Most people who suffer from fraud want the money back, justice for the perpetrators and then to forget about it.
But for some, it turns into a desire to stop these fraudsters committing further crimes and a need to do something.
Buster Jack Buster is a group of people who are fighting back and in 2017 they celebrated having shut down 1,000 bank accounts belonging to scammers.
The classic hoax involves under-priced vehicles advertised by a seller who then - for what seems a very plausible reason - says the vehicle cannot be viewed before purchase. The seller promises the money will be secured in an escrow or other holding account until the buyer is satisfied with the purchase.
What happens, of course, is that the money is simply taken and the vehicle doesn’t even belong to the criminals.
The group specialise in car fraud - fake listings for any type of cars, vans etc. and specifically they look for ones that are very under-priced. Once they find such listings, a little checking on the Internet can often locate the true owner’s advert which has been copied by the scammer. The real listing will show the correct value of the vehicle.
Having found the scam listings, members of the group pose as buyers, engaging in lengthy email correspondence to gain the scammer’s confidence. If successful they will be sent the bank details in order to transfer the cash. Then they take the evidence to the relevant bank.
“We are outconning the conmen. There is the thrill of the chase but also the feeling that you are doing some good and making it harder for these fraudsters to operate, harder to steal other people’s money,” says “Jack Buster”, unofficial leader of the group. Along with his fellow bank busters he wants his identity withheld for fear of reprisals by the criminal gangs they thwart.
The group post warnings on social media in a bid to make eBay users aware of the scams – particularly the importance of not sending a money transfer for a vehicle or item that the buyer has not physically seen.
How it Started
“It started with just me and has slowly grown. Some people who lost money to this gang, who I believe are mostly Romanian, have joined the group to stop it happening to others,” says Buster. Over time they have developed good contacts at most of the banks’ fraud departments and we are getting around four to five bank accounts closed each day.
Buster says that when the group started, most of the fake eBay listings concerned camper vans and other vehicles. The gang members can post up to 500 listings a day on eBay.co.uk alone but have recently branched out into cheaper items including bicycles, printers and even sewing machines.
The fraudsters insist on being paid by bank transfer and will come up with all sorts of excuses why there is a delay in delivering the item. The seller often promises the money will be secured in an escrow or other holding account until the buyer is satisfied with the purchase. They are very good at what they do and sadly people fall for it. It nets them millions of pounds a year.
Buster claims the gangs fly people into the UK from Eastern Europe to open bank accounts that will then be used to move on the stolen funds. “Fixers collect them at Luton airport and then drive them to the town in which they will open the account. They are given fake utility bills to go with their own or a cloned ID card and taken to the branch in question. It is all too easy. Does the bank check the applicant really lives at that address – or is with the utility company? No, they just open them an account,” he says.
Tips on Spotting Scam Adverts
- The vehicle listing is usually classified. This is different to eBay's more common auction-style or Buy It Now format. This is because classified listings allow buyers and sellers to communicate directly by email – away from eBay's own payment processes. With classified sales payments can be made directly between buyers' and sellers' bank accounts.
- The same seller is advertising a number of vehicles, and the picture backgrounds show completely different environments. A lack of consistency suggests the pictures may have just been copied from the internet.
- The price is unrealistically low – around 30 to 40 percent of what you’d expect to pay.”
- The descriptive text in the listing is inserted in the form of a picture, rather than typed text. This is to stop buyers copying and pasting the text into a search engine - to see if it has appeared elsewhere.
- The criminals will usually promise that the vehicle is in perfect condition, but there is no option of a viewing. Typical reasons given are that the vendor is working abroad, going through a divorce or in ill-health. eBay say genuine sellers would arrange for someone to act on their behalf.
- The fraudsters ask for the money upfront. However, for reassurance, buyers are told it will be kept safe in a "holding account" by a third party such as eBay until the purchase is confirmed. None of these options exist.
- A seven-day money back guarantee may be offered, or vendors may promise that the purchase is covered by an eBay protection scheme. None of this is true.
Be very careful buying or selling vehicles on the Internet and watch for suspicious behaviour.
You can contact Jack Buster on the Facebook group Buster Jack Buster
f you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-wasters do let me know – go to the About page then Contact Us.