Woman Loses Truck to Craigslist Scam
By Jennifer Kraus
You've probably heard about the dangers of buying and selling stuff on the Internet. Folks who've used Craigslist, in particular, have had problems.
One woman never thought she'd fall victim when she decided to sell her truck online, but she still ended up getting scammed by some very smart criminals.
The transaction involved a 2007 Chevy Avalanche that once belonged to former Tennessee Titan Kyle Vanden Bosch. Mia Pitts of Lewisburg then bought it.
"It had everything," Pitts told NewsChannel5 Investigates. "My kids loved it. Made me so happy."
But now, Pitts has no idea where it is. "That is the million dollar question. I would love to know where my truck is."
Pitts decided to sell the truck on Craigslist. She wrote on her ad, "I'm not selling it because I want to. I'm selling it because I need to." She was asking just under $30,000 for the truck, just what she needed to pay off the loan on it.
"And, then I got the call from this guy," Pitts recalled.
The caller wanted the truck and said he would pay off the loan himself and send the money directly to GMAC, which financed the vehicle. Pitts admits she was leery of the plan, but when she called GMAC, they confirmed he'd paid it off.
"And they said, 'Oh, yes. This account's been closed and paid in full and you'll receive your thank you letter and your title within ten days,'" Pitts told NewsChannel5 Investigates.
Yet, she still was uneasy. So she asked GMAC to send her confirmation that the payment had been made and she got it.
GMAC even sent Pitts a refund check because the payment received had been more than she owed. So, two days later, the buyer sent a woman to pick up the truck. Pitts insisted on making a copy of the woman's driver's license and then handed over the keys.
"And (I) watched her drive off in my truck," Pitts said.
She then went to buy a smaller car. Toyota agreed to finance it only if her GMAC loan had been taken care of. And, sure enough after checking on it, she got a call from Toyota. "They told me, 'Yes, you're good to go.'"
But it all started to unravel several days later when the phone rang.
Pitts said, "I got a call from GMAC wanting my payment and I was like, 'What?'"
She soon discovered that the money that had been transferred to GMAC was pulled out the very same day. So she called the buyer who insisted it was all a big mistake and he promised to send the money again.
"He was very convincing and he had answers for everything," Pitts explained.
And while the account's payment history from GMAC shows he did transfer more money, like the first time, it was gone again the same day. The same thing happened a third time days later.
Now, the truck's gone and so is the truck buyer.
"He is very gone," Pitts told NewsChannel5 Investigates.
Pitts has no way to reach him. All of the phone numbers she had for him have now been disconnected. She's not even sure who is really is. He claimed to be Jonathan Harris Battle from Orland Park, Illinois. But the address he gave was a fake. And, it turns out, the driver's license of the woman who picked up the truck was fake, too.
Lewisburg Police Detective Sgt. David Henley described it this way: "It's crazy! It's one of the most bizarre cases I've ever worked."
Henley says the buyer was also using fake bank accounts so there never really was any money transferred to GMAC.
"A lot of these scammers know they can go across state lines and prosecution's extremely difficult," Henley told NewsChannel5 Investigates.
At this point, police have few leads, just advice for anyone who uses Craigslist.
Henley recommended, "Right now with the way the Internet is and Craigslist and everything, I would do no deals with anyone unless it's face to face for cash money. There are too many frauds going around right now."
And as Mia Pitts will tell you, falling victim to this kind of fraud isn't fun.
"It's sickening. It's really sickening."
By the time, Pitts was able to get OnStar to look for the truck, the tracking device had already been disabled. She is now working with her insurance company, trying to get insurance to cover her losses.
Meanwhile, she says she's still getting calls from GMAC, asking when she will be making her next payment on the truck.