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The African Scam

The Internet has changed the way we buy and sell our vehicles and military kit.

It has certainly made life easier and opened up the hobby to a worldwide audience. Unfortunately it has also attracted some unsavoury people…… who aren’t all they at first may seem.

Here is a common scam that is going on at the moment.

So, you have placed your advert for a GMC on MILWEB.

You await the ping telling you that “you’ve got mail” and amongst the E Mails is what at first looks like a red hot enquiry.

It reads like this… (this a genuine example)

Good Day,

I saw your ( 1943 GMC) advert which am highly intrested in buying it. let me know if its stil available for sell and its present condition ? I am really okay and comfortable with the detail you illustrated on the web site but i will still want you to pls tell me more about it (what you did forget to add on the advert and updated Document of it and other information you feel someone need to know about,also the least price you intend to sell,and pics if available) .also will need the following details below:

Name that will be on the cheque...
Full Address.....
Post Code.........
Phone #......

Thanks soo much and i will look up to your urgent response today via e-mail,hope to have fix date with you soon...

Regards and have a nice day.

Andrew Phillip


Ok, so there are more than a few typos but it seems like someone is prepared to buy it unseen and arrange the shipping. It’s all a bit too good to be true……… despite the fact that your advert header has been cut ‘n‘ pasted in – in between brackets.

So you think “OK - better reply” and you send him pictures and every miniscule detail about the vehicle to impress the buyer.

Normally within a day comes back a gleeful E Mail, agreeing to your price and saying a cheque will be sent for the full cost plus the shipping – often for a considerable extra amount. All you need to do is to provide your address and the cheque will arrive by DHL or courier probably next day.

STOP! Don’t even think about accepting!

Advance Fee Fraud

This is called and “Advance Fee Fraud” and it’s a popular source of income for many African crooks, predominantly Nigerians. This is what happens next if you fall for it….

The cheque or bankers draft arrives, often drawn on some obscure merchant or private bank. You can bank it and then after 4 or 5 days you will get a phone call from the “buyer” asking you if you have banked his cheque and to send a cheque for the shipping fee to his “shipper”. So, you ring the bank who confidently tell you the cheque “hasn’t bounced” – you decide to be cautious and leave it a few more days, by which time the cheque is showing as cleared funds on your account. By this time you think the buyer is genuine and you send off your cheque to the “shipper” and await the collection of the vehicle, happy that you got the full asking price for it.

A few days later, you wonder why you can’t get any money out of the bank.

The answer is simple – you have been stung.

The cheque you thought to be genuine (as did the bank teller!) turns out to be a forgery on a stolen blank cheque (often these are surreptitiously removed from peoples cheque books.) The crooks know that it actually takes much longer for a fake cheque to be returned through the system than one on a valid account takes to “bounce”.

But of course the one cheque that HAS cleared, is the one you wrote to the “shipper” who expressed it and has now disappeared with YOUR cash.

This can mean that your own bank account is now in the red and consequently you can have some real problems ahead… but luckily the vehicle is still sitting in your drive.

Useful Tips to Avoid Being Defrauded

So you don’t get caught out…… here are some tips to spot the scammers:

  • The potential buyer appears to be sending you an E Mail with the type of vehicle pasted in (as in our genuine example above).
  • The potential buyer includes phrases like “god bless you” and “my friend” and other gushing phrases along the lines of “I am really okay and comfortable with the detail you illustrated on the web site”
  • The potential buyer is using one of the more anonymous E Mail addresses like Hotmail and Redifmail.
  • The potential buyer appears to know nothing about the vehicle he is trying to buy.
  • It all seems a bit too good to be true - IT IS!

If you advertise a vehicle or indeed anything on the internet (and now it’s spreading to magazines) you may well be targeted by a scammer.

Please don’t let this put you off advertising on the Internet – MILWEB now carries about 20,000 adverts a year - everyone placing an advert gets an automatic warning message and we are only aware of one person who actually got caught by the scammers. Unfortunately the police aren’t really geared up to pursuing these scammers, so its of little point in reporting them.

But you can forward the E Mails to their ISP – for example if it came from you can forward it to, making the subject line FRAUD ATTEMPT - their ISP will then close their account – doesn’t stop them in their tracks but just makes life a little harder.

In amongst our adverts, MILWEB has a couple of “sleepers” so we can keep an eye on the scammers and also we can see if anyone is contacting our advertisers for any other purposes. Ok, we have had some fun wasting the scammers time asking for the cheque to be made out to Hugh Janus and sent to 1, Scotland Yard, London W1A 1AA but its actually got boring now.

My advice is just to delete the mails, don’t even bother replying.

Just keep an eye out for genuine enquiries – they are out there and they are the ones to spend your time on. If it’s an overseas buyer and his English isn’t good, try to find out what he knows about the vehicle he is buying – remember most buyers are genuine! Unless you know the person do not accept a cheque for more than the asking price, if he can’t pay the shipper directly do not proceed.

As the busiest site military on the Internet by far, also attracts a number of adverts we just don’t place. We always err on the side of caution and in the last 8 years there have been a couple of instances where dubious gentlemen from the former Soviet Union have wanted to sell German armour “just found after 60 years”– when we have asked for both photographic proof and our modest trade advertiser fee, they have disappeared into cyber space. Our worldwide contacts give us a pretty good heads up when anything a bit suspicious turns up.

But of course the Panther Tank that was advertised for restoration on MILWEB with pictures for around £300,000 was genuine, it sold and is now under restoration.

It’s just a case of sorting the wheat from the chaff – and knowing when to hit the delete key!


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