It is easier to fool someone than to convince someone they have been fooled.
– Mark Twain
I’m sure you all have heard the classic cliché that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. I browse CEREC eBay listings on a daily basis and my eyes still light up when I see an unbelievable bargain, until my due diligence snaps me back to reality. There are many CEREC related scams on eBay that play on temptation and greed, naturally heightening your sense of urgency to race through your decision making process before you “miss out”. Some eBayers are too comfortable in the security blanket that is the buyer protection program, encouraging them to take unnecessary risks. The truth is, eBay is much too large a world to police effectively, even with help from its good Samaritans. I have tried to do my part by reporting listings I suspect to be fraudulent, but in most cases these efforts are in vain.
In the last few years, I have seen an increase in fraudulent CEREC listings. This can only mean one thing: the scams are working! If you are familiar with the used CEREC market then you know that losses from successful CEREC schemes could easily add up to the thousands if not tens of thousands. I don’t want anybody to be victimized by these Internet swindlers, so I have decided to write a blog about these crooked tactics with the hope that buyer education will eventually lead to less successful scams, prompting the thieves to move onto something else.
There is basically one method to defraud buyers on eBay: create a fake listing with an item that doesn’t exist or doesn’t belong to the seller, then require buyers to pay via unprotected methods such as Western Union or bank wire. There is primarily one differentiating factor among fake listings: 1. The defrauder has hijacked a legitimate eBay account or 2. The defrauder has created a new eBay account. We will take a look at some examples below:
The above example is a fraudulent listing for a 2010 MC XL that ended on 2/22/16. This scammer managed to hijack a legitimate eBay account with a fair amount of positive feedback. This makes the scam harder to detect and requires a hunch and some additional interrogative questions. This criminal used pictures and a description from an old completed listing. It was as easy as clicking on the “Have one to sell? SELL NOW” button found on every eBay listing. The perpetrator started a no-reserve auction at $2,000, well below the true value of the item, so as to generate a significant number of interested parties. As you can see, this tactic worked well as the fake auction generated 29 bids from 8 different bidders. In the picture beneath the fake listing you will see the real listing that ended on 12/23/15. While the fraudulent auction ended at $6,300, the legitimate MC XL fetched something closer to $18,999.
Before I identified the scam, I was personally interested in bidding on this auction, but knowing what I know, I was a little skeptical. So I decided to ask the seller some additional questions via eBay’s messaging system. On February 15th, I asked “Are you the owner on file with Patterson? Is it still on the service club? Any warranty left?” The next day I received this reply: “I can ship to Australia only if paid via bank wire transfer. I’ve used bank wire transfers for years now and trust them. If this is a problem with it don’t bid on my auction because this is not a negotiable policy.” Obviously this had nothing to do with my question, suggesting that the person on the other end wasn’t too familiar with using eBay’s messaging system and likely sent this to me by mistake. It also revealed two other clues that would suggest a scam: 1. bad grammar and 2. they require payment via bank transfer, which is not protected by eBay’s buyer protection program.
At this point I decided to do some more digging. I began to search completed listings to look for pictures or a description similar to the listing in question. Eventually, I found an exact match. My next message to the phony seller was a bit more direct: “Why are you using pictures and information from a completed listing? eBay item #262249234368.” The reply I received was a familiar one. In fact, it was the same I received before- word for word.
In the end, I knew that I had definitely sniffed out a fraud. The key takeaways from this example are:
- If you have a suspicion, investigate it!
- Ask for specific information, fake sellers can’t answer in detail.
- Look at their feedback history. What do they buy and sell? From whom? Can you tell if they are in the dental field?
- Look at their user name and location (on their seller page) for clues to their identity and Google them. Most dentists and legitimate businesses are easily found on Google or host a website.
- Let the seller know you have questions and ask for a phone number to call them. Most legitimate sellers will be happy to field your call to alleviate concerns.
- If you are not 100% confident that you are dealing with a legitimate seller, only pay with PayPal!
Next, we will look at three examples in which the con artists created new eBay accounts to list their non-existent merchandise. In one listing, the seller offered a CEREC AC Bluecam, MC XL and Programat CS oven for $19,000.
The listing was ended on 2/25/16 because the “item was no longer available”. This price point was definitely very low, but not painfully obvious that it was a scam. The item was located in Garden City, Idaho. It just so happened that I knew of another CEREC reseller on eBay also located in Garden City, Idaho- atlasdentalequipment. Small world, right? Since I am very familiar with the players in the used CEREC arena, I recognized this red flag right away. I visited the seller’s page and surprise surprise…
This seller, Kamoll, was based in Turkey and their eBay account was opened just 18 days prior on 2/7/16. Why would a seller based in Turkey sell something located in Garden City, Idaho? They wouldn’t. It’s not their CEREC. Classic copy and paste job.
In another example, the scammer listed a 2013 Omnicam, MC XL and Programat CS oven in a no-reserve auction starting at just $499 that ended 2/25/16.
One look at the item description and you could tell this particular scam artist wasn’t all that crafty.
The only thing CEREC related in the description was the one-liner on top. The rest of the description was more appropriate for a handheld camera lens attachment. You would think people would know better, right? Wrong! Nine bidders supplied 37 bids and the biggest sucker of them all walked away $14,800 lighter in the pocket…assuming they didn’t finally catch on. This item was allegedly located in the United Kingdom. What do you think I found out when I visited the seller’s page?
Turns out, ilyabora_0 was located in none other than Turkey and had been an eBay member since 1/23/16. Barely a full month. Between the starting price, inconsistent item description and discrepancy between item and seller location, what more needs to be said? A clear case of fraud.
In my third and final example, the scammer is also trying to pawn an Omnicam, MC XL and Programat oven for $48,000 or best offer. This is actually a new listing as of today. What do you think? Motivated seller or con artist?
These items are supposedly located in Houston, Texas. Let’s take a peek at the seller’s page to see what we find…
You guessed it! This Madoff is from Turkey! And his account is less than a month old. Are you beginning to see a pattern yet?
In just three examples, I have demonstrated how three unskilled Internet thieves potentially lifted $40,100 from three non-sensible souls; with the potential for a fourth victim to the tune of $48,000 more! Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t give in to wishful thinking, maybes or even bid out of curiosity. You are only supplying fuel and incentive for these people to continue their fraudulent behavior. Make sure you are asking and answering as many questions as you can think of; connect the dots and gather as much information as you can before clicking that bid button. Is everything about the listing logical? Is the seller open and responsive? Are the terms of the auction within eBay’s policy? If you can’t answer affirmatively for all three questions, then don’t be a sucker. In one instance, a scammer surprisingly responded to an accusatory message saying only, “I’m sorry, but I need the money.” Don’t be fooled. They are not sorry. They will not return your money. Walk away feeling fortunate that you read this blog and pity those that didn’t. I encourage you to share this blog with as many people as possible. Stop the scams. Get the word out!
For assistance with purchasing a real CEREC system, call (844) DTL-HERO.