seemed so familiar and finally it hit me. This is just like the recruiting scams I ran into back in March of 2009.
Once again, in times of economic distress, it’s all too easy to get conned out of money in the hope of making money. It’s a sad fact that there are people out there ready to pounce on any opportunity to fuck somebody else over for a buck.
The only thing you can do is stay skeptical of it all, and make sure others know.