PRINCETON — The Bureau County Sheriff’s Office is warning of a new scam that was found in the classified ads of a local newspaper. At least one Bureau County resident has fell victim to the scam and is out $1,000.
The scammer placed a fake ad for a John Deere tractor in the classified ads of NewsTribune’s NEWShopper. Investigator Lt. Gary Becket said the ad was placed over the Internet. He called it a ‘robo’ ad — meaning the same ad was sent to a number of newspapers.
The victim of the scam called the number in the advertisement and received a text message back saying the tractor was actually being sold by his aunt and he gave out a fake email address to contact her.
The victim emailed the supposed aunt and was directed to an eBay page where fake photos and information about the tractor were displayed.
He said the “supposed seller” depicted herself as a sergeant in the military who was getting deployed and needed to sell the item quickly.
“It’s a nasty scam, because it looks so legitimate and people do sell these sort of things on eBay like this,” Becket said.
The eBay page asked the buyer to purchase the item through eBay cards. The victim went to CVS Pharmacy, purchased eBay cards and loaded them up with money. The victim then entered the number on the back of the cards into the eBay page as if he was purchasing the tractor. The scammer then took those numbers and the money from the victim.
Becket said once scammers get the numbers off the cards, they call eBay customer service and act like the owner of the cards. They ask for the money to be transferred to one card. And then the scammer transfers that amount to a credit card.
“It’s laundering the money. And it makes it difficult to track. The FBI generally will not assist or help in these matters, because it can become nationwide or an international crime, unless it’s for over $1 million,” Becket said.
Bureau County Sheriff Jim Reed said his office will try its best to track down the scammer, but it will be difficult because scams like this start outside the area, maybe even the country, and it’s difficult to get other agencies involved in tracking the scammer.
“The crime happened in Bureau County, but it didn’t really start here. Our victim is from Bureau County, but the crime could have been committed anywhere,” he said. “To try to follow up on these and get other agencies involved to try to help us investigate this —some just won’t do it.”
Reed said the best thing to do in these cases is to educate the public and warn them of the scam.
Becket cautioned residents about purchasing large items like tractors or vehicles over the Internet. He said red flags to look for in a scam like this would be the long distance phone number listed in the classified ad. Also, if the “supposed seller” sends a text message back saying someone else is selling the item, that should raise suspicion. Another thing to be cautious about is if a seller is asking a buyer of an eBay item to only purchase through eBay cards.
Due to the high number of scams being reported, the Bureau County Sheriff’s Office is offering free booklets on how to protect against identity theft and online scammers. Booklets can be picked up in the lobby at the sheriff’s office.
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