Windsor Locks detectives investigate a scam that targets online bidders while tricking others into converting victims’ payments into cryptocurrency.
The investigation has widened to include the FBI and law enforcement in other states, all focused on a scam scheme that lures victims with bargains on boats, recreational vehicles and other motorized equipment.
The local victim told police on April 20 that he responded to a Facebook ad for an excavator. The ad was linked to the website of an auction company called TYMAC Repo, police said. On March 28, the man bid $17,970 for the machine and received an email and invoice the next day telling him he had won the auction, according to a search warrant in the case. Following instructions, the victim wired payment to a JP Morgan Chase bank account in El Paso, Texas, and was told to expect delivery on April 14.
The machine, however, never arrived and the man told police he was unable to contact the auction company. TYMAC Repo was found to be the subject of numerous messages online calling the company a front for scammers, police said. Det. sergeant. Jeff Lampson said he found the company’s website down and a phone number went to voicemail.
Police discovered that the same scam had been pulled in other states. The Better Business Bureau devotes a page to online auction scams.
People looking to buy RVs, boats, tractors, trucks and construction equipment wired money to TYMAC Repo and other bogus auction sites, learning too late that they had been duped. Scammers paste photos of items for sale from other websites. Often these original photos come from legitimate sites, where the prices of the items were much higher.
In a report on the scam in April, Virginia-based television station CBS 6 highlighted an age-old truism.
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“If it’s undervalued, if it’s under $15,000, it’s too good to be true,” said Barry Moore, president of the Better Business Bureau of Central Virginia. “It’s a scam, so remember: if they don’t sell you anything and get $10,000 from you for something you think is worth $50,000, you lose $10,000. there’s no way to get that back.
Windsor Locks Police have obtained a search warrant to locate the holder of the bank account associated with the local scam. Records showed 11 suspicious wire transfers from March 10 to March 31, including the Windsor Locks victim’s payment, police said. Lampson contacted seven of the 11 people who wired the money and found that all of them had been duped.
In an affidavit to an El Paso detective, the Account Owner said she found employment in January on Indeed.com for commission work converting cash into Bitcoin, according to a supplement to the Windsor Locks search warrant.
The woman said more than $100,000 had been wired into her account. She told police “everything seemed ‘normal’ during her employment, and she had no idea she was part of this bigger scam,” the warrant states.
There is no indication that the El Paso woman knew she was involved in a scam, Lampson wrote in the supplement to the original search warrant, “nor do I believe she had any knowledge of the complexity of this fraud, and has become nothing more than an unwitting participant in this scheme.
Windsor Locks Police have shared information with the Massachusetts FBI, which is investigating a similar scam.
Jesse Leavenworth can be reached at [email protected]