Unmasking the caravan scam trying to roll away with your money

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When NAB executive Graeme Sayers decided to sell his caravan on Marketplace, he was lucky he’d done scams and fraud training to spot the red flags before it was too late.

After having had some memorable adventures up and down Australia’s  east coast with his wife and friends, it was time for Graeme to sell the caravan and make space for a new one.

One morning in early November, Graeme listed it on caravansales.com and Facebook Marketplace and was very surprised when he received an enquiry from ‘Darren’ in less than an hour.

“When it comes to selling large items like caravans or cars, it usually takes a while for people to express interest.  This really fast response raised the first red flag for me, but I was still hopeful I’d just gotten lucky,” Mr Sayers said.

 

Following an inkling to proceed with caution

Graeme runs NAB’s Lending Assessment and Enablement team, helping our colleagues to provide fast and secure loans to customers. Having recently completed his scams and fraud training, he had the signs of a scam front of mind.

“I had an inkling from the first message that this could be a scam, it just didn’t feel right, but I proceeded with caution just in case it was legit,” he said.

“The second red flag was when he asked me why I was selling the caravan and whether it was in good condition. Given I had answered both questions in the first sentence of the item description, he clearly hadn’t even read the post.

“After answering his questions anyway, he replied saying he couldn’t come to inspect it, but he trusted me so asked for my PayPal details to transfer the money to me.

“This was red flags three and four – not only did he not want to inspect it and rush the purchase through, but he also didn’t try to negotiate the price, which is unheard of on Marketplace.”

 

More red flags raised

Graeme’s training taught him never to hand out his bank account details, so offered his PayID for ‘Darren’ to transfer the funds.

“From there it just got weirder. He told me he already paid via PayPal, so asked for my bank details so he could check if the transfer went through. Another red flag. It just didn’t make sense.”

When Graeme pushed back and politely refused to send him his bank details, ‘Darren’ accused Graeme of not trusting that this was legitimate, and provided a picture of a driver’s license that matched the name and details of the man he claimed to be, and a photo of the same man holding the license to prove it was him.

“At this point, I realised that while the details all matched up, this was likely also a case of identity theft and the real ‘Darren’ had no idea that someone was using his details to scam others. Big red flag.

“His final attempt to get money out of me was when he said his payment over PayPal included a $1,900 courier fee, which PayPal wouldn’t release until I paid the courier fee to him. I asked for the courier company’s details so I could verify them, and he sent me an email address for a ‘private company’. Huge red flag.

 

Calling out the lies

“I decided to ring PayPal directly to ask about the courier fee. They told me immediately that this was a scam and there is no such thing as a courier fee, they would never hold money for a transaction.”

With this confirmation his suspicions were correct, Graeme put an end to the conversation with the scammer with one final blow.

“I told the scammer that I’d spoken to PayPal directly to lodge a fraud enquiry and if they wanted their courier Graeme caravaning with his friends

“It was a bit of an ordeal – this all took place over one afternoon, but I know I’m one of the lucky ones.

“Scammers put in a lot of effort to make you feel like it’s a legitimate transaction. I receive all the quick and dirty text message scams, but this one was targeted, personal and elaborate, he had an answer for every question right up until the end.

 

Spotting the red flags

“I was so grateful I had educated myself and was familiar with the red flags. I hope my story can help even just one person to identify a scam before it’s too late.”

Graeme is still hoping to sell his caravan but is happy to wait for a real buyer who’ll enjoy it as much as he did.

 

Graeme’s guide to spotting a red flag:

  • Trust your gut – don’t ignore the red flags. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Get a second opinion – even though I was confident it was a scam, I spoke to my wife to validate my feelings.
  • Double check the evidence – don’t trust that just because they send you ‘proof’ that it is real. Call the publicly listed number for a company to verify the information.
  • NEVER give away your bank details or personal information – use PayID, all they get is your mobile number, nothing else.
  • Don’t assume they’re only after the jackpot –they tried to get the full price of the caravan, then went after the “courier fee”, and were fishing for my bank details. They clearly have a checklist and go after whatever they can get.

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