Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Craig's list scam

Here's another twist from the scamming lot. It's so much fun to catch these guys but I can't help thinking that they swindled someone else.

I'll start from the beginning.

Richard sent me a link to a Dodge Caravan being sold through Craig's list. The van was priced well below any other Caravan listed of the same year. The listing had pictures of the van, all nice and clean inside and out. Since we are down to one car (Chelsea is using the van because her car is out of commission for good) I answered the ad to a Hmmm...looks like he's in the army. I didn't get a reply by late the next day so I emailed 'Mark' again.

Hi Mark,
I sent you one previous email asking how many miles are on the 2003 Caravan but you haven't responded yet. Also, are you the original owner? Are you the owner at all? What city do you live in? How available would you be for my husband and me to come out and look at it?

Thank you,


This was his reply:

Hello Karen,
The car is located in West Ann Arbor, MI and it is in perfect condition, with no need for additional repairs, no scratches, dings, special marks whatsoever. It has 40K miles and the VIN # is : 2C8GP64LX3R215895 . It has a clear title ready to be signed and notarized on your name. You can see more pictures by click on the link below :
This car needs nothing, the title is clear, it is not a salvage one. I want this transaction to go smoothly enough as I am caught in the middle of some very important events and have little time at my disposal. I already have tons of emails so I hope you understand that I need to sort them out.

The price is $2,900 THIS IS MY LAST PRICE. I will not negotiate the price. I will take in consideration only those buyers who are really interested in buying the car, to be sure that I don't waste my time with endless discussions. This way, I shall be assured of the serious intentions.

So if you are interested please email me back so we can move forward,

Mark Roberts

There were a few words and phrases in here that raised some red flags right away. First of all, he never answers my question as to whether or not he is the owner.

" is not a salvage one." This is not normal American speech. He sounds foreign. Alert number two.

"I want this transaction to go smoothly enough..." again, normal speech would leave out the 'enough.' He sounds foreign again. Alert number three.

The whole tone of the email takes on a typical Nigerian scam. "I will take in consideration only those buyers who are really interested in buying the car..." "...this way I will be assured of the serious intentions."

But, I tell Richard I am going to email him again. Deep down, I want to bait him to see what is next because I smell something fishy.

I would want my car guys to check this van out before I purchase it. So, if you are willing to let me do that we can move forward. It sounds like you are not the owner, is that correct? Is your name on the title?


To which he replies:

Hello again Karen,
The transaction will be closed only through Buyer Protector and this way we will both be protected. I work in the army and my current job doesn't allow me to do otherwise. I have way to little free time to handle home visits and my phone calls are very limited. As I said before the car is as described and you will be able to inspect the car before a final decision.
I had prearranged shipping with Buyer Protector and DAS so my presence isn't necessary. The car is in a Buyer Protector warehouse, ready for delivery.
To begin the transaction I'll need your full name and shipping address, I will forward the details of our transaction to Buyer Protector and then you will receive an invoice from them. The car will be shipped insured to your location with DAS and you will have 5 days for inspection. I have already payed the shipping fees so there is no shipping cost for you.

Mark Roberts

Ahh-Hahh! I found the scam! I emailed this comment to Richard as I forwarded 'Mark's' email. The all-knowing Richard checked out this 'Buyer Protector' and found that sure enough there was a website that looked legit. But upon further digging, he found out that the site had just got up and running on January 26, 2008 and is registered to an unknown in the Netherlands. And if you go to the Buyer Protection site here you will notice that it is very similar to another legitimate company, Buyer Guardian. They even stole the logo! Check out Buyer Guardian here. (But wasn't it nice of him to pick up the shipping cost? He's such a considerate guy, eh?)

Then Richard went on Craig's list and did a search on this Mark guy's email address and found the same exact Caravan posted in a bunch of other cities. Some of them had been flagged and taken down already.

If you haven't figured it out yet, the scam works like this. The seller is claiming that he is in the Army (trying to play on our bleeding hearts for the soldiers, no doubt) and cannot do this transaction in person. He claims that he is hiring a legitimate escrow company to be the 'middle-man' in the transaction. If we want the car, we send the escrow company our money and they send us the car. Well, can you see it now? We send the money, get no car and are SOL.

I told Richard that I wanted to bait him more and he agreed because he wanted to blog about it. This was my next correspondence to 'Mark.'

OK Mark: I checked out Buyer Protector on line. I think I understand.
Here is my address:
Karen Ethier
151 Martin St, Birmingham, MI 48009
Please let me know what are the next steps.

These were actually Richard's words and Richard's idea to use the Birmingham police department's address. He's good! Here is the next response and it's a doozie!:

Hello again Karen,
I forwarded the details about our transaction to Buyer Protector. I hope that everything works out fine and we are done in this week. Please let me know when will you be able to make the deposit, so I know when to prepare the shipping.

Also I would personally advise you that when you will go to the Money Gram office to send the money, don't tell the Money Gram agent that you are sending the money for an internet transaction, tell him that you sending the money for a friend of yours that you know because they will charge you additional fees if you tell them that you will send the money for an internet transaction.

I'll look forward to close this deal with you successfully and in the best manner.
Thank you


Don't you just love it!! "...don't tell the Money Gram agent that you are sending the money for an internet transaction...because they will charge you additional fees..." That one had us laughing out loud! And he also writes words in the wrong, you're not foreign, Mark!

I responded:


I thought you told me in the last email that I could check out the car. If you give me the address where it is being stored, I could go there.


To which he replied (this is good!):

Hello again Karen,

As I've told you before my current job does not allow me to show you the car because right now I'm a specialist in the Army @ the 10TH Mountain Division in Buffalo, NY 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry and I can't get a permission to leave just to come and show you the car. I will take the permission only if I know I have a sure client.

If you don't feel safe with this transaction I can understand you also and I will sell the car to somebody else. I will wait for your final decision.


Well, by this time Richard had posted this whole scheme on his blog and the cats were done playing with the mouse. I was ready to let him know I was on to his shenanigans. This was my last email to which I have not had a reply.

Mark, Mark, Mark! You are too funny, Mark, or whatever your real name is!

"Also I would personally advise you that when you will go to the Money Gram office to send the money, don't tell the Money Gram agent that you are sending the money for an internet transaction, tell him that you sending the money for a friend of yours that you know because they will charge you additional fees if you tell them that you will send the money for an internet transaction."

A Money Gram office?? We don't have those over here in the States. Additional fees for an Internet transaction?? No bank could get away with that here in the States.

Funny that this EXACT vehicle was posted in multiple cities on Craig's List and taken down on many of them.

I have contacted Craig's List to hopefully shut you down completely. There will be a bit of press on this. Google map the address I gave you. It's a police station.

I could tell from your first email that you are not American. Using words like 'on' when you should say 'in' and small stuff like that. I was surprised that you weren't Nigerian. Or maybe you are, operating through the Netherlands. I just wish I could have strung you on and screwed you over before you had a chance to know what was happening, like the guy that went through the tattoo ritual thinking he was going to get money in the end. I will just do what I can and alert as many people as possible and contact whatever authorities I can.

You went through a lot of hassle, setting up a fake 'Buyer Protector' website, setting up a site that clicks through to the US Army website. With all that skill you should think about working on the 'good' side. You would feel much better about yourself. And you can make 'honest' money.

So, to bid you adieu, I hope you get what you deserve and even worse. I just hope no one fell for this vile scam.

Oh, and check this out: you're in someone's blog!!


Check out Richards blog at the above link. Also check out the comments that he got. It's a riot!

So the moral of the story is: if the price looks too good, it is. And NEVER send money. NEVER.

Au revoir, amies!

1.4 grams of carbs per 4 oz...

...that's the carb count for red wine. And as you can see here my attempts at the Atkins diet lasted a mere 3 days. Actually, last night I really wanted to indulge in a glass of wine while watching a movie with my hubby, so I did. Nothing like cuddling under his arm into his warm body with a glass of wine in hand. Here I am about to eat a carb-loaded banana. The wine is just for emphasis. I'm just no good on diets. I did go to the gym today and burned my usual 600 calories. My next tactic will be to try to eat small bits more often through the day. I am going to try to eat before I get hungry; eat just a small amount. I think the problem with waiting until I get hungry is that I fix too much to eat. So, I'm defeated again but at least I'm not a grouch anymore!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Day three

Richard brought home a fresh loaf of rye bread today...this is going to be very difficult to resist. Maybe a 'modified' Atkins would be the best way to go. Hhhmmm. Bad boy, Richard!

Monday, January 28, 2008

For my concerned friends...

Well, I'm trying something new. New for me, that is. Yesterday was day one of the Atkins diet. I thought it would be pretty easy to just eat protein and fat but it is quite difficult. I can only have 20 grams of carbs a day for the first two weeks then each week the number goes up a tiny little bit.

This diet is based on the fact that our bodies use carbs for energy and if we eat an abundance of carbs we never go into our fat stores.
Once eaten, carbohydrates breakdown into smaller sugars (glucose, fructose and galactose) that get absorbed and used as energy. Any glucose not needed right away gets stored in the muscles and the liver in the form of glycogen. Once these glycogen stores are filled up, any extra gets stored as fat.

Let me settle my friends that are encouraging me NOT to use the Atkins diet. I do know the importance of carbs in our muscles, brain, kidneys, etc. I'm using this diet strictly as a beginning. I have been trying and trying to lose 20 pounds with no avail. I've been working out, doing 1 1/2 hours of cardio 3, sometimes 4, times a week burning 600 - 700 calories each workout. Along with that I have been watching what I eat. Not a pound has been dropped.

Unfortunately, I am at that age where a woman's body starts to change hormonally. Along with that goes difficulty in losing weight. Once I lose a bit of weight, I will be eating a fair amount of carbs but I am going to try to decrease the amount that I would normally eat. But at that time, also, I will decrease the amount of fat again.
According to the USDA, we need somewhere from 200 to 300 grams of carbohydrates per day. I'll stay on the low end of that number. I'm going to try to find that magic number where I eat just enough carbs to be stored in my liver and muscles as glycogen and not a gram more to be stored as fat.

Of course the argument that eating an abundance of fat is not good for your heart and arteries holds true. And with the Atkins diet you don't have to count the amount of fat you eat. After I lose some weight, the fat content will be cut back.

Thank you to all have expressed concern. It gives me the warm fuzzies to know you care. If any of you have done a low carb diet and want to give me pointers and recipes, that would be great! Oh, I am remembering to take my multi vitamin and calcium. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Making sense of candidates

I just want to know why our two-party political system has evolved into one party standing for smaller government when it comes to taxes and getting involved in big business but larger government over our personal freedoms and the other party for lots of taxes and free rides but less intrusive into our personal lives. I want a party that is one of smaller government, less taxes but doesn't peek behind my bedroom door or walk into my doctor's office with me. Am I outside the box or are there more of you that think like I do?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

England posts

Let's just say that Blogspot has its limitations and I'm not too happy with them. If you haven't read my four England trip postings yet, it's best if you start with the first one, four down from here. That is the order I wanted them to show up in but I haven't figured out how to trick Blogspot. Enjoy!

England, November 2007; Chapitre quatre: Silly signs

These are pictures I took while on this trip to England of signs that I think are quite funny.

Monday, January 7, 2008

England, November 2007; Chapitre trois: The Grove

The last two nights in England were spent at this estate hotel located in Hertfordshire called The Grove. Quoting the website: “Weekending” in the county was practically invented by The Grove in the 18th century, under the 4th Earl of Clarendon, whose regular guests included Queen Victoria, Lord Palmerston and Edward VII.

The history of this beautiful estate is quite interesting and can be found here. This building is called 'The Stables' and houses a nice restaurant. We ate there on one evening.

Another view.

When my daughter, Courtney, checked out The Grove's website she said it looked like there should be ghosts there. I told her I would look for them and voila! I found them! Can you see them here in front of the windows?

This was the outside entrance to the spa. I spent an afternoon there indulging in an aroma therapy massage. It was incredibly relaxing. I was jello when I left.

Walking around the grounds we found these cement entrances into the ground. When we looked into this one we could see the steps leading down and then a tunnel turned to the left.

If you look closely, you can see that there were a line of these. Look hard to the left, between the trees and you can see 2 more (just barely can you see the third one).

This is a fairly large estate with a golf course and hiking trails in the wooded areas. The immediate grounds are well landscaped. I would love to see this place in the summer when everything is in bloom.

Just walking the grounds. This is a pool of sorts with interesting design.

This view was taken as we continued along the 'pool.' There was a walkway constructed over the water, cut diagonally to the other side.

More interesting landscaping. Richard's back hurt just thinking about trimming this hedge! It's only about 12 inches high.

Richard on the grounds in front of a beautiful tree.

They had small olive trees growing in big rectangular pots near the building and in an area where there is outdoor seating in good weather.

The grounds had very interesting art pieces throughout. These were made of glass. I expected them to be lit up at night but when I returned after dark they were not lit. I'm thinking that maybe in the summer they turn them on.

I really like this artwork. It is located alongside that 'pool' in the above pictures.

More suncatchers. This whole piece reminded me of a fruit tree.

There is also a walled garden area on the grounds. Mr. Giraffe is there to greet you on your way in.

Here he is from the inside.

Inside the walled garden there is this huge chess board ready for a good game. Richard got it started. What would be your next move?

There is also a 'Mallets & Balls' court. Also known as croquet.

When you get inside the hallways of the hotel there is all kinds of wall art of mainly farm animals. They are quite humorous and fun.

This is the room we stayed in.

This picture doesn't do this piece justice. It is a collage of butterflies. Don't worry, they are not real. Just pretty. This is hanging next to the bed.

Even the door to the closet is donned with a nice mural.

This is actually a two-piece painted on wood. It hangs in the bathroom.

More humorous hallway art.


A tail of four horses.

"Would someone just listen to me! I feel like singing!"

There are also cool tables in the hallways made of what seems to be clear lucite. This one had more butterflies nestled in straw.

This was my favorite table. The blue are marbles and really give it a feel of water.

Up close and personal with some cows in a table.

It looks like this guy is having a tough time getting the animals to cooperate.

One of the trails I mentioned above is along a canal. The bridge here is one I had to cross then hike down to the water where the trail started. You can see the trail under the first arch on the right.
This was along the trail, across the canal. The gray boat, as it turns out, is just like the ones you can rent to travel the Thames in Marlow. We're going to try to take the kids in August 2008 to do just that.

This was actually one of those rare sunny days in England. It was so pretty with the water and sunshine combined.

Another view on my hike. The buildings you see are the grounds keeper's buildings. Not a bad job if you ask me.

Just more loveliness on a gorgeous day. While I was hiking I kept picturing myself in England as if I was looking from above at a map of the country and I could see that I was far away from home. I got the neatest feeling being in a place of such history and tradition, more than we know in the States. And I was amazed to be walking around a vast, open estate while the country is so much smaller than ours but yet gives a feeling of freedom of space. In England when you're in a city, you're in a city but when you leave the immediate boundary of the city you are in the country. Somehow they have managed to keep it that way when you would expect the 'suburbanization' to be going on just like it is here for us. Good for them!

England, November 2007; Chapitre deux: Windsor Castle

While in Marlow, we took a day to visit Windsor Castle. Unfortunately, the flag was not flying which meant the queen was not in residence at the time. I really enjoyed the tour, especially seeing Queen Mary's famous doll house.

I couldn't resisted taking a picture of this English woman. She was some kind of security/information officer, I believe. She looks so typically English, doesn't she?