Kelley Blue Book Escrow Scam Targets Online Auto Buyers

Crooks play on trust for Kelley Blue Book, plus home makeover and cell phone shield scams: Internet Scambusters #477

Scammers are exploiting the well-known name of Kelley Blue
Book, public health risk fears about cell phones, and the
popularity of home makeover TV shows in the latest epidemic of
con tricks.

We have all the details of these latest headline-grabbing
scams and schemes in this week’s Snippets issue.

Plus, we have the lowdown on a sudden surge in ATM
cash-trapping, where crooks use a variety of tricks to block
your $20 bills inside cash machines, returning later to
collect their “winnings.”

As always, we also recommend you check out the most popular
articles from our other sites during the past week:

Creative Identity Theft: It’s on the Rise: Here are a few of the more creative identity theft trends you need to be aware of.

Gold Bullion Bars: Greater Variety Than You Might Think: Let’s take a quick look at the various shapes and sizes of gold bullion bars and what you should know about them.

Jamaican Hot Chocolate: Sip some Jamaican hot chocolate for a taste that’s just a tad different from the rest.

Another Dose of Acne Myths: Here are another batch of myths about treating acne, causing acne, and the best acne solutions.

Let’s check out today’s…

Kelley Blue Book Escrow Scam Targets Online Auto Buyers

Websites that look almost identical to the famous Kelley Blue
Book auto pricing guide site are being used as a front for a
phony escrow scam.

Escrow is the system where a third party, independent of a
buyer or seller, holds the money for a deal until a product is

The buyer pays the money to the escrow company, the seller
sends the product to the buyer, and then once it’s received,
the escrow company hands the cash to the seller.

That’s great, provided the escrow company is legit and honest
but, as we’ve previously reported, crooks set up bogus escrow
companies and then simply run off with the cash.

Escrow Services Scams and Fake College Degrees

According to Kelley Blue Book, the latest fake websites offer
what seems to be an escrow-type buyer protection program, a
service that Kelley Blue Book itself does not, repeat NOT,

So, as the company says, “any escrow-based
consumer-to-consumer service or Buyer & Seller Protection
Program offered under its name is a scam.”

The con starts with a bogus online car listing on a reputable
site. The price is usually very low for the make and model,
with a phony excuse about a quick sale being needed because of
a divorce or military deployment.

The listing usually has a link to another site, supposedly
offering more details. It may look very similar to the Kelley
Blue Book site,, teeming with all sorts of guarantees and buyer protection info.

Buyers are then supposed to wire full or partial payment to
the bogus Kelley Blue Book escrow service. Since this would be
an electronic cash payment, the recipient is untraceable.

“Recently, criminals have added sophisticated technology to
their scam by adding 800 numbers and offering live chat with
potential buyers in an effort to ease their concerns about
online car buying and detailed information on the fraudulent
buyer protection programs,” says Shayne Brown, Kelley Blue
Book associate general counsel.

As we always warn, you should never wire money to someone you
don’t know and you should always check the true address of the
site you’re visiting in the browser address bar.

The FBI has some great tips on how to avoid online car buying scams.

Fake Cell Phone Shield

While the health-risk arguments about heavy use of cell phones
is batted back and forth between the experts, phone users are
being targeted by crooks selling fake cell phone shields.

Not only does this supposed cell phone shield fail to provide
any sort of protection against emissions, it may also actually
interfere with your phone signal.

The scam devices are typically a cover that’s placed over the
earpiece or another part of the phone but, as the Federal
Trade Commission points out, electro-magnetic emissions come
from the whole phone.

“If you’re looking for ways to limit your exposure to the
electromagnetic emissions from your cell phone,” they warn,
“know that …there is no scientific proof that so-called
shields significantly reduce exposure from these
electromagnetic emissions.”

For more information, including guidance on how to limit your
exposure to electromagnetism, visit the FTC consumer alert page.

Home Makeover Scam

The recent popularity of TV shows featuring total home
makeovers has sparked an outbreak of simple but remarkably
effective crimes.

With genuine makeover shows targeting many communities around
the country, it’s an easy matter for a con artist to use the
theme as a means of talking his way into your house.

The trick played out most recently in a couple of Minnesota
communities where crooks simply went door-to-door asking if
they could inspect homes for their potential to be included in
a show.

Once inside, they could steal anything of value they laid
their hands on.

This is just the latest of a whole range of con tricks people
use to get into homes, and the preventive action is equally
simple: Don’t allow anyone into your house until you’re 110%
sure of their identity.

That means checking their ID cards, sending them away, and
then checking them out independently.

It’s also worth noting that TV companies generally don’t go
door-to-door in this way to look for makeover possibilities.
They usually invite people to apply or nominate a home.

And if they ever contact you after that, they’ll be happy to
allow you time to check them out.

ATM Cash Trapping Alert

A surge in ATM cash trapping, which has recently been reported
in Europe, could be on its way over to the US.

The number of reported incidents last year leapt by 69%,
according to the banking industry crime-watch site

“Cash trapping is a relatively low-tech scheme” the site
explains. “Just as it sounds, criminals manipulate an ATM’s
dispenser so that cash requested during a legitimate ATM
withdrawal is blocked or trapped. Once the user gives up and
leaves the ATM, the fraudsters come in and remove the cash.”

Banks and other financial organizations have a major
responsibility themselves to monitor their machines, but often
they’re in locations that can’t be checked frequently.

The best advice is to try to use ATMs that are inside or
attached to a bank building. But if you do get caught, failing
to get your money or your card returned, stay by the machine
and use your cell phone to call your bank.

If you have someone with you, get them to report it to the
bank or storeowner.

And don’t fall for the old con trick of accepting an offer
from the person behind you in line to guard the machine while
you go to report it. It may be the crook!

Get more tips on how to protect yourself from ATM theft in our
earlier report, ATM Theft: 8 Tips to Protect Yourself From the 5 Most Common ATM Scams.

Our scams in this week’s issue highlight three common aspects
of crime — they can be simple, like the phony home makeover,
remarkably fast at relieving you of your money, like ATM cash
trapping, and exploit your trust, like the Kelley Blue Book
escrow scam. Beware!

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.