From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

15 Flags of a Sophisticated and Highly Personalized Scam

During the course of a recent public thread on Google+ this weekend, I mentioned that I am in the market for a used, late model Cadillac CTS-V (sort of an American equivalent of the BMW M5).  Truth be told, I've been watching CraigsList, eBay, Autotrader, and for a very specific vehicle.  There's only a few hundred ever made to my precise specification.  I've contacted a small handful of dealers and individuals for more information about a couple of cars, but haven't quite found exactly what I'm looking for.

Yesterday, I received the following email:
Mary Smith 7:37 PM wrote: 
Hi Dustin Kirkland,My name is Mary Smith & I am the Sales Manager of a large auto dealer group, we actually have a store in Conyers,GA.We are selling the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V, for a customer of ours. It is an Original, non-smoking adult owner and was parked in the indoor garage most of the time. Very fast, powerful but yet smooth drive. It is loaded with all the standard features. No accidents. All power features work properly just like they should and everything is in excellent working condition. The carpeting is very clean and stain free. No rips, no odors. This is a non smoker vehicle. A real head turner on the road. Always stored inside and never driven in the snow. Black Raven Exterior / Ebony Interior Leather Seating with Suede Inserts.Navigation System.AM/FM Stereo with CD/DVD Player, Bose 5.1 Cabin Surround Sound 10 speaker system. 40GB Hard Drive Device.Bluetooth.Universal Home Remote. 5 Speed Manual Transmission.The price is $35,750 ( the owner selling it due to a change of job)This car has less than 15,000 miles and a CLEAN CarFax with One Previous Owner! The mileage represented on this vehicle is accurate.We proudly stand behind each vehicle we sell because it has passed a thorough inspection. VIN# 1G6DN57P590172365The warranty is full active, fully transferable to the new owner.The vehicle is warranted as being free of lien. It has a clean title in to the owner's name. The pictures speak for themselves. If you need more details or would like additional pictures, please contact me. 
-- Thank-You!  
Mary Smith
951 Dogwood Dr 
SE Conyers, GA 30012

  1. On the surface, this seemed very attractive.  It's pretty much the exact car I'm looking for, but at a significantly-better-than-market price (flag #1).
  2. I have been shopping at, though I don't recall contacting this individual or dealer (flag #2).
  3. I found it slightly odd that she would have sent this email from, rather than an address (flag #3), but hey, maybe their internal email system was Exchange or worse (Lotus Notes).
  4. While the prose was readable, there were a couple of missing periods, sentence fragments, and poor use of capitalization.  Also, the description claims a 5-speed manual transmission, while this car only comes in a 6-speed manual transmission (flag #4).
  5. So I visited the website,, and found a small collection of used cars, including the car advertised here, at the price listed in the email.  While the website was reasonably well done, I found it odd that the domain name had only been registered on March 27, 2012 -- less than a month ago (flag #5).
  6. The IP address hosting the site,, is also hosting 7 other similarly suspect looking auto dealership,,,,,, (flag #6).
  7. The physical address listed in the email does match the one on the website -- 951 Dogwood Dr SE, Conyers, GA 30012 -- but that address doesn't actually exist!  There are only even numbered addresses on that street, including several car dealerships, but none of them named GA Auto Group (flag #7).  Google Streetview helped me browse the area remotely.
  8. The text on their home page claims to "have sold over 10,000 cars" but I couldn't find a single review (positive or negative) about them on the internet (flag #8).  That's just not even possible in today's world, when buying and selling vehicles over the Internet.
  9. They also claim to be a "Carfax Advantage Dealer", but checking Carfax's website, there's 12 Carfax Advantage Dealers with a matching zipcode, but none of them are this GA Auto Group (flag #9).  I contacted Carfax and they had never heard of this dealership.
  10. I called the phone number (albeit after hours) listed on their website, 1 (678) 487-7289, and received a completely generic "Please leave a message" recording (flag #10)...
  11. a vaguely British accent (flag #11).  Have you ever been to Georgia?  If not, watch a few clips of Gone with the Wind on Youtube (unless you have 6 hours to kill).
  12. The "About Us" section of the website claims that they have been in business since 1981 -- odd for a company that just launched its website 30 days ago (flag #12).
  13. I checked the Conyers Chamber of Commerce website and there's no record of GA Auto Group (flag #13).  I also picked up the phone and called the Chamber of Commerce this morning.  No one there had ever heard of the auto group.  Pillar of the community since 1981, eh?
  14. The "Service" page of the website has a top notch photo of an automotive service department -- really clean and slick looking!  Using Google's Search by Image technology, it's remarkable that the Auto Group of San Antonio has the exact same service facility (flag #14)!
  15. I paid $40 and bought the Carfax report, which shows an excellent, clean, never-wrecked vehicle matching the description.  However, VINs are not secret -- anyone could claim to have possession of a vehicle with a given VIN.  Googling around for the listed VIN, I see the same car for sale on 7 different websites (flag #15), and tellingly, more appropriately priced on a few of those.
As a followup....  "Mary" called me on the phone, and I had a short conversation with her.  She "demanded" that I take down my blog post, or else she would "contact the authorities."  I asked her to kindly email me a copy of GA Autogroup's business license for the city of Conyers, or their state franchise tax number for Georgia, and if she did that, I would verify that with a local government authorities.  If she does this, I'll remove this post and issue a sincere public apology.  She hasn't gotten back with me, of course.

To a less savvy buyer, this probably would have proceeded with "Mary" insisting on a deposit being paid in advance of ever seeing the vehicle or title.  And sadly, a few people will probably fall into this trap and lose a few grand :-(

What strikes me about this attempt to defraud me, as compared to the thousands of other random email messages that fill my spam box each month, is how precisely and surgically directed it was.  At me.  Offering something I'm specifically shopping for.  Right now.  That's more than a bit scary...

Well, seems the bad guys are getting even more sophisticated :-/